It was not their education.
I remember vividly during my college years the anxiety to graduate and get a degree, so that I could get a job. It never occurred to me that while my education was going to play a critical role in my career development, it was not the most important one. Unfortunately, most colleges and universities in the U.S. do not prioritize career development during the course of a traditional four-year program, leaving students with a major gap in the transition to the workforce.
The last decade — and particularly the last five months of the current pandemic — has shown us the major gaps that exist in our current higher education system. Time Magazine’s article, “The Economic Model of Higher Education Was Already Broken. Here’s Why the Pandemic May Destroy It for Good,” describes in detail how one of the major flaws in our education system is justifying its cost. I have to admit, like many college students today I was not considering the expense as long as it was paid through loans I did not understand.
Colleges and universities are having to adjust rapidly to the “New Normal,” which consists of high accessibility, high-value, low-cost education, and a proven track record of alumni success. Universities are also having to compete with online alternatives (which are doing extremely well during the pandemic) as they can dynamically adapt their curriculum to more relevant and up-to-date training that gets people jobs. Online educators are quickly adapting boot camp models, skills training and certifications from third-party providers that can enhance much needed theoretical, yet critical foundations.
So, what truly adds the most value to career success, even in the midst of a pandemic? While every person has a different career journey there are some key components that have dictated for many years how we are assessed, measured and selected for jobs in our careers.
Whether you are a high school student trying to get a job in a fast-food restaurant or you are a senior exec trying to get a high roller position to manage the southeast region, you need a resume.
A resume has four key components as traditionally structured with experience, education, skills and recommendations. The same structure has been used for decades, and even in the digital world, professional profiles are none other than online versions of a resume.
So what has impacted career success the most?
We conducted a survey of over 130 professionals in multiple disciplines to discover what they value the most for career success. While the results vary slightly by discipline, the overall trend consistently ranks as follows:
3. Network, connections and recommendations
4. Education (traditional college)