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College Grads' Bad Habits Driving Unemployment


Why do young Americans find it so hard to get jobs? One explanation is so simple as to be commonly overlooked: Many lack common sense about workplace life, including the importance of punctuality, time management, and good communication with co-workers. As Time reports, a two new surveys have found that lack of such basic skills ranks above insufficient technical experience as a key impediment for college grads in the workforce:

survey by the Workforce Solutions Group at St. Louis Community College finds that more than 60% of employers say applicants lack “communication and interpersonal skills” — a jump of about 10 percentage points in just two years. A wide margin of managers also say today’s applicants can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well.

Another employer survey, this one by staffing company Adecco, turns up similar results. The company says in a statement, “44% of respondents cited soft skills, such as communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration, as the area with the biggest gap.” Only half as many say a lack of technical skills is the pain point.

Smart college students should pay attention to studies like these, and cultivate strength in areas where their peers are weak. And in this case, edging out the competition wouldn’t require a long, intense period of study.

Yet the fact that our educational system is failing to impart some of the simple skills fundamental to office life is a sign of institutional dysfunction. In particular, our educational system from high school to college largely cocoons young people from the world of work. A well-integrated life includes that kind of responsibility, and is important for developing a mature personality.

Under our current system, you can be an asocial, uncommunicative, selfish weirdo but still go to Harvard and get a Fulbright if you get high test scores and grades. Likewise, you can be conscientious, an excellent communicator and team player and still fail to get into a good college. In this system, there are no real rewards for having the skills employers want and not much drawback for lacking them. This needs to change.

[Job interview photo courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • seattleoutcast

    Funny, I have had the opposite problem. I always get an A+ in interviews because of my communication skills, creativity, etc. Yet I never land a job because I lack the exact technical requirements. This has been going on for twenty years.

    I think many of these surveys are wrong. A company would rather hire the asocial weirdo and put up with their idiocy, as long as they can get the job done.

    • Kavanna

      There’s often a difference between what companies say and what they do.

  • Corlyss

    “Yet the fact that our educational system is failing to impart some of the simple skills fundamental to office life is a sign of institutional dysfunction.”
    More’s to the point, it’s confirmation of Charles Murray’s recent alarms that the slovenly irresponsible habits of the permanent underclass have increasingly contaminated what used to be the solid middle class.

    • Kavanna

      Yes, apropos of @crabtown’s comment below. This isn’t really the job of academic education. It’s more basic behavior modeled and taught in families.

  • crabtown

    Parents aren’t doing their jobs, either.

    • Corlyss

      Amen. I’ve been reading Diane West’s Death of the Grownup and according to her analysis, it’s been going on far longer than we thought. I thought it started in the 60s with the campus revolts when the campus administrations seemed totally unable psychologically to discipline rebellious students. But apparently it started in the 40s when “teenagers” “bobbysoxers” entered the vocabulary, which was about the time that advertisers discovered the purchasing power of the demo. Things have been getting worse ever since till we have the present era when kids are almost autonomous units with more accountability to their peers than to their parents, who seem to have no control over them. Just listen to any news report detailing the parental reaction to efforts to discipline unruly or misbehaving students. An exception to the norm was an incident here in Utah: However, when the same characters were involved in a subsequent incident, the SCHOOL administration gagged the coach and prohibited him from repeating the experience. When even the authorities decline their obligation to guide morally the young and stupid, there’s few recourses left.

  • Nick Bidler

    i, too, was antisocial and a b-average student through college; i’ve been looking for work for the two and a half years since i graduated.

    • Kavanna

      You could write a novel about it and sell the movie rights: “I Was a Teenage Misfit,” or something along those lines.

      • Corlyss

        I think that was done already – East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and, more imaginatively, I Was a Teenage Werewolf; and the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series. But Hollywood is basically imitative and unoriginal, so Nick has a good shot if he can string two words together . . . 😉

      • Nick Bidler

        haha, yeah, me and every other nobody within a day’s drive of hollywood.

    • Corlyss

      Can you find something you’re good at and start a company making and selling a product from your parents’ basement or garage?

      • Nick Bidler

        nininicI’ve been looking at options of ‘making stuff and selling out of parents’ garage’ for a while. A good portion of those niches were already filled or went out of business. Anything I make would have to be sold expensively to break even. i might be able to sell to rich idiots (living in southern california and all) but mostly they want services, and there are small companies that filled those niches long before I got there.

        tl;dr selling a product that isn’t art? not in california you don’t.

        • Corlyss

          I don’t text, so could I beg your indulgence to translate the following:

          • Nick Bidler

            well the first part was my tablet lagging, the second was ‘too long; didn’t read’

          • Corlyss


    • seattleoutcast

      B average is not bad if your school doesn’t have grade inflation. And being antisocial? Who defines the term? If I were to be a campus student these days, I’d be antisocial. Or rather, the college would be antisocial by not allowing my views on campus.

      I was already seeing this in the early nineties when the radicals were beginning their (tenured) reign of error. My views were wrong simply because they didn’t agree with certain groups. Those groups are now in charge.

      So, you are at the very least, an above-average person. That is a great start. As far as work is concerned, Walter Russell Mead has nailed the problem on the head, so don’t go through the channels that your college professors suggested. They are out of the loop, and frankly, most are selfish and don’t care about their students.( Why would they have charged such high tuition if they really cared about the students?)

      This is the information revolution, and there are many opportunities. It might take a few years to find out the right direction to head, but keep plugging away. If you apply effort and only end in failure, the skills you gain will be applicable in the next attempt.

      I recommend that you google Calvin Coolidge’s definition of persistence.

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