Only a third of higher education students report having a great university experience, this according to the 2022 Connected Customer Report. One of the key findings of the report was how the students felt about being prepared for the future of work. Nearly half (47%) of students reported selecting their institution for career prospects, but only 11% felt very prepared for work. Students who feel well-prepared are four times more likely to have a great university experience. In addition, nearly half of the students surveyed (49%) plan to continue learning through a higher education institution after graduating.
Better use of technology to enable flexible learning models was also key to student success. Students who have a great experience reported having easy online access to data and resources (86% great experience vs. 49% poor experience), services available via mobile (82% vs. 61%), positive digital experiences (81% vs. 36%), access to sharing platforms (80% vs. 57%), and personalized experiences tailored to their needs (60% vs. 11%). More than half (57%) of staff anticipate that flexible learning will increase in the near future.
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To better understand what universities and colleges are doing to prepare students for the future of work, I connected with Lily Awad, Adjunct Instructor and Senior Associate Director at Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business. I also visited Babson College to meet and collaborate with their graduate students. Babson College has held the #1 entrepreneurship ranking for both its undergraduate and MBA programs (U.S. News & World Report) for more than two decades, and was named the best college for business majors (Money Magazine).
The following is Lily Awad’s advice and point of view regarding how students and working professionals can better position themselves for success in today’s economy and future of work:
It’s true, technology will upend our future. In fact, we are already experiencing this change, especially in the workplace. Just a few years ago we all moved to a virtual environment overnight. We learned so much about ourselves during that process, most importantly that we were capable of change. Now and in the near future we will be expected to work with more sophisticated technology (think robots, cobots, and intelligent buildings). Change is exciting but sometimes overwhelming. This article offers techniques to help workers become flexible and adaptable during a dynamic era of work.
Is the world of work already human-centric and skills-based? According to work futurist Sophie Wade “the new era of work is focused on people as individuals…their different talents, needs, obligations and motivations.” A Deloitte report calls the “new operating model for work and the workforce ‘the skills-based organization’ where skills rather than jobs are used as the basis for decision making about work and the workforce.” Today companies are hiring for skills, and people are moving into organizations that meet their lifestyle needs.
Our understanding of the world of work is having a moment. Yes, the world is changing and how we work is continuing to change with it.Today, we see flatter organizations, more choice in work location, institutional investments in innovation and technology, and a business need for specific skills which has resulted in upskilling and reskilling for talent retention.
Another force of change will occur in our lifetime. We do not know what the future holds, but we may be able to control how we respond. Adapting with intention is key. Humans have been adapting since the beginning of time. Dr Rick Potts, paleoanthropologist and Director of the Smithsonian Museum believes “we are the most adaptable species”. So even if the lockdown of Covid days, the work from home mandates, and the implementation of new technology were difficult for some, it was not impossible. People made it work for them, in their own ways, and through a process of adaptation.
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How do we prepare for the unknown? Practicing how to adapt, perhaps through simulation (future metaverse simulation, anyone?) is a critical way to prepare. The three step process outlined here is based on methods designed and taught by me and my colleague Lisa Mesicek and can help people adapt to the future of work:
- Harness Self-Awareness: At Babson College students are taught to use entrepreneurial thought and action (ET&A®) to problem solve. ET&A® methods are used in every discipline across campus and even within student services. At the Graduate Center for Career Development, we design Career Education curriculum with ET&A® in mind. Students are often asked to start with a personal mission statement: what’s your why? If there are skills you enjoy utilizing, how can you dream up a job that allows you to put those skills to use? Today career education at Babson has shifted to also prepare students for different work environments — physical space, work location, and work schedules have become a greater consideration when applying, negotiating, and accepting a job offer.
- Develop Foresight: Understand that things are changing rapidly, you might be able to predict when change is coming, however you can also be part of the change. For example, if you find yourself in an undesirable work situation how do you use ET&A® to change that and, ultimately, design the experience you want? Understanding the difference between an opportunity and an outright bad situation is an exercise in self-awareness. Having self-awareness and the foresight to predict your fit in a changing world is critical. Developing foresight is no easy task, though. At Babson Lisa and I will be teaching workshops on how to prepare for the unknown using cases and simulations (stay tuned for part 2 of this article to learn how this goes).
- Build your Community: We thrive on human connection. Build a community that helps you acquire information to develop foresight, provides you with feedback, and supports you in achieving your why. Start by following thought leaders on social media. Funnel down to those accessible for one on one conversations. Being curious and learning how others adapt can help you integrate new strategies and expanding your network can lead to more choice in the future.
These three tips are a starting point. In the new year, the Babson Graduate Center for Career Development will be testing this process out in the classroom in an effort to keep students attuned with the ever changing work landscape. Stay tuned for part 2 where Lisa and Lily share more on how institutions can do their share to help shape futuristic talent.
This article was co-authored by Lily Awad, Adjunct Instructor and Senior Associate Director at Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business where she works with MBA and MS students, designs career education curricula, and teaches.