There is growing evidence to suggest that our colleges and universities have for years now been sending graduates out into the world who are stunningly ill-prepared for professional success. To make matters worse, it appears most people don’t even know how unprepared they really are. Are you one of these people?
This failure of our educational system has created an environment where a large number of graduates find themselves significantly, and perhaps permanently under-employed, and as a result extremely frustrated. The real sad part is that while many toile away at meaningless jobs, a large number of professional, entry level positions; positions these graduates thought they had been trained for, are left vacant because employers can’t find qualified candidates. Does any of this sound familiar?
If you’re in this situation there’s a good chance you’ve been the victim of this shortcoming in our educational system; a system that has neglected to help you acquire certain critical skills; skills that employers consider just as important as the technical book knowledge that has been drummed into your head for years. These critical skills are all center around your personal and interpersonal leadership abilities.
This gap between what businesses really need and what schools at every level are teaching has been a source of concern for years in the business community. This need for well-balanced individuals was supported in a recent poll of over 500 Canadian business leaders conducted by Modus Research. The poll found that only 41% felt that our educational institutions were doing a good job of preparing students for the work world. Their number one recommendation for how to improve things was to invest more time in the development of interpersonal skills.
While this situation is concerning, the reality is that the impact of this educational gap is about to get much worse thanks to the impending “automation revolution”. Experts believe that this revolution will eliminate close to 42% of today’s jobs over the next 10 to 20 years. The good news is that these jobs will be replaced by new jobs, but the kicker is these jobs will be far less process oriented and more focused on leading, managing and dealing with people; or in other words, jobs that require highly effective interpersonal skills.
The good news is that you can close this gap on your own. The first step is acknowledging it. The second is committing to change!
As mentioned above, the first thing you need to do is step back and do some serious self-reflection. You need to be brutally honest with yourself about where you are now and what you need to improve on in terms of your personal leadership skills and your interpersonal skills. One of the best ways to do this is by comparing yourself to those who have the people and leadership skills that everyone is looking for; the ones who are in great demand.
To aide in this process I’ve prepared a Workbook which will help you compare your current skills to what the Harvard Business Review calls the gold standard for personal leadership and interpersonal skills – “Authentic Leaders”. This approach is all about strength of character and a real sense of purpose, all combined with exceptional people skills. The workbook first covers in detail the top four characteristics shared by these leaders and then goes on to describe how these traits manifest themselves in their day-to-day behaviour. In fact, there are four signs that are sure fire giveaways that you are in the presence of an authentic leader. Do you exhibit any of these signs?
After covering these characteristics and personality traits in some detail, the workbook then asks some tough questions that will help you honestly assess where you are and what you need to work on.
To whet your appetite, let me share with you one of the most important personality traits possessed by authentic leaders. Very simply,
Authentic leaders are inspiring.
To help you clearly understand what it means to be inspiring consider the following:
To be inspired by another is to be reminded that the qualities we admire in them are in fact possible within ourselves.
So, are you inspiring? Do you remind others of what’s possible in themselves? Do people want to be like you?
No matter how you answer this question, the good news is that you can become more inspiring by simply working at it; by emulating the behaviours and actions of “authentic leaders”.
In conclusion, regardless of your current career or employment situation, hopefully it’s clear to you that your future success, given what employers are looking for now and in the future, revolves around improving, refining and perfecting your interpersonal skills. You may be well down the road to perfecting these skills, or you may be way behind, but either way, the process to improving starts with self-refection. To start this process I highly encourage you to download my free “Authentic Leaders Workbook” which can be found on the main page of this site.
It’s clearly time for our educational institutions to change, and change quickly, their overall approach to preparing graduates for the work world. In my opinion, Personal Skills 101 should be a mandatory first year course right alongside English and math. The course should focus both on both personal and social competence. Hopefully our educators will see the light soon!