Data from a study released recently by Northeastern University aligns with common trends emerging about the perception of the role and responsibility of higher education and its primary clients i.e., students, in regard to preparing future employees. Among other important conclusions, the results highlight:
- concerns over higher education not adequately preparing graduates for today’s job market;
- the need for students/graduates to be broadly educated and trained including via on-the-job training such as internship opportunities; and
- the belief that there is a shared responsibility between higher education, students, and future employers in educating and training individuals that will excel in the workplace.
Of particular interest here, I believe, are the results related to the second bullet point above. The data from the study show that the general public and business leaders prefer that today’s graduates be equipped with multi-disciplinary and transferable, or “soft” skills, that go beyond the skills obtained through the education/training related to the study of a single, specific discipline. These conclusions are similar to data and conclusions of previous similar studies (here and here). Collectively, these studies suggest that today’s job market demands multi-skilled or generalist employees rather than specialists.
Ultimately, employers want employees to be agile enough to fill multiple gaps within an organization. In other words, employers want employees to perform varied tasks related to two or more job functions. This likely relates to the trend of reducing the overall headcount in an organization (thus reducing expenses); again, one multi-skilled employee can replace two or more employees that are ultra-specialized.
So, given that the results of this new study are echoed in similar prior studies, I believe we should all be striving to become knowledgeable in multiple areas that are being demanded by today’s job market. I believe this will be a requirement for us to all stay relevant and employable in quickly evolving industries. Data from the studies mentioned above suggest that we should focus on complementing our technical and/or professional training with transferable or “soft” skills such as communication, innovation/creative thinking, and critical/analytical thinking skills, just to name a few.
This concept nicely aligns with the central mission and goal of the small business I run called Integrative Academic Solutions. My mission is to promote and develop the integration of disciplines to achieve high-level, innovative job performance and to ultimately help develop multi-disciplinary employees who do work they love and that society regard as highly impactful.
So, what are you doing to become a multi-skilled employee who will continue to be employable and relevant in today’s evolving job market?
Nathan has a Bachelor of Science degree in agricultural biotechnology, a PhD in biochemistry, and an MBA with an operations management focus. He is the Assistant Director for Research for the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center. He is the founder of Integrative Academic Solutions, which aims to help individuals integrate multiple disciplines to achieve innovative job performance. He is also the founder/editor of The Daily PhD, a newspaper dedicated to graduate school issues and PhD career paths. Lastly, he is the founder/editor of What Are All The PhDs?, which is dedicated to putting a personal spin on highlighting all possible career paths for PhDs.