Should All College Graduates Have These 5 Traits?


Here are five traits that any students should strive for in order to better their future in college & the workplace.

It’s officially spring. And this means we are getting close to graduation ceremonies all across the country. Over the next several weeks, college campuses will finalize commencement speakers, students will cram for final exams, and employers will seek new talent to enhance their workforce. And yet many graduating students, diploma in hand, will find it difficult to get a job.

Why do college graduates—even those from elite institutions—struggle with the transition to real life after they leave? What does it take for new grads to be considered enviable candidates for employment?

In his recently released book, There is Life After College: What Parents and Students Should Know About Navigating School to Prepare for the Jobs of Tomorrow, Jeffrey Selingo explores the questions more and more underemployed/unemployed young people with a college degree face. At a launch event hosted by Gallup Inc. and 1776 last week, Selingo shared his lessons learned after traveling on the road for months to understand what recent college grads can do to improve their post-graduation outcomes.

Selingo distills his book into five traits that all college graduates should have if they want to be enviable candidates for employment in a piece that ran in The Washington Post:

  1. Digital awareness
  2. Navigation skills
  3. Self-initiated learning
  4. Transfer learning
  5. Humility

Higher education, to be sure, needs to answer the call for better connections from the classroom to the workforce. And while forward-thinking institutions should be applauded, the impact of creative practices is growing much slower than what it takes to get a new building on campus funded, designed, and built.

“Innovations are happening in the corners of campuses … affecting 12 students out of thousands,” said Selingo.

How can the business community play its part, while avoiding the common criticism that higher education is being increasingly “corporatized?” Employers clearly agree there is a need to help students get to where they need to be. It’s why they spend about $600 billion annually on workforce training.

As Selingo commented at the event, “We learn best as we apply what we learn at that time …” So it only makes sense to increase work-based learning experiences throughout college—which could help students acquire any and all of the skills Selingo suggests are so critical. Whether through more mentorships, business or innovation challenges posed to students as class projects, or more meaningful internship experiences that expose students to in-demand jobs, employers are important partners who have a lot to gain … and a lot to lose.

The Chamber Foundation is encouraging employers to lead the way in closing the gap between the skills students are being taught in the classroom and the skills employers need to grow their businesses.

Through employer-led youth employment strategies and analyzing where they get their best talent, employers have the leverage (ahem, the jobs) and know-how to be a part of the solution for better post-grad outcomes.


Jaimie Francis is senior manager of programs and operations at USCCF's Center for Education and Workforce.