How I wish I knew what I didn’t know after I grabbed my diploma, shook the dean’s hand and headed off to the real world some 30-plus years ago.

I don’t blame myself or anyone else. Learn by doing. School of hard knocks. Wait your turn. It was just assumed those were the ingredients in the recipe of career success and moving up the ladder.

Those concepts are not totally archaic today, but it is clear that career success has taken on a more strategic perspective. An article in the Washington Post by Jeffrey Selingo, the author of “There Is Life After College,” provided me an “ah-ha” moment – and not a moment too soon as my two college-aged children move closer to life in the real world.

Selingo offers five critical skills every college graduate should have as they enter the workforce. They are based on the fact that the job market is as competitive as ever and the rate of change is as fast as ever. Here is a look at those skills and something you can share with your children, interns or young staff members:

1. Every graduate needs to be “digitally aware.”

Knowing how to use a computer and other technology is a given. Understanding how the device works and even the programming behind them is fast becoming a requirement. Consider that golf course maintenance facilities some 20 years ago had, for the most part, one computer that was primarily used to run the irrigation system. Today, technology pervades the profession in communications, irrigation, turf care programs, sunlight monitoring, moisture monitoring, green firmness and more.

2. Every graduate needs to know how to navigate through life without a syllabus

A 4.0 GPA in the classroom used to be a ticket to career success. But today’s employers are looking for those workers who know how to make sound decisions based on logic, reasoning and experience gained through internships and real-life experiences. The golf course is a perfect example of where necessity becomes the mother of invention. How else do you get black sand to help thaw frozen greens and melt snow?

3. Every graduate needs to be a learning animal.

With the rate of change faster than ever, what is learned in school becomes obsolete in short order. Workers need to be curious and continually learning. In fact, employers can gain a sense of how industrious a job candidate might be by seeking to learn more about his hobbies, interests and experiences.

4. Graduates need to understand how to use what they learned in school outside of college.

Students learn theory in the classroom with the thought that they will apply it on the job. But the number of times the exact parallel comes to fruition is limited. What is the norm is taking a general concept and then using it in a situation that is different than what one may have learned. For example, a turf student might learn a management principle for a specific cool-season grass that he can apply in general to a different cool-season turf variety.

5. Every graduate needs to be humble.

College graduates of today are exposed to a better education than preceding gen-erations. They are often better networked and have had multiple internships. But the real world can be humbling. A lagging economy can undercut business growth and advancement opportunities. College graduates enter the workforce with the confidence of being told the world is their “oyster.” But a realistic perspective will keep disappointment to a minimum.

These five skills are not a guarantee. But they do offer a great compass as one navigates a career – especially from the beginning.


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