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Adaptability: the Darling of Your Skillset

Photo courtesy of Pexels/RDNE Stock project

In an ever changing and competitive job market, college students may face the reality that the job or career they settle into has nothing to do with their degrees. Entry-level positions previously earmarked for recent grads are citing work experience of one to three or even five years’ experience in a particular field as a desired qualification. 


In many cases, the sheer number of applicants make for a competitive setting. The talent pool is deep, and experience has come home to roost in today’s job market.


If college is on the docket, the climate in this country points toward going to college right out of high school without haste. This can result in pressure to choose a degree path. 


Fear not, my future leaders. 


It’s common for interests to change over time, even during a semester. It’s a natural occurrence. Better to be adaptable and proactive than stuck on a path you don’t desire. 


In conducting a soft poll among friends and acquaintances who range from college graduates to grandparents, about half of this sample group had a job or career unrelated to their degree.


There were unforeseen opportunities that came and changed the direction of some. Some used their degree as a stepping stone to higher education in another field, and others used their degrees to get a foot in the door somewhere to gain a better periphery of a company, ultimately finding another career path.


Put this feather in your cap when fretting about such matters; whatever your degree is in can prove that you are capable of following through and learning new things, which are qualities employers seek.


Wait, what about my degree?


Earning a degree sets you up for further education if you so choose. Let’s say you find a profession that suits you. If you already have a degree under your belt, you can build on that.


Ultimately, interests can change with experience and a close-up view of jobs and professions through work. Strengths will reveal themselves. Say you find out that you are great with people, use that. Great with kids? Allow your skills to develop and follow wherever that new path may take you. 


Recently, I learned that an acquaintance was once a veterinary technician, with plans to be a veterinarian. It was her childhood dream. She described her experience as one that led her away from the industry based on her likes and dislikes of the reality of working as a vet tech. 


Today, she is a graphic artist. Her transition came when she was looking for a side job to supplement her income and took a position in client support.That’s when she realized that working as a graphic artist was what she wanted to do. Her interest peaked when she saw the pace and collaborative nature of the studio. After a deeper peek into the graphic artwork process, she felt that this was something she could do that would allow her to be creative, something she dismissed early on as frivolous when setting her sights on being a vet tech.


Clearly, it is not a waste to have a degree in an unrelated field or discipline. Think of it as an experience, like reading a book or taking a course that is not to your taste. It defines what to steer clear of and what you don’t want. Distaste can be educational. 


Willingness to be adaptable is paramount to navigating uncertainty and it’s appreciated by prospective employers and peers alike. According to an IBM report, the most qualified candidates possess the skill of adaptability; this helps to meet the demands of shifting priorities. 


Conversely, don’t worry if you work in a job you don’t like. It’s not uncommon for students to go in a different direction as soon as they get their first job.


Liberal arts graduates share the most challenges in finding careers, but if you don’t know what you want to do now, it is OK. Gaining work and life experience will help you get into the industry of your choice if the competition is too stiff to start right out of graduation.


In his latest book on the topic, Robert Sternberg, former president of the American Psychological Association, says, “I describe how your life experiences help you develop your mindsets, as well as skills and abilities. Also called ‘XQ’ for short, your experiential intelligence is something you can develop over time and complements your intellectual intelligence (IQ) which is something most people believe you’re born with. That’s why experiences are so important because you can use them to grow your intelligence.”


The Value of Experience


So, how do you stand out in a crowd of applicants? Communicate your XQ by translating experiences into the job for which you are applying, with the goal that a potential employer can see beyond your resume and into your future as an employee who brings important soft skills to the table.


“Employers want to know that you will be able to learn quickly, fit into the workplace environment, and be responsive to the task at hand. For these reasons, 93% of employers believe that critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving skills are more important than a job candidate’s undergraduate field of study,” said Ashley Stahl, in a Forbes magazine article. Stahl is now a career coach.


Remember there is no easy way to know what may spark your interest or what opportunity may come your way, nor are there guarantees of markets, performance or offers. The best way to sidle up to success is to be true to yourself. Get a little introspective and learn what your skillset is and what keeps you enthused, and to quote Billy Joel, “Vienna Waits For You.”

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About the Contributor
Monica Dobson
Monica Dobson, Interpretive Editor
Monica is a senior English Major with a concentration in Writing at the University of New Haven. She is a nontraditional student who has returned to school to pursue a career change. She is the interpretive/column editor for Horseshoe Magazine. Monica is a mother with unwavering devotion to her two teenagers. Aside from her professional goals, Monica’s personal goal is to author a novel, or several. In ZOOM meetings, Monica’s “study buddies” appear without fail, walking across the keyboard, taking up the entire screen.
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    Andrea FergusonMay 3, 2024 at 1:13 pm

    Wonderful article