Heart of the Matter

Andy Chan's Blog for Parents, Mentors and Teachers

Tips for Success in the Global Marketplace

When I speak about what is required for colleges to better prepare students for the world of work, one important component is for educators to spend time with employers. This allows faculty and staff to better understand what is expected of students in internships and full-time jobs. In doing so, educators can modify curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular experiences so that students learn and develop the competencies necessary to not only secure great jobs, but to be successful throughout their careers. In essence, I am promoting more ‘Employer-Education Partnerships’ to fully realize, and significantly elevate, the value of a college education.

With our strong employer relations team and their efforts, this type of partnership is occurring with greater frequency at Wake Forest. Last Tuesday, Wake Forest brought together higher education leaders from Wake Forest and other institutions, industry executives, and national experts to participate in the Diversity & Inclusion Symposium, commemorating Wake Forest’s 50th anniversary of racial integration. The symposium provided an opportunity for participants to share research, best practices, and ideas to prepare students to be effective employees in the 21st century diverse and global workforce.

At Wake Forest, we have begun to transform our own institutional culture by expanding our definition of diversity to include constituencies who have historically been underrepresented or underserved, but are now increasing in the nation and on our campus. While “diversity” used to be a code word for Black; today it also encompasses Latinos, Asians, American Indians, people of mixed racial heritage, women, women in STEM disciplines, LGBTQ individuals, people with disabilities, multiple generations, first generation college students, religious pluralism, economically disadvantaged students, international students, recent immigrant groups, and other bounded social identity groups.

In an increasingly competitive and global economy, where talent is crucial to improving the bottom line, pooling from the largest and most diverse set of candidates is vitally important for organizations to succeed in our global marketplace. In addition, it’s crucial for organizations to create an inclusive environment and culture that cultivates diversity-inspired creativity and teamwork.

I had the opportunity to moderate a panel of employers on the topic, “Defining Core Cultural Competencies for Graduates Entering a Global Marketplace”.  The panel agreed on several key actions that students should take as they enter the workplace for internships, full-time jobs or graduate school.

  • Find a mentor. When 75% of executives link their career progress to mentoring, it’s apparent that mentors are especially important for students transitioning into their first full-time job or into a new organization. Many students find their new work environments very difficult to navigate because it is so different from the college campus environment, relationships and expectations. A mentor can provide perspective, advice, and information on how to navigate obstacles, understand the office culture, and how to take advantage of opportunities. For more information, read this article featuring advice from Dr. Allison McWilliams, the director of Wake Forest’s Mentoring Resource Center.
  • Understand and appreciate the organization’s culture. A memorable analogy was made by panelist Debra Langford comparing new hires joining an organization to players joining a team. As a member of the team, there is a uniform you must wear, a coach you must obey, and a set of team rules you must follow. Too often, students ignore culture in their job search and mistakenly think that they will have the same freedoms at work as they did in college. Students must seek out information about an organization’s culture to ensure they will be a good fit; and once on-the-job, they must fit in with the culture in order to earn the opportunity to gain more responsibilities.
  • Understand what differentiates employees (it’s not just knowledge). Over the last decade with the availability of information via the internet, employees can no longer define their value by just what they know. Increasingly, the most valuable employees are the ones who know what information is important (critical analysis and discernment), enlist the cooperation and support of others (interpersonal and relationship-building skills), present their arguments in persuasive ways (communication and influencing skills) and work in diverse teams and think with a global perspective (teamwork and cultural competence). Students who develop these competencies while in school and early in their careers will quickly find opportunities and be competitive for opportunities in the future.

Category: Tips for Alumni, Tips for Students