Over the past few years, several articles have contested the value of a college degree and I’ve never quite understood this since college is not, nor should it be, about the degree. It is about the community you join; it is about the exploration of various fields of study, it is about access to resources and support services, it is about building a network and developing skills. Yet, an area that was of concern to me for the LVC Class of 2020 was whether or not you’d have the tenacity or adaptability needed for today’s competitive and ever-evolving workplace. But now, everything has changed.
You’re a generation that has grown accustomed to an on-demand lifestyle, but everything has come to a halt. In a matter of weeks, or even days, you had to uproot yourselves and your social lives, shift gears to be self-sufficient in your studies, and pitch in as part of your home communities. Contingency plans continue to be crafted daily—and undoubtedly this dynamic has changed how you view your roles in society, let alone in your upcoming careers.
Traditionally, graduation served as a turning point for entering into the real world, but that world is now surreal and virtual and uncertain. I suspect fewer employers will be looking at Grade Point Averages and the GPA that will matter is Grit (ability to persevere and adapt), Purpose (understanding what matters), and Attitude (a positive and passionate mindset).
Actually, prior to the pandemic, if you were to search out what qualities are necessary for today’s workforce, you’d come across articles on emotional intelligence, meta-skills for functional learning, and the importance of soft skills. In particular, creativity and critical thinking tend to top the charts as a must for personal advancement and organizational advancement via forms of intrapreneurship.
But not all competencies can be taught—some must be experienced. And the experience of living through this pandemic will give you an advantage over previous classes upon entering the workforce.
- The closures of campuses and cancellations of events will likely result in your 2020 class appreciating community events more and increase your participation in sponsored functions and fundraising campaigns.
- After seeing loved ones lose jobs, or learn new skills, or adjust to the merging of home and work life, you will save more, understand the need for life-long learning, and prioritize self-care and work-life balance.
- Sharing time, space, and even the internet and making the best of what resources you have in your homes will lead to you being more collaborative and efficient workers.
- Receiving a variety of messages and expectations (from the College itself, from your department, from your professors, from student affairs, from student clubs, from your communities, from the businesses you frequent, from your families, from social media) means the LVC Class of 2020 will understand the dynamics of poly-centric organizations and value the art of communication. You will know when to read carefully and place value on face-to-face conversations.
- Being confronted with uncertainty on so many levels means YOU will be forward-thinking, risk-taking, and yet overly conscious of your actions.
These experiences will result in you becoming proactive and responsive managers, leaders, and teams of workers. And this will serve our global economy well. In what was, and will be again, our fast moving competitive world, businesses will seek out these traits, not perfection. Clever and resourceful ideas that cater to or establish new trends is what keep firms on top, and this is an absolute strength of your class.
Because of all this, the LVC Class of 2020 will be both resilient and emphatic—and that is good for the future of any business or field.
In moments of doubt or uncertainly, remember your GPA—Grit, Purpose, and Attitude.
—Dr. Kimberlee Josephson, associate dean of the Breen Center for Graduate Success, assistant professor of business administration