2020 Graduates Gain an Unexpected Skill
June 3, 2020
2020 Graduates all around this country – the world even – are realizing their plans have been catapulted right out the window. March was to be the kick-off to Spring break headed toward the final stretch celebrating their accomplishments over their four years. While their first day on campus as a freshman may seem like eons ago, never did they think life would interrupt, so dramatically.
These young women and men are in the process of learning an incredible and valuable life lesson – life interrupts. But there is another aspect of this lesson that is also important, and it that those who can pivot, and shift are the ones who ultimately succeed. There is one word that captures this – ADAPTABILITY.
While employers look for industry-specific hard skills, such as technological skills, accounting, data analysis, etc., they are also looking for essential soft skills, such as communication, writing, empathy, teamwork, and adaptability. Why adaptability? From the viewpoint of an employer, employees who are adaptable are better able to deal with challenges and roadblocks. And according to an article in Indeed.com, there are several benefits to being adaptable. These include:
- Being a more valuable employee
- Being a better leader
- Being better equipped to face challenges
- Being happier
- Being able to adapt to career changes
- Being more relevant
If you think about it, when employees are unable to shift, it leaves the organization positioned to be left behind. A great example is the impact the Kindle and the iPad had on the newspaper and publishing industry. Specifically, the newspaper industry was slow to respond and as a result, nearly collapsed. And while the industry is still searching for a profitable pathway, those newspaper entities that have survived, have done so because their employees were agile and able to shift as needed to respond to the major course changes facing the industry.
So, as the 2020 graduates seek their path forward in a time of a pandemic, record unemployment, and now sweeping protests and cities with curfews to curtail rioting, these young women and men will be finding alternate pathways to achieve their dreams. Their trajectories different than originally planned with some taking bigger detours than others, but it should be clear to every employer who looks at the resume of a 2020 graduate – they understand adaptability. Let’s look at a company that did shift – Netflix. Reed Hastings (I’ll give a shout out to my fellow Bowdoin College alumnus) CEO of Netflix proposed in 2013 to his employees they start producing content (movies, television shows, documentaries, etc.) to be competitive with entities such as Comcast, Apple, and a few others. His employees had to shift the business model and it paid off with revenue nearly tripling and profits multiplying 32-fold.
To the 2020 graduates across this country – yes, you were cheated of something you worked hard for, you deserved, and there are no words to soften that blow, but if you can let go of the disappointment for a moment, you might be able to see that you have also been given something – a skill – one that will serve you throughout your life. You were forced to pivot, to shift. Many of you are scrambling to look for jobs, revisiting your resumes to figure out how to best market yourself. This experience will make you stronger and more appealing to hiring managers, so embrace it and promote it!
You are, by these circumstances, demonstrating your ability to adapt!
Please stay safe and healthy!
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies
Harvard Business Review: Top 20 Business Transformations