The Role of Education in Career Preparation

3 min. read

To hell with blame.

It’s a rearview mirror approach to the world. We need to look forward. 

To what extent does higher education prepare students for the world of work?

A post-secondary degree does not guarantee a graduate is prepared.   

That was the opinion of Dr. Linda S. Lee, Associate Professor Emerita of Medical Education, Duke University, retired; Dr. Mark J. Walters, Professor, University of South Florida; and Mr. Steve Hart, Affiliated Faculty University of Pennsylvania, in a Burning Issues discussion on the topic on June 22, 2022. You can catch that full replay here. 

The Unofficial Ladderburner Graduate Preparation Requirements

According to our experts, preparation has more to do with how students think than the content of what they learn. 

This parallels the conversations about the value of a degree in a technical field vs. one in liberal arts. There is a name for how people think about their thinking. It’s metacognition, and it speaks to the more reflective style of teaching and learning than the transmission and memorization of knowledge. It’s more than critical thinking – not just understanding what and how, but why

Subject matter knowledge is important – no denial there.

But where the panel saw some of the biggest gaps were:

  • The ability to build presence and credibility
  • Curiosity and reflective learning
  • Inclusion and collaboration vs. solo achievement and recognition
  • The unabashed value of creativity and talents that got students to this point

Post-secondary education is a game of achieve and advance. Find the right answer. Get results. Perform at the highest level. Advance.

From the outside looking in, success in the world of work looks the same as education.

It’s not.

Work includes other factors like good and bad bosses, the culture, the need for teamwork, and dealing with change.

Success is defined for you.

How prepared are graduates to enter this different arena, where climbing the ladder only mimics success to a point?  To what extent are they tuned in for this eventuality?

It’s easy to talk in generalities about the gaps. But like the panel pointed out, the shift toward better preparation happens when assignments change:

  • Use activities to get students to take a different role perspective by writing in the  3rd person as opposed to 1st person .
  • Have students reflect on the act of learning, learning to learn. In business, give employees the opportunities to take risks and learn from their mistakes.
  • Encourage students to be honest with themselves. Journaling is one activity to help with that.
  • Encourage students to ask questions as a way for finding a place for them to grow and develop.

Want to be prepared for the world of work?

Think about teaching.

Think about learning.

Think about thinking. 

About the Burning Issues Series:
Expanding on the book launch of Burn Ladders. Build Bridges. Pursuing Work with Meaning + Purpose, we’re offering monthly, 60-minute conversations to challenge and change how people think about work. The series will run on the fourth Wednesday of each month through 2022. See the latest burning issues series conversations here.