It is expected, in the regular scheme of things that a person gets an education, lands a job and everything else falls into place. However, the picture is quite different in reality. Getting that dream job is not so simple. Tertiary institutions churn out graduates yearly, who are eager to get into the job market, only to find stiff competition for the limited jobs available. Employers on the other hand are looking to fill their few open vacancies, but are frustrated with the existing talent pool. Candidates lack the skill set, creativity and drive which make them workforce ready and are less appealing to the prospective employer. Possessing a diploma or degree is important yet, not enough to meet the challenges of the work environment.
Employment readiness means to hit the ground running and the ability to handle the fierce pressures of a highly competitive business environment. Having a talented workforce translates into winning bids, repeat business, market share and profits. Also, employers want people who will make a winning team. A person who is ill-equipped with necessary skills to be flexible, adaptable and juggle multiple tasks becomes more of a liability than an asset. Part of the problem is that the classroom curriculum has not always kept up with the evolving job market demands and left students incapable of marketing themselves to prospective employers. Employers are less willing now to hire based simply on good grades and school name. Assertiveness, good grammar, the ability to sell oneself as the best candidate for the job, can make up for these. A person who can bring in more business, keep existing customers happy and needs minimum supervision is more likely to be productive.
Employment readiness also applies to existing employees. Unproductive employees are a drain on a company’s resources. A workforce that cannot keep up the pace in a dynamic work environment could kill the company. Companies cannot afford to be asleep at the wheel, there is intense competition on capturing market share, and workforce management plays a key role in keeping the company ahead of the curve. Employers will have to invest into workforce training and education on an ongoing basis. Key areas of training include leadership development, problem solving, critical thinking, conflict management resolution, using the latest technology for efficiency, etc. Employers must develop ways to keep employees engaged and also make relevant staff changes. It is important to build a robust performance management system which outlines explicit targets for operating performance. These targets must be regularly updated in order to keep employees challenged. Reward employees who are outstanding to provide motivation in the workplace.
As in anything else, much of the work lies with the individual. It takes hard work, going the extra mile, “unlearning” certain behaviors and being determined to go against what is commonly accepted as the ‘norm’. An academic qualification may open opportunity doors for you, but that is only the first step. You will need to get other tools to be successful at interviews or to move along the fast track to a rewarding career. It is amazing how an initiated firm handshake and eye contact have been the tie-breaker for getting jobs. Such a seemingly insufficient gesture actually forms a great first impression, shows the potential employer you are not shy or lazy and willing to make important business relationships. Can you use good judgment, think critically and creatively, and make sound business decisions? Are you able to develop a well thought out solution within reasonable time even when you do not have all the answers? These are skills that employers are looking for and it serves you well if you have them.
If you are already employed, you should consider sharpening your communication skills, have a positive attitude, show enthusiasm and be a team player. Challenges arise constantly on the job, and your ability to use knowledge, facts and the data available to provide quick resolution will pay o eventually when senior positions are being considered.
By Doris Agyeman