New graduates seeking jobs and their potential employers can agree on which skills are most important for job candidates, but differ on how proficient new graduates are in those abilities, according to NACE’s 2022 Student Survey report.
Graduating seniors taking part in the survey cited communication, critical thinking, and teamwork as the three most important competencies for a job candidate to be considered career ready. In a separate study, employers put the same three career readiness competencies at the top of their list. (See Figure 1.)
The good news is that both new graduates and employers recognize the importance of those skills, and both agree that new grads work well in teams. Unfortunately, they don’t agree about how proficient new graduates are in terms of communication or critical thinking. In fact, there is a lot of disagreement between them about what new graduates are best at and how proficient new grads actually are. (See Figure 2.)
Asked to rate their level of proficiency in NACE’s eight career readiness competencies—competencies that broadly prepare college students for success in the workplace—new graduates gave themselves the highest marks in teamwork, professionalism, and communication and consider themselves very or extremely proficient in all three. Conversely, employers rated new graduates highest in their ability to work with technology, their understanding and appreciation of equity and inclusion, and their teamwork skills.
When asked to rate new graduate proficiency, employers deemed new graduates as very proficient only in the technology competency. They didn’t give new graduates poor marks in the other competencies—their ratings fell in the “somewhat to very” proficient range—but it is clear that there is a disconnect between what students think they have to offer and what employers see.
One of the reasons for this disconnect is that many students don’t understand how their college experiences relate to the competencies. As a result, they aren’t very good at demonstrating that connection to employers on their resumes or in interviews.
To counter that, career centers on many campuses are working to help students understand how their classroom work, internships, and other experiences have helped them build and strengthen their career readiness competencies.
NACE’s 2022 Student Survey was conducted February 22, 2022, through May 15, 2022. In all, 15,860 bachelor’s degree students nationwide responded, including 2,140 Class of 2022 graduating seniors, whose responses are used in this release. Employer data are from the NACE Job Outlook 2022 survey, conducted August 18, 2021, through October 1, 2021, among organizations holding NACE membership as well as selected other companies that engage in college recruiting; a total of 157 organizations responded.
Figure 1: Top 3 career readiness competencies (importance)