Disengaged? Overwhelmed? Underemployed? Welcome to the party.
Seven years ago, I was 21. I was in school, in debt, nearing graduation, and feeling stuck. I couldn’t find a job. I was sending out applications but kept getting the cold shoulder. I didn’t want to spend more money on schooling, so I put grad school on the back burner. I remember getting an email about not landing a job (“we’re moving on with other candidates”) and thinking that everything sucked. Why’d I bother going to school? The harder I tried, the more rejection I felt. My life was turning into a big knotted ball—the more I tugged, the harder and tighter it got.
That was seven years ago. Poof. Now I’m 28. The only reason I got to where I am now (a good job, a house, a supportive life partner, blah blah blah) is because I asked a lot of questions. Asking questions lead to connecting with some really valuable mentors. With their support, I took reasonable risks that were slightly outside of my comfort zone and I made a lot of mistakes. I was determined to never (capital F) fail, but learn from my small failures. This way, I saw failure as feedback and kept on moving forward and learning new skills.
Once I found my rhythm, managers and customers twice my age asked me how I was able to transition from school to work so easily (obviously, they didn’t see all the work I was doing behind the scenes). They told me connecting with and hiring millennials was the hardest part of their job. They told me that Millennials, even the ones who graduated from top schools, have a hard time bridging the gap. If they don’t find competent millennials to replace the key managers at their companies, the future of their companies looks bleak.
I told one of my customers that I have dozens of friends looking for a good job, but no one wants to hire them.
Exactly, he said, we have a lot of young people applying for jobs but few of them can do the work the position requires.
A year later, I was asked to write a book about how I got from where I was to where I am now. My hope is that anyone looking to enter the workplace can easily transition from school to work with the skills I write about in Age of Agility.
In my now-finished book, I write about all the skills I developed to bridge the gap from school to work. It’s not our fault we weren’t prepared, but it is our responsibility to get up to speed so employers will take us seriously. Here’s how I see it:
The biggest lie we were told is that a college education will prepare us for a lifelong career. If you go to college or put in your four years and earn a bachelor’s degree, you will find a rewarding and stimulating career with a comfortable salary and benefits. The reality is, there is a huge skill gap between the classroom and the workplace, and this skill gap is the main reason I watched countless friends struggle post-school to find a meaningful career. While we sent out resumes and cleaned up our LinkedIn profiles, an entire generation of college graduates moved back home to live with friends or family because we couldn’t afford to pay rent thanks to being, on average, $35,000 in debt to student loan companies.
Here’s why: We are living in an Age of Agility. The world is changing so quickly, higher education can’t keep pace and as a result, we aren’t given the tools to prepare us for a sustainable and rewarding career. College graduates are not prepared to enter the workforce.
I don’t want to sell you an empty box of “dream big and work hard.” This is a book about defining the path to your dream and working smart. Rather than focusing only on the current state of the industry, this book is about the skills you need to keep pace with the industry as it changes. No matter how the industry shifts, agile skills—like social and emotional intelligence, communication, self-management, and creative problem-solving—will always be relevant. Instead of teaching you what to think, this book will teach you how to think. If you like where this is going, click here—there’s a good chance Age of Agility was written for you.
Andrew J. Wilt is the author of Age of Agility, a book that addresses the skill gap between school and work. He can be reached at Andrew.email@example.com and on Twitter @andrewjwilt