Skills to Succeed in the New Economy

Over the last few years, Americans have become more familiar with change. Our president’s campaign was based on change; our economy took a change for the worst and is making small steps to recovery; many members of our friends and families changed or lost careers; technology continues to change how we communicate, learn, listen to music, fight disease, etc. All of these factors have created a new economy that will only continue to get further away from what we know today (65 percent of kids in grade school are predicted to have jobs that don’t exist yet.1)

How can new graduates meet the demands of our new economy when the skills they just learned in their (expensive) college years could be outdated in 10 years? In a study of 200,000 new hires, 46 percent of new hires failed within 18 months. Of those failed hires, 89 percent failed due to attitudinal reasons, the other 11 percent failed from lack of skill, according to Forbes2. What do these numbers show? New graduates and new hires can worry less about whether or not their college prepared them for the technical side of their jobs, and start working on their presentation, communication, uniqueness, and go-get-it-ness that will make them stand out from the crowd. A college education is not the end, it’s just the beginning. That’s why even if there is an upheaval in the work available in the new economy, educated professionals will be able to find employment because they learned how to learn, how to think critically, and how to adapt to different types of peers, presentations, authority figures, and demands.

The 54 percent of new hires who are succeeding at their new job are those who are choosing to look beyond the obvious and add something original to the company. They make themselves stand out as exceptional pieces of a team, they go beyond without being prompted to by a boss, and they bring an energy that shows they are present.

Not all college students get social or attitudinal training in their college that they need to succeed in their career. In fact, many successful professionals weren’t only students (more and more are even college dropouts), they also had paper routes, worked at the movie theater, or served slices of pizza in their youth. Real-world experience is how people learn to communicate with a boss, work with their peers, and handle clients.

Soon-to-be graduates can start working on conveying their unique abilities by taking time to answer questions about themselves, in relation to a company and in relation to their own personal and professional goals:

  • What are my unique interests and abilities?
  • What can I offer the company beyond the obvious?
  • How can I use this position to help me achieve my career goals?
  • How can this position help me personally?
  • What do I hope to find out about myself in this job?
  • What are three goals I have for the first year of employment?
  • Where do I want to be in five years?
  • What do I want to contribute?

Another way new graduates can prepare for a strong career launch is by doing a search for “most asked interview questions” or “most interesting/hard interview questions” and reviewing their answers. Students can learn about many expectations that they might not have experience with just through getting familiar with the kinds of questions employers ask.

Through answering these questions, students may even discover they have more experience than they thought they had by finding transferable skills learned in school and jobs as a youth. Endeavoring to grow, to learn, to embrace difficulty, and to over deliver are highly sought qualities which will never go out of style. Soul-searching and self-awareness characterize many of our greatest contributors in the world of work and, you, soon to be graduate, can be among them.


1“What’s Your Major: Working Toward the Uninvented Job,” by Ana Tintocalis. 26 December 2011. Mind/Shift. Accessed on 19 April 2012.

2“Hire for Attitude,” by Dan Schawbel. 23 January 2012. Forbes. Accessed on 19 April 2012.


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