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What Do You Do When Students Have an Inflated View of Their Job Skills?

What Do You Do When Students Have an Inflated View of Their Job Skills?

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Start a management degree at American Public University.

By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management at American Public University

There is a general tendency for people to believe they are the best at what they do. Some individuals possess an overly high sense of self when it comes to their abilities. That can translate into a superiority complex. Someone or something in their lives has allowed them to believe that they have arrived and that their work is above reproach.

Justin Kruger and David Dunning, psychologists at Cornell University, suggest that this overestimation occurs in part because people unskilled in self-evaluation suffer a dual burden. Not only do they reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices, but their incompetence robs them of the cognitive ability to realize it.

Many Graduates Believe They Have the Requisite Job Skills, But Many Employers Say They Don’t

Many studies have been conducted over the years regarding graduates’ preparation for the workforce. Scott Jaschik, writing in Inside Higher Ed, says it turns out that college students are well prepared for their future careers — at least in their minds. But when you ask employers, it’s a very different picture.

We hear concerns from employers that institutions of higher education are not adequately preparing students for the world of work. However, when you ask faculty and institution administrators if they are preparing students sufficiently for the world of work, they will say yes, they are.

Employers Are Concerned about Graduates’ Job Skills Such As Teamwork and Communication

As Jaschik notes, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AACU) has conducted surveys over the years on the topic of graduates’ self-worth. Some of the concerns have remained the same over time. For example, employers continue to be concerned about recent graduates having a range of skills such as teamwork and communication.

During one recent survey, the AACU added a companion survey of college students. The findings indicated that students ranked themselves prepared in areas that employers disagreed with.

Over the years, I have spoken with employers in various industries about their dissatisfaction with the quality of hired graduates. I have heard numerous stories of employers “blackballing” students from certain institutions of higher learning, because they produce students who are not ready for their businesses. There are countless stories of interviewing candidates with high GPAs, yet the candidates cannot pass some of the necessary pre-employment tests or are poor performers once they do secure positions.

Faculties too have raised the yellow caution flag that there are students who are not prepared for their classes. However, some instructors, concerned about students’ reaction to that assessment, pass them on to the next level, hoping that those instructors will be better able to assist those students.

There are also instances when students confuse an academic credit program with job training. There is a sense of entitlement as a consumer. Some students say, “Since I pay tuition, you work for me. Therefore, I can determine when and if I get my money’s worth.”

When students complain to me about a faculty member, I usually ask them to voice their concerns in the context of what went wrong. For example, I have had students challenge their grades by saying, “I believe that the faculty member or the grading rubric was subjective and open to interpretation.”

I immediately counter with, “Based on the criteria listed in the grading rubric, can you provide me with specific examples of where you believe the caliber of your work warranted a higher grade?” My statement puts the problem in context from an objective perspective.

Also, I am attempting to remove emotion from the process by focusing on factual evidence. My question is open-ended to minimize the perception that I will take the side of the faculty member.

Everyone in higher education has to take a stand because graduates can promote or destroy our reputation in the business community. We should hold one another accountable for ensuring that we produce students with a realistic view of their strengths as well as their weaknesses.

It is unfair to send a B- graduate out believing he or she is an A student. When reality sets in, there could be a backlash against your institution from both employers and alumni. So think how you want to be remembered. What type of legacy do you want to leave?

Start a management degree at American Public University.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management at American Public University. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.

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