How To Prepare Grads for the Workforce

How To Prepare Grads for the Workforce

Eva Sage-Gavin  – Education Nation


While we all know how hard it is to find work, employers actually have a tough time hiring for certain jobs. The site lists more than 250,000 positions around the country, yet the ManpowerGroup found that 49 percent of U.S. employers had difficulty filling important jobs last year, particularly skilled trades, engineers, IT staff, sales representatives, accounting and finance staff, drivers and mechanics.

How do we fix it?

The problem is complex, and requires each of us to play a role.

  • Students need to take interviewing seriously: do homework about companies, dress professionally and learn how to translate experiences into business-relevant skills such as time management and organization. Be yourself, but being too casual could indicate you’re not taking the position seriously. Be cautious about what you post online. Once hired, show up on time, learn how to interact professionally in meetings and by email, find mentors, stay positive, and start networking.
  • Students can go to to get advice directly from professional recruiters about interviewing, negotiating and being on the job. Recruiters have posted more than 1,200 individualized replies to job seekers’ most common questions, and nearly 50 universities are now linked to Jobipedia.
  • Colleges should connect students with employers as much as possible, and highlight the skills and behaviors expected in the working world. We encourage counselors to do mock interviews and provide feedback about dressing for success, direct eye contact and honesty. Counselors can encourage students to take risks when applying for jobs and scholarships, even if they could be rejected.
  • Employers need to work with colleges more closely to build skills needed in the workplace. They also can become more involved in public policy and their communities, through NBC’s Education Nation, or The Aspen Institute’s Skills for America’s Future initiative, a network of more than 300 businesses, community colleges, industry associations, government, community-based organizations and labor. Here at Gap Inc., store managers teach workshops about resume writing, interviewing, communication and time management at 21 schools through our Gap Inc. for Community Colleges program. We’ve trained more than 1,200 students so far, and we hire thousands of students a year.
  • Parents, colleges, employers and government need to continue to support career and technical colleges, and make science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education a national priority. We need to motivate students, veterans, spouses and partners to look into opportunities in those areas.

MORE: Where Are Soft Skills in the Education Debate?

People at the start of their careers are at a very exciting point in their lives, with a lot of anticipation and angst about resumes, interviewing and their first days on the job. With some preparation, homework and awareness, the transition can be smooth, positive and fulfilling. Without it, the inexperience can show up in negative ways. But working together, we can help today’s graduates find jobs, and help companies find the talent they’re looking for.


Eva Sage-Gavin is Chair of the Workforce Development Committee of the HR Policy Association, which represents the most senior human resource executives in more than 340 corporations that do business in the United States and globally. She is also Executive Vice President of Global Human Resources and Corporate Affairs at Gap Inc.


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