A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal asks whether colleges are producing "career ready graduates".
Some may debate whether this is the right question to be asking. Form a traditional liberal arts point of view, the goal is (as the piece states at the end) to produce critical thinking adults. In my mind, that translates into adults who can solve problems and think creatively and critically. These individuals should be "ready for careers." Or at least ready for the first job.
However, it is also reasonable to think that given what individuals are spending on college at this point in time that they might be prepared for careers and guided in important ways other than simply having a good liberal arts education and being critical and creative thinkers.
In business schools, students and administrators clearly recognize the value of the internship and how this can help to translate into job readiness. Internships are just one way that individuals can help to prepare themselves besides rigorous coursework. There are many other opportunities for work experiences while individuals are in an educational institutions.
However, I believe that it is more than just an internship or a work experience.
The article also discusses mentions mapping out a career plan.
If nothing else, colleges could present to their students a way to think about their careers in the long term. Models for careers. Models for transitioning to a first job or a next educational step with information on what the choices are, what they mean, and what the value propositions of the choices are? Thinking ahead about next steps. Thinking about what a lifetime of jobs and even careers might look like.
Not to say that anyone can plan all of that out when he or she is an undergraduate. But to expose students to the idea that there are opportunities to take multiple paths. To take advantage of multiple directions in a career. To change jobs. To change careers. To change directions. And to do all of this with some sense of planning and some sense of where the person is going rather than simply being on a serendipitous random walk.
Maybe a 22 year old can't even imagine all that can go on in a career and over a lifetime. But I believe that even giving a hint of what a career might hold will make individuals better able to dream, plan, and consider how their careers and lives might evolve over time. To position himself or herself to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves over time. And to take hold of the opportunities and to run with them.
That would make individuals ready for a career just as much having the skills for a first job.