The moment an undergraduate student starts a business degree, their mind is already geared to the job offers they hope will be coming thick and fast upon graduation. Yet there is an ongoing mismatch between what students think employers want, and what employers are actually looking for.
Amid concerns that places are going unfilled because some graduates are not making it through selection processes, a new campaign has been launched called Work Ready Graduates to get more university students comfortable with business etiquette. Employers need to make sure the graduates they hire can hit the ground running, but are also flexible employees who can re-train to face changing situations.
When it comes to the employability of a student from an undergraduate business course, it’s worth turning to the ancient Greeks for some perspective. Aristotle was not just a philosopher, he was also professionally involved in top leadership development as the tutor of Alexander the Great and he analysed the “virtues” which a successful leader needed. His three broad categories remain highly relevant today.
First Aristotle identified knowledge (episteme), second, skills (techne) and third, practical wisdom (phronesis). These remain the three broad qualities that employers are looking for, although the nature of each and the balances between them continually shift.
When we survey our incoming business undergraduates it is not surprising that they strongly believe the most important of these three for employers is knowledge. After all, the school system is almost wholly geared to transmitting and testing knowledge, as is higher education.