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Preparing for an Ever-Changing Workforce

Dana Sumner sitting at her desk with career planning material.

At Meredith College, the Office of Career Planning (OCP) staff are just a few of the many individuals on campus who work tirelessly to assure Meredith students are prepared for careers after graduation. Through Meredith’s StrongPoints® program, students create a career plan that builds on their strengths and prepares them for success. The OCP staff equip and empower
students to accomplish those goals through various avenues throughout the Meredith experience. With the job market constantly evolving, not only are they preparing graduates for current jobs, but the OCP team is helping prepare them for careers that don’t even exist yet.

According to Meredith’s Director of Career Planning Dana Sumner, three characteristics students and alumnae must possess when preparing for a career are adaptability, flexibility, and resiliency, which all provide the foundation for success in current careers, future careers, and careers still to be imagined. Recently, she sat down with Meredith Magazine and explained how the College instills these characteristics and prepares its students and alumnae for present and future careers.

MM: What is the mission of the Meredith College Office of Career Planning?

DS: Our mission is to prepare and empower our students and alumnae to succeed in careers aligned with their strengths, values, and goals.

We are educators and career counselors who foster self-discovery and awareness of students. Our office encourages (early and often) hands-on experiences and opportunities where students gain and practice skills and competencies while testing out career possibilities and building connections. We promote curiosity and active decision making, and we inform students about the current landscape of work, engage them in situations where they gain and practice skills, and facilitate events and programming for students to connect with people and opportunities.

MM: Why are adaptability, flexibility, and resiliency important in today’s job market and for careers in the future?

DS: Because no one knows for sure what will happen in the job market and careers of the future, so students who are adaptable, flexible, and resilient will be better equipped to deal with this ambiguity, maintain a positive outlook, and recover from the challenges they may face.

These qualities allow students to better manage their expectations and handle the uncertainty and challenges that will come their way throughout the job search process and once they are employed.

MM: What strengths and skills are significant for students to have or develop that will make them marketable to employers today and in the future?  

DS: According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), careers of the future will be more fluid and less straightforward, so employees will need to refine their skills to carry out multi-functional tasks. For our students, jobs that require creative and cognitive skills, critical thinking, and judgment will be the jobs of the future.

Additionally, recent research by NACE and its members resulted in the creation of eight competencies which demonstrate students are ready for the workplace. Those competencies are critical thinking and problem solving, oral and written communications, teamwork and collaboration, digital technology, leadership, professionalism and work ethic, career management, and global and cultural fluency.

Possessing these competencies further demonstrates to an employer that students are trainable, eager, and interested in learning new ideas and concepts. They are willing to weigh in, ask questions, and have an opinion that can positively shape an organization. Students who possess these competencies prove they have the ability to cope with change.

MM: How do you and your staff help students develop the skills and strengths that employers are looking for in prospective hires?

DS: OCP continuously evaluates its offerings to ensure we’re staying current with career trends and research about the future of work. Mock interviews, employer meetups and networking events, classroom visits and conversations with employers, and career treks, which are onsite visits to organizations and companies for a more personal, one-on-one experience with our students. All of these opportunities provide students with firsthand knowledge about what employers expect in employees.

Internships allow students to test options, build a network, and practice skills that employers are looking for in potential hires. Programming with campus partners has allowed us to build ways for students to intentionally and actively engage, reflect, and build skills needed for the workplaces of the future.

MM: Why is it important for Meredith students and alumnae to learn these skills and competencies that are valuable to employers?

DS: NACE research tells us that robots, artificial intelligence, and automation will continue to impact the work we do. The terms “going to work” and “workplace” are becoming outdated as more and more college graduates are expecting flexibility in work schedules, how they work and when they work, the place they do work, and the benefits they receive.

However, skills such as creativity, communication, interpersonal interactions, social perceptiveness and empathy, critical thinking, complex problem solving, and cultural fluency can never be automated or completed by a robot.

Melyssa Allen

News Director
316 Johnson Hall
(919) 760-8087
Fax: (919) 760-8330

allenme@meredith.edu