Local governments will soon need to replace more than one-third of their employees as Baby Boomers begin to retire en masse over the next decade. Fortunately, as challenging as it might be to gain entry, interest in landing one these jobs after graduation remains as high as ever among Millennial college students.
While this may seem ideal, many of those students won’t leave college qualified for these positions.
Only one in five college students today feels adequately prepared for the workforce.
That’s because skills in professional communication, prioritizing tasks, and strong decision-making aren’t covered in final exams. Students may learn a lot about their fields of study, but they don’t often gain the soft skills that employers want.
Many factors contribute to a massive skills gap, but if you’re headed to college or are in college now, you can’t wait around for society to change.
Here are four ways to take your future into your own hands and prepare yourself for the real world:
1. Take a gap year. This idea is getting a lot of press because of Malia Obama’s decision to take one. At Harvard, Obama’s future school of choice, there has been a 33 percent increase in students taking gap years. People are catching on that students who take gap years tend to earn higher GPAs, achieve higher graduation rates, and demonstrate higher civic engagement.
When students go straight from high school to college simply because it’s the logical next step, they often enter higher education with no sense of what they want to gain from the college experience. A gap year can provide perspective, allowing students to begin their college careers with an end in mind and more fully leverage opportunities.
2. Complete an internship. Companies from Ford to LinkedIn use internships as primary drivers of their talent pipelines. For students, internships can help them decide what they want to do — or not do — with their lives. They offer a way to taste test various professions or companies.
In your quest to find promising internships, counselors and advisers can be excellent resources. Want to get your foot in the door at a local agency? The International City-County Management Association provides a list of a variety of fellowships, broken down by state and field. The association also offers an undergraduate internship program in which teach up-and-coming leaders can learn while working in local city governments as well.