I recentlyhad the privilege of spending a day with a group of female students at Brunel University. I was delivering a one day Leadership workshop which formed part of a ‘Women into Business’ Programme. Brunel invite a number of successful female business women into the University to deliver workshops to a cohort of female students on topics such as Negotiation, Networking, Personal Branding, Assertiveness etc.
I asked the students who attended the workshop to share the one most useful thing I could help them with by the end of the day. I was surprised to hear the majority of the girls tell me they wanted to have more confidence. When I probed further and asked where they needed more confidence, they replied, “I would like to be more confident in a room of people and feel like I am being heard”; “I want to be able to communicate in a credible way”. I discovered that these students were studying various disciplines such as Engineering and Law degrees. Some have ambitions to design aeroplanes! Others are expected to run family businesses.
These are talented young women, yet they feel the pressure to be able to converse naturally, and are eager to learn the protocol of how to survive successfully in a business environment.
I was amazed at how the ladies I had the privilege of spending the day with, quickly soaked up the techniques in how to communicate their message in a powerful way, how to interact professionally in new situations and how to shake hands confidently. In a few short hours they had the tools to confidently share their elevator pitch, providing a few succinct sound bites of their proudest achievements, goals they hope to achieve and interests that they are passionate about. They practiced these techniques and asked many questions.
I regularly hear that companies are telling us how students are lacking the basic skills, but I wonder If we were to ask them what specifically they meant, what the majority of answers would be? Are companies asking for the same basic skills that students are also crying out for?
There are companies doing a fantastic job providing summer placements, internships and work experience opportunities. But, what can we do to help the majority of students to be more employable? What are we doing to help students like the girls I met at Brunel have more confidence? To be able to interact and communicate their talents in a professional way that will help them succeed in a business environment. Or, provide guidance on how to cope with the transition from University to work life?
At the start of the academic year Universities are awash with companies promoting their programmes, giving guidance on areas such as how to write a CV, interview techniques and how to succeed at an assessment centre. But is it only the University’s responsibility to get students fit for work? Or, should we all play a part in supporting the majority of students who are struggling to secure work or indeed give them a reality check on the business challenges? It could be an insight into how to survive in a Corporate world? It could be teaching the skills that Brunel’s ‘Women into Business’ programme delivers.
It’s not just about students understanding how to get the job, but what they need to do to survive in the role and organisation once they secure the job.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic or indeed the support that you are providing to Universities to develop our future talent.