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Challenges Students Face Issue #4: Adapting to An Ever Changing World

Contributed by Dr. Michael Edmondson President at MEAPA
November 01, 2011
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In my previous post we examined some of the key statistics and trends college students and recent graduates should know.  In this post I highlight the critical issue of adapting to an ever changing and dynamic global marketplace.

In today’s hyper-connected global economy, two observations from different ends of the professional development spectrum shed light on another major challenge facing students today.  On one end is New York Times columnist David Brooks who wrote “College students are raised in an environment that demands one set of navigational skills, and they are then cast out into a different environment requiring a different set of skills, which they have to figure out on their own.” 

On the opposite end of the professional development spectrum is a statement from Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams in MacroWikinomics:  Rebooting Business and the World “According to IBM's 2010 Global CEO Survey, eight in ten CEOs expect their environment to grow significantly more complex and fewer than half believe they know how to deal with it successfully.” 

What both statements demonstrate, to a high degree of concern, is that change is happening so rapidly both the educated and experienced populations require additional training to learn how to adapt.  In short, college students and CEOs alike are under-prepared and over-whelmed as they attempt to adapt to today’s ever changing global economy. 

This finding should come as no surprise, however, as recent technological innovations have and continue to alter the way we live and work.  Trying to keep up with all of the change is overwhelming even for the savviest of individuals.  The 2011 Horizon Report noted “that it can be overwhelming to attempt to keep up with even a few of the many new tools that are released.” 

Luckily there are two excellent resources and strategies that college students and executives can consider.  The first is a new book, Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure by Tim Harford who writes “the recipe for successfully adapting contains three essential steps: 1)try new things in the expectation that some will fail; 2)to make failure survivable because it will be common and 3)to make sure you know when you have failed.” 

In addition to Harford’s Adapt, students can download and complete a free resource entitled the Personal Assessment of Traits and Habits (PATH).  By completing this self-assessment, college graduates and senior executives alike can gain a better understanding of how frequently they practice key traits and habits commonly found in successful people; adaptation being one of them.

In its 2011 "Strategic Initiatives Study: Adapting Corporate Strategy to the Changing Economy" Forbes observed that in learning to adapt, companies are “being more selective and taking careful steps to be more informed and better prepared than in recent years” as they implement strategic initiatives.  As they continue to learn new ways to adapt, “U.S. business leaders recognize the increased volatility associated with the post-crisis economy and are approaching their companies’ most strategic initiatives with more discretion than ever before.” 

To help companies adapt, college students should increase the frequency by which they practice this skill and also find ways to communicate their value as they launch and grow their career.

Michael Edmondson, Ph.D. is the co-founder of MEAPA a professional development company for the 21st century.   He is the co-author, along with Dr. Peter Abramo, of several publications including The ABCs of Marketing Yourself: A Workbook for College Students and How To Succeed With A Liberal Arts Degree.  He is also the Director of Marketing and Recruiting and Adjunct Faculty for Marketing and Entrepreneurship at The Philadelphia Center, one of the nation's oldest experiential education off-campus programs.

Challenges Students Face: Issue #2: Transferring Skills for Nature Writers

Contributed by Dr. Michael Edmondson President at MEAPA
October 16, 2011
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Challenges Students Face: Issue #2: Transferring Skills for Nature Writers

My previous post examined the issue of students finding meaningful work.  In this second post I provide a case study identifying opportunities for a specific group of students. For students and graduates writing about nature the single most difficult issue to address is identifying employment opportunities.  As David Brooks of The New York Times observed “many students figure they can’t major in English or history as the economy worsens. They have to study something that will lead directly to a job.”  By relying on a dynamic skill set, individuals writing about nature are actually doing something of great value that will allow them to apply for employment opportunities in various functional areas related to marketing.  A few skills nature writers have include:

Making observations– nature writing begins with the writer recording observations about a specific location or environment.   Observing nature requires one to work from the general to the specific while including as many elements as possible.

Getting personal– nature writing is deeply personal and born out of one’s love, respect and awe of the environment.  By its very design nature writing relies upon the individual to develop a deeper level of self-awareness through personal reflection. 

Describing relationships– nature writing describes the physical, cerebral and emotional connections the writer has to the environment.  

Providing a voice– nature writing allows the writer to represent the environment and in so doing provides a necessary voice required so others may better understand the world.

Illustrating uniqueness– nature writing demands that writers focus on the unique and dynamic characteristics of an environment.

These and other skills obtained by writers of nature can be directly applied and transferred to several functional areas of marketing such as market research, branding or brand management and social medial marketing.  

Market research - The process of gathering, analyzing and interpreting information about a market, product or service. Example: Nature writers forge their observations together into a compelling narrative and can easily apply their story telling techniques to address market research issues. 

Branding- The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.  Example: Nature writers rely on nuance to highlight how elements of nature differentiate from one another and can transfer that skill to helping a brand team identify its unique characteristic.

Social media marketing – the use of Internet and mobile applications that foster the consumer-product relationship through the exchange of user generated content.   Example: Nature writers are masters of creating content and with the right personal traits can help others do the same using the latest technological platforms.

In The Element Sir Ken Robinson noted that “One of the reasons that our species has come to dominate life on earth is that we have powerful imaginations and enormous capacities for creativity.”  Writers of nature are creative and should employ such an approach to their professional and career development.  One excellent way to infuse creativity into their professional development is to obtain a marketing internship.  Internships provide tremendous opportunities for nature writers to apply their knowledge to real-world situations and better understand how to transfer their skill set to a variety of employment positions.

Click here to read the next Challenges Students Face post.

Michael Edmondson, Ph.D. is the co-founder of MEAPA a professional development company for the 21st century.   He is the co-author, along with Dr. Peter Abramo, of several publications including The ABCs of Marketing Yourself: A Workbook for College Students and How To Succeed With A Liberal Arts Degree.  He is also the Director of Marketing and Recruiting and Adjunct Faculty for Marketing and Entrepreneurship at The Philadelphia Center, one of the nation's oldest experiential education off-campus programs. 

Challenges Students Face: Issue #1: Finding Meaningful Work

Contributed by Dr. Michael Edmondson President at MEAPA
October 03, 2011
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In his July 12, 2011 editorial "The Start-Up of You," New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman spoke directly to college students and wrote:

Whatever you may be thinking when you apply for a job today, you can be sure the employer is asking this: Can this person add value every hour, every day — more than a worker in India, a robot or a computer? Can he or she help my company adapt by not only doing the job today but also reinventing the job for tomorrow? And can he or she adapt with all the change, so my company can adapt and export more into the fastest-growing global markets? In today's hyper-connected world, more and more companies cannot and will not hire people who don't fulfill those criteria.

As students launch careers and seek to create value for companies, the goal of finding meaningful work is of primary concern.  While it is true that many students need a job to pay the bills, it is also true that finding meaningful work is a critically important component of life.  The following list provides a few ideas on how students can better understand the options available to them as they begin to think about ways to create meaningful work:

a)Intern - Students should intern at one or more placements in order to gain a better understanding of the types of jobs available.  Being exposed to different work environments allows students to develop their professional skills and gain first hand knowledge about what types of work they may consider meaningful.  Internships that involve substantial amounts of time (20 hours or more a week) and supervised learning usually offer the most insight for students. 

b)Bottom - Students should apply for entry level positions, even if an employment position does not require a college degree.  Doing so can provide insight often overlooked by those who started higher up in the organizational chart.  Starting at the bottom also often provides opportunities for promotion into more meaningful work.

c) Start - Despite today's challenging economy, students can create meaningful work by launching their own venture.  Instead of waiting for that perfect full-time job, which usually is a mirage by the way, students should consider creating multiple revenue streams (MRS) that combine working for wages (working for someone else) and working for profit (working for themselves).  This MRS approach to life allows students to take a proactive approach and intentionally create a variety of meaningful work opportunities. 

d)Job Shadow - Unlike an internship that requires a substantial amount of time, students should also identify a variety of people who can they spend a day or two with in order to gain a better understanding of that specific position.  Job shadowing is tremendously valuable if for no other reason then to see first hand what is involved with a typical day in that company or position.  No amount of reading can compare to tagging along with a professional.

In their 2010 publication Rework, authors Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson discuss the need to create meaningful work.  Nothing the dynamics and new tools driving today's hyper-connected and ever changing global marketplace, Fried and Hansson suggest that everyone be a 'starter' and launch their own small business.  They argue that "There's a new reality.  Today anyone can be in business.  Tools that used to be out of reach are now easily accessible."  The best part of creating meaningful work is that all you need is 10-40 hours a week, very little money and a desire to create meaningful work.  Rework makes a compelling case for people to have multiple revenue streams in order to develop their talents, generate supplemental income and challenge themselves to grow as professionals.  Doing so can help individuals create meaningful work with intention and purpose in today’s hyper-competitive global economy. 

Click here to visit the next post in this series.

Michael Edmondson, Ph.D. is the co-founder of MEAPA a professional development company for the 21st century.   He is the co-author, along with Dr. Peter Abramo, of several publications including The ABCs of Marketing Yourself: A Workbook for College Students and How To Succeed With A Liberal Arts Degree.  He is also the Director of Marketing and Recruiting and Adjunct Faculty for Marketing and Entrepreneurship at The Philadelphia Center, one of the nation's oldest experiential education off-campus programs. 

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