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24 Jun, 2013

Critical Thinking, Good Writing Cited as Most Important Skills for Jobseeking College Graduates


DAVENPORT, Iowa–(BUSINESS WIRE)– June 20, 2013 – Entering one of the most competitive job markets in history, critical thinking and written communications are the most important skills college graduates in business and information technology (IT) programs will need to succeed in the workforce.

That finding is part of the inaugural Student Advisory Report, “If I Were You,” assembled by Kaplan University’s (KU) College of Business and Technology and drawn from a survey of over 250 KU faculty members across the United States. The report was designed to identify the traits that will help students get ahead, describes industries that offer the greatest opportunity, and provides professional advice to guide graduates’ careers.

Critical Thinking, Communication and “Soft Skills” Give Job Candidates a Leg Up

Outside of education training, critical thinking (84%) and written communication (61%) ranked highest on the list of most valuable assets for students entering the workforce. Also high on the professors’ list were “soft skills,” such as interpersonal skills (58%). Professors felt that being an articulate communicator (30%) and having a strong work ethic (29%) would elevate business and IT graduates in competing for jobs, if all other things were equal with their peers.

Additionally, during the interview process, the KU Business and Information Technology faculty respondents stated that communication skills (83%), the ability to demonstrate potential value (72%), and professional experience (53%) were most important in making a good impression.

The Outlook on Opportunity

Nearly half (48%) of faculty surveyed believes the outlook for business and IT graduates will continue to remain positive over the next 12 months, despite current government funding reductions that are expected to impact job opportunities in the private sector as well. Industries identified by the survey respondents showing the greatest promise for career growth included:

  • Information Technology
    • Information security and forensics (59%)
    • Mobile computing (47%)
    • Information systems management (41%)
  • Business
    • Accounting (54%)
    • Finance (40%)
    • Marketing/internet marketing (38%)

“Beyond gaining a strong educational background, the interpersonal and communications skills students develop will make them effective at applying that knowledge in the workplace,” said Dr. Thomas Boyd, dean of KU’s School of Business. “The Kaplan University faculty members we surveyed have acquired their knowledge through professional experience outside of academia. Students can benefit from those insights and take advantage of the many opportunities in our curriculum to hone these soft skills.”

“If I Were You…” Words of Wisdom

In addition to identifying top skills and industries for future graduates, the Kaplan University College of Business and Technology’s “If I Were You” Student Advisory Report also asked respondents for the one piece of advice they would give to students considering a business or IT career. The comments below are a sampling of more than 250 responses:

  • “Technology becomes obsolete quite rapidly; good communication skills remain with you throughout your working life.”—Lynne Williams, professor, KU School of Information Technology
  • “Develop an integrated life where education, experience and reflection come together to fine-tune a sense of optimism toward future opportunities, both obvious and subtle.”—Desiree DePriest, professor, KU School of Information Technology
  • “Gain a strong understanding of top management issues; arrange informational meetings with key leaders; take on tough projects; and learn to use available resources.”—Ray Kalinski, adjunct professor, KU School of Business
  • “Work on your transferable skills, skills that you can use in any specialty such as oral and written communication, organization, critical thinking, networking, time management, confidence, office productivity software, presentation, attention to detail, etc. These skills can be used in all business arenas.”—Carol Edwards, professor, KU School of Information Technology
  • “Learn to network and maintain professional relationships with everyone you meet – that becomes a strength you can take with you anywhere you go.”—Suzanne Ness, adjunct professor, KU School of Business

About the “If I Were You” Student Advisory Report Respondents

Representing 33 states, 277 Kaplan University College of Business and Technology faculty participated in the “If I Were You” Student Advisory Report. Ninety-three percent of respondents had more than six years of educator experience, and the average combined professional experience of each respondent was 25 years. Professional and educational experience ranged across a wide variety of business and IT sectors including accounting, finance, management, real estate, risk management, marketing, wealth management, human resources, information security, mobile computing and application development, information systems management, web development, network administration and database management.

“If I Were You” Student Advisory Report Methodology

Conducted by Wiser Marketing Group, the Kaplan University College of Business and Technology “If I Were You” Student Advisory Report was fielded April 18-26. The survey was voluntarily completed online from a Kaplan University College of Business and Technology faculty database of 636 current staff members.