These practices put students at a serious disadvantage. When they begin applying for jobs, they don’t have enough experience or the skills expected of them. As a result, many employers are dismissing them as potential candidates because they feel they aren’t ready for the real-world work environment.

The good news is, for the most part, those students surveyed do identify the same skills for success that employers value, including communication, teamwork and problem solving. The challenge is that they don’t feel confident about their own skills and aren’t sure how to go about enhancing them.

It’s time for students to rethink the traditional career roadmap. Beginning freshman year, students should be meeting with a career counselor to discuss their interests and options, and focusing on four areas in particular: personal branding, relationships, experiences and skills. By accelerating the entire process, students can enhance their future career success – and colleges, universities, employers and alumni can and should help them do so.

Three ways that a college or university can invest in student career preparation include innovative partnerships, incorporating career prep into the academic curriculum, and engaging employers in the process early on.

Employers would like to see colleges invest in the following areas:

  • Offer educational experiences that teach students to solve problems with people whose views are different than their own
  • Teach students about ethical issues and public debates important in their field
  • Offer direct learning experiences for students to work with others and solve problems important in their communities
  • Teach students about societies and cultures outside of the U.S., as well as global issues and developments

Employers also should take a more active role in helping students prepare to succeed in their career. For example, Barnes & Noble College employs more than 10,000 Millennial student workers, in addition to serving more than 5 million students nationwide.

Barnes & Noble College has also been working with its campus partners to launch its new Career Now initiative. The program aims to enhance connections between students, faculty and the bookstore by providing the tools, guidance and resources they need to help students on their way to career success. Beginning with in-store career workshops led by Why Millennials Matter founder Joan Snyder Kuhl, the program now is expanding to include a variety of online resources, tool kits and other content that will allow the bookstore to continue to be a support system for students and faculty.

Alumni also can act as a valuable resource for students by seeking ways to offer advice based on their own personal experience. For example, Rutgers alum and Barnes & Noble College consumer & new media marketing manager Tamara Vostok recently returned to her alma mater to participate in an alumni career panel session. Engaging with students in this setting allows alumni to share personal and practical advice that students might not be able to get anywhere, and allows them to ask questions specific to their concerns.

At Rutgers, Vostok was able to share her professional insights related to starting a career in the journalism and marketing industry, and students walked away with valuable advice and new perspectives on career development.

The clear skills gap between what many Millennials have to offer vs. what employers expect and desire is an evident issue for all involved – students, parents, employers and higher ed institutions. Sometimes it takes a village to get a student from their dorm to their dream career, but we believe that together, we can raise the bar.

Lisa Malat is the Vice President of Marketing and Operations at Barnes & Noble College.

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