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

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.

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