Feeling Unprepared After College? What to Do When You Lack Required Skills

Feeling Unprepared After College? What to Do When You Lack Required Skills

By: Daniel Steingold | May 27, 2016

College is supposed to prepare us for our working lives, but it doesn’t always do so sufficiently.

Our four years of studying often give us the critical thinking skills and knowledge that are needed for the workplace, but they don’t always teach us the practical skills we need to succeed on the job.

Studies back up this notion: one 2013 study conducted by Northeastern University found that 62 percent of those surveyed believed that colleges were only preparing graduates for life after graduation in a “fair” or “poor” manner.

Another study conducted with 1,000 respondents by McGraw-Hill Education found that more than half of those surveyed didn’t learn how to write a resume during college. 56 percent did learn how to properly behave during a job interview, but more than two-thirds of students thought their school’s career services department was lacking.

Only 14 percent of students used their university’s career services department frequently, while nearly a quarter of students never used it.

Another issue: we often find out after we graduate that what we studied to do isn’t what we’ll end up doing. While studies show that making this mistake can cause a student to not graduate in the first place, it can also be an issue after graduation.

Studying the wrong subject can not only create consternation, but the need to learn new skills and knowledge. While this dilemma can often be avoided, in many cases a young adult often simply doesn’t know what they want to do.

This post will discuss how to obtain the proper skillset for the workplace when you may feel unprepared.

Continuously Be Involved and Learning

Unfortunately, simply possessing a college degree doesn’t guarantee one a job nowadays.

Fortunately, there are ways to help prepare you for the workplace in the eyes of employers should you be a recent graduate.

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One way to bolster your resume is to continue to engage in extracurricular activities, whatever shape these activities may take. Staying involved in the community also looks good, as it shows caring engagement and concern about those from similar or disparate backgrounds.

Always learning must be the biggest priority. Never be afraid to enroll in online courses or certifications to enhance your skills in any given area. This is particularly important for those who may have majored in a specialized field.

No matter what you majored in, you need to come off as being well-rounded. English majors should pursue coding; STEM students should read American classics.

Lastly, seek out mentors in the field you intend to enter. Make sure to ask these individuals any questions that come into your mind— without pestering them, of course.

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Take an Internship

Internships are valuable after graduation in that they can provide an individual with the proper on-job experience to pursue a career in the field in which they’re interning.

Interns are much more likely to get hired full-time at any given firm than a random interviewee. Studies show that one has a 70 percent chance of getting hired if they intern at a company.

Even if the internship is unpaid, there are tremendous benefits to be gained. For the intern, a prime benefit is the ability to test-drive a career before stepping in fully. This practical experience can help supplement any other knowledge or experience acquired.

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In addition, companies are usually eager to hire interns as they’re usually less expensive to hire and compensate. Internships allow the employer to get to know the potential employee more intimately than they would otherwise, such as in an interview setting, making for a win-win situation.

Carefully Consider a Post-Graduate Degree

The key word in this sentence is “carefully.”

A post-graduate degree shouldn’t be pursued simply to be pursued, but if you discover that the job or field you want to enter requires further education, consider going back to school.

Never make going for extra education an impulsive decision. If you can intern or get any sort of related work experience prior hand, absolutely do that instead. There will always be the opportunity to go back to school, particularly when you’re young.

While the perils of going to grad school are widely reported, it is important to also note the benefits.

Unemployment rates for those with post-graduate degrees are even lower for those with post-graduate degrees than they are for those with a Bachelor’s degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 1.7 percent of those with a Doctorate are unemployed, while 2.4 percent of those with a Master’s degree are. 2.8 percent of those with only a Bachelor’s degree are unemployed.

Those with advanced degrees make significantly more on average, and going to grad school can aid in making you a more well-rounded and mature individual.

Ultimately, you shouldn’t go to grad school because you feel insecure and uncertain about your future. You should go if you can afford it, and if it would help you tremendously in achieving your career-oriented goals.

Find Stability

The transition from college to full-time employee can be difficult. Thus, it is important to find stability post-college.

College often feels like a insular safe space to students, both physically and intellectually. When leaving campus, the sudden feeling of having a lack of support can be intimidating.

When entering the job market for the first time, it is important to look for all the sources of stability you can. Look for support from family, friends, counselors, and even professors. Sharing fears and listening to different perspectives can help tremendously. Don’t be afraid to seek out a therapist if you feel like you need additional help or support.

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When it’s all said and done, recognizing that you aren’t completely prepared and need additional support is the first step on the way to feeling more prepared.


A big part of making it after college is not what you have learned, but what you are willing to learn, and your self-confidence.

Confidence is not hubris; rather, it is the self-seated belief that you will be able to handle whatever comes at you with the best of your abilities. College, ideally, should make you more confident in your ability to think and behave rationally.

Don’t worry if you don’t get your desired position right out of college. In 2013, it was found that nearly half of college graduates worked in positions that didn’t even require their degrees. Yes, this phenomenon is that common.

Skills can be learned and experience can be gained. It’s always the intangibles— your work ethic, motivation, curiosity, etc.— that distinguish one grad from the next.

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