Employers seek skills, not majors

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The job market within the United States is always expanding and changing, especially since the advent of the internet.  Matt Nuese, associate director of career services at UNI, stressed that students have to be thinking toward the future job market to stay competitive instead of the current one. This is especially prevalent with the Career Services Center’s Job and Internship Fair this Monday, Sep. 17.

“The biggest change that we’ve seen is that more employers have gone to skills-based hiring,” Nuese said. 

Nuese went on to explain that while the name of the major is still important, it does not hold the same weight as it used to if the student cannot demonstrate skills outside of the major such as marketing products, cooperating and collaborating or what Nuese refers to as intellectual curiosity. 

According to Nuese, intellectual curiosity is the desire to continue to learn more and grow in different skills once becoming employed. 

“If a student has a combination of good grades, and they’re involved in extracurriculars, and they do two things that are pre-professional in nature, they are always successful,” Nuese said. 

Nuese also noted that developing a skills-based education will better prepare students for the job market by the time they leave UNI. These employers are looking for people of almost any major to fill in new positions if they have the skills to succeed.

“If you look at the field of distribution, logistics or supply chain management, that field has blown up. It’s one of the fastest growing industries that we have,” Nuese said. “And then you look at sales – one of the oldest industries – but now almost every job involves sales.” 

Nuese explained that while before there were jobs where people could work on a computer or crunch numbers in a back office and not interact with people, nowadays those people have to be involved in sales as well. He also emphasized that employers are looking for more collaborative and cooperative people than ever. 

According to Nuese, within six months of graduation, between 94 and 97 percent of UNI students are almost always either in graduate school, employed or self-employed. 

“Even at our career fair, 60 percent of the employers that are there – on their sign, it says all majors accepted,” Nuese said. “What they’re looking for are training areas. Have you been trained in communication? Have you been trained in IT? Have you been trained in digital media? They’re looking for those categories. That’s why I always push [students to] look at the skills you’re gaining rather than the major’s title.” 

Nuese said that although majors used to really set a career path in stone, that has slowly changed over the past 30 years. 

Nuese gave the example of education majors finding success in distribution, due to their positivity, ability to teach objectives and goals and their management skills. With all this emphasis on skill, Nuese said the best way for people to be successful is to get involved. Finding both internships and student organizations to be a part of can open doors to a professional network within UNI, as well as outside of the university. Even if the groups are more social in nature, Nuese encouraged students to take advantages of these opportunities.

“If you join the Harry Potter Club, but you’re the president, think of the skills you’re gaining,” Nuese said. According to Nuese, those skills are exactly what recruiters at the Job and Internship Fair, as well as employers in the job market, will be looking for.