Introducing ‘Graduate Employability 2.0’

Did you know that Linkedin now has 300 million users, which is about 1 in 3 professionals worldwide? And that 35% of those users log in every day?

And did you know that about 60% of jobs are estimated to be obtained through ‘who you know’ rather than direct application? Did you also know that between 80 and 90% of university graduates only apply for jobs using direct application methods?

70% of learning in the workplace happens informally, much of it problem-based and self-directed, and about 90% of that involves social interaction – either face to face, online or both.

One recent study found that 86% of professionals use online social networks for professional purposes in the workplace. What do they use them for? networking within and outside the organisation, research and learning, and sharing resources and project information with colleagues.

Graduate Employability 2.0 is about all of these things. It explores a different way of engaging with learning and teaching for life and career post-university. Graduate Employability 1.0 was about skills, knowledge, and attributes that individual students can learn in order to be able to obtain or create work and perform well in work situations. In the Graduate Employability 2.0 era, individual skills, knowledge and attributes are still important, but so are the individual’s professional relationships and networks, and what they do with them. The ‘2.0’ signifies the central importance of the social, digitally networked world in which we now all live.

My 2015-2016 Australian Office of Learning and Teaching National Senior Teaching Fellowship seeks to identify the best ways to develop students’ capabilities to build and use professional connections, both online and face-to-face, for career development, creativity and problem-solving, and professional learning, all of which are essential to employability in the digital age.

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Career development      

 

 

Professional relationships, networks and social capital are vital to career development:

  • by increasing access to career resources, information about opportunities, and career sponsorship
  • through the individual’s online presence – their personal ‘brand’, ePortfolio, use of social media as an advertising / recruitment screening tool
  • through distributed, networked options for employment generation e.g., Airtasker, Upwork, crowdsourcing resources
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Innovation, creativity and problem solving

Innovation and problem solving thrive on complex collaborative contexts:

  • by fostering new ideas through exposure to new people and new ideas (especially trans-disciplinarity)
  • by ensuring that new ideas are integrated, implemented and brought to fruition through teamwork;
  • by finding opportunities for enterprise – for example, new markets, collaborators and resources
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Professional learning

Social connections facilitate the reciprocal transmission of skills and knowledge for professional learning:

  • through communities of practice and informal social learning
  • digitally through distributed learning networks (social media, crowdsourced learning e.g., wikipedia).

What does the fellowship involve?

Right now I am seeking cases of teaching practice, particularly in humanities, arts and social sciences (HASS) disciplines, that engage with these kinds of learning, and also some examples of graduates who are making the most of their social connections for professional purposes. Chosen cases will be included in a graduate employability toolkit and promoted nationally. If you are interested in being a case study, please get in touch.

I will be surveying all of the universities in Australia to find out to what extent and how they are engaging with teaching for the development of students’ professional connections.

Later on this year I’ll be working with four universities to build graduate employability 2.0 capabilities into their undergraduate programs. We’ll be doing some experiments and seeing which are the best ways to build professional networks into the curriculum

There will be a national symposium hosted at QUT, and I will launch an online community of practice for sharing, discussion and updates very shortly. Watch this space for details!

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KEY-shaped people, not T-shaped people – disciplinary agility and 21st century work

The ‘T-shaped person’ metaphor has been floating around talent management and education circles for nearly 25 years now. The basic idea is that professionals need to possess both depth of disciplinary knowledge and breadth of capability for collaboration across multiple disciplines – hence the vertical and horizontal strokes of the ‘T’.  According to T proponents, traditional higher education programs tend to produce ‘I-shaped’ graduates – students who possess disciplinary capabilities, but lack collaborative, communication and boundary-crossing capabilities. The notion of the ‘T-shaped’ professional has grown in popularity over the last five years, with IDEO’s CEO Tim Brown coming out as a strong advocate for the idea, and T-Summit Conferences being held annually in the US higher education sector.

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The T-shaped person

I know, I sound skeptical. Actually, those of you who have read my work would know that I’m all for capabilities that support transdisciplinary work (e.g., Bridgstock, Dawson & Hean, 2012; Bridgstock, 2013), which the ‘T-shaped’ movement is all about. There is also quite a lot of academic literature out there that suggests that increasingly, professionals need to collaborate effectively with people who have quite dissimilar backgrounds to themselves. In fact, these kinds of collaborations are more likely to produce innovative ideas and effective solutions to difficult problems than unidisciplinary approaches. When I’m teaching my first years about transdisciplinarity I often use the example of the groundbreaking 2010 article in Nature, where gamers using the ‘Foldit’ platform were able to identify the molecular structure of complex proteins in just a few weeks, when scientists had struggled with the problems for years using traditional methods.

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The key-shaped person

Where I have an issue with the ‘T-shaped’ person metaphor is in the downward stroke of the T – the disciplinary depth. My research with successful innovators in various disciplines has shown that one downward stroke is nearly always not sufficient. Rather, highly successful 21st century professionals tend to be ‘key shaped’ – they possess several areas of disciplinary capability at different degrees of depth. They may have one very deep area of knowledge and skill, but it is accompanied by several others of varying depth as well. These areas of disciplinary expertise become the ‘teeth’ of the key.

There seem to be two main reasons that multiple areas of disciplinary expertise is advantageous. First, as the number of teeth on the key increase, they support and widen the horizontal stroke / spine of the key. Put another way, possessing disciplinary knowledge and skills in multiple fields supports the ability to translate knowledge, collaborate and work with others from dissimilar backgrounds and knowledge regimes.

Second, more ‘teeth’ on the key affords the individual their own unique transdisciplinary perspectives that support creativity, innovation and problem-solving, and promote employability. A molecular biologist who has some background in gaming or 3-D visualisation might well come up with an innovative way of solving protein structure problems. Similarly, think about the possibilities if you were an architect who has an interest in inorganic chemistry, or a civil engineer / physicist involved in designing and building a deep-space telescope.

Bibliography

Bridgstock, R. (2013). Professional Capabilities for Twenty‐First Century Creative Careers: Lessons from Outstandingly Successful Australian Artists and Designers. International Journal of Art & Design Education, 32(2), 176-189.

Bridgstock, R., Dawson, S., & Hearn, G. (2011). Cultivating Innovation through Social Relationships: A Qualitative Study of Outstanding Australian Innovators. Technology for Creativity and Innovation: Tools, Techniques and Applications. IGI Global.

Cheetham, G., & Chivers, G. (1996). Towards a holistic model of professional competence. Journal of European Industrial Training, 20(5), 20-30.

Gibbons, M., Limoges, C., Nowotny, H., Schwartzman, S., Scott, P., & Trow, M. (1994). The new production of knowledge: The dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. Sage.

Khatib, F., DiMaio, F., Cooper, S., Kazmierczyk, M., Gilski, M., Krzywda, S., … & Foldit Void Crushers Group. (2011). Crystal structure of a monomeric retroviral protease solved by protein folding game players. Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, 18(10), 1175-1177.

Neuhauser, L., & Pohl, C. (2015). Integrating Transdisciplinarity and Translational Concepts and Methods into Graduate Education. In Transdisciplinary Professional Learning and Practice (pp. 99-120). Springer International Publishing.

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