Education and Hard Work Are Not Enough

Education and Hard Work Are Not Enough

Globalization is changing the nature of work.  No longer are we confined to a single work space as technology now enables individuals the ability to compete internally, externally, and across borders.  According to research by authors Olson and Shultz (2013), employers are looking not only for set job skills, abilities, and knowledge particular to a job, they are looking for soft skills that allow the employee to adapt to rapid organizational and environmental change.  Examples of soft skills include critical thinking, ability to communicate, flexibility, and conflict management experience (Olson & Schultz, 2013). It is the union of set job skills and soft skills that facilitate employability in the global work environment. 

Why Employability Counts

Lifelong employability is an investment.  Attitudes and psychosocial constructs (such as beliefs, opinions, and values) are important because they drive behavior and allow an individual to define and manage career success.  A dedication to learning helps to ensure an individual’s skill sets are broad and flexible enough to meet current and future needs.  Parker (2008) introduces into the management of employability the concept of knowing.  In order to successfully manage a lifelong career, an individual must know why he or she is motivated to work.  Understanding why allows an individual to successfully establish work-life balance and manage demand throughout the employability process.  An individual should also understand how both job skills and soft skills apply to the current work environment.  Knowing this allows an individual to identify weak points in knowledge, skills, abilities, and soft skills in order to take corrective measures in support of individual and organizational goals.  Finally, an individual must also understand whom.  Whom refers to relationships both internal and external to the organization as well as to personal and professional relationships (Parker, 2008).  If employability is an investment with an expected lifelong return of financial and professional reward, then it would make sense that as a lifelong investment, employability counts.

A Take on Lifelong Employability.  Having served in a variety of work roles, I have found these next three to be most important in the pursuit of employability: reinvention, resilience, and reframing.

Reinvention Reinvention is key to employability.  It is the ability to acquire, either through training, experience, or education, both the set job skills and soft skills needed for current and future work.  It is not a process limited only to change between jobs but also to change within jobs. It is a lifelong process.

Resilience.  Lifelong employability is not measured exclusively in the perfections or failures of singular employment decisions but in the ability to learn, adapt, and overcome a lifetime of obstacles.  I allude to my own life experience when I say women can be both curious and passionate and as a result of many failures, resilient.  It is a resilience that aggressively feeds into the advancement of lifelong employability.

Reframing Leaving little room for negative emotions can do wonders for the spirit.  It is possible to reach a professional peak and get stuck. When I find myself in this bind, I simply reframe a difficult situation and approach a solution from a positive perspective.  If I can no longer move up (promotion), perhaps it is time to move laterally or out. 


Olson, D. A., & Shultz, K. S. (2013). Employability and career success: The need for comprehensive definitions of career success. Industrial & Organizational Psychology, 6(1), 17-20. doi:10.1111/iops.12002

Parker, P. (2008). Promoting employability in a "flat" world. Journal of Employment Counseling, 45(1), 2-13.





Kelley Conrad's picture Kelley Conrad | July 19, 2015 8:08 am MST

In our latest IO Blog, Bobbie Murray shares some of her personal perspectives and experiences.  In her blog she makes the important point that simply earning your degree and working hard will not guarantee your success.  After you read Bobbie's blog, please add some of your own experiences and thoughts about actions that have contributed to your success in endeavors.  Kelley

Sushil Jindal's picture Sushil Jindal | August 25, 2015 12:28 am MST

My view is similar to Bobbie Murray's view, Education (a degree) is not enough for success, what is needed is experience and applicability of skills (acquired through education) in real world. 

Laurence Hanson's picture Laurence Hanson | October 26, 2015 7:20 pm MST

Bobbie, thank you for sharing your three Rs (reinvention, resilience, and reframing).  I concur that all three are very important and certainly reflected in my career.  You also emphasized the importance of understanding one's motivation to work.  My experience is that motivation changes over one's career from extrinsic motivation (power, money, and recognition) to intrinsic motivation as defined by self determination theory (Deci & Ryan, 2008).  Purpose, empowerment, and mastery are all more important to me now, which drives me to work on additional education.  Your three Rs, motivation, and education are all connected!

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological well-being across life's domains. Canadian Psychology, 49(1), 14-23. 

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