As an HR professional, I have many opportunities to interact with student interns and new hires. While most have the educational credentials they need to succeed, we really have an exciting opportunity and responsibility to help them strengthen the practical life skills they will need to navigate effectively in today’s corporate environments.
For example, younger workers are very comfortable with technology and adapting to a society that increasingly relies on social media, but they don’t always make the connection that as a result of the technological advances they enjoy in their personal lives, the 9-5 workday is a thing of the past. Many employers expect their people to be reachable, and responsive, after hours and on weekends.

High school students think differently, some say are wired differently, than those of us who are well into our professional careers. They are willing to step up and lead projects and are looking to advance quickly. These are excellent characteristics for a fast-changing and fast-paced workplace, and younger employees will be able to more effectively put those attributes to use when they are coupled with a more deliberate and methodical approach; faster isn’t always better.

Like anyone adjusting to a new position or new industry, it takes a while for them to hit their stride, fully appreciate the importance of institutional knowledge and realize that truly successful organizations value both innovation and experience.

My advice to schools is simple: encourage internships. There is nothing like experiencing a professional environment to help future colleagues see first-hand how the theories and case studies they learn in school are applicable, and adaptable, in real life scenarios.

I would also recommend incorporating technology more fully into the more traditional curriculum. Computer science, mechanical engineering, and other subjects will help open our students’ eyes to the variety of industries and fields that are starved for talent.

My advice to students is to embrace the role of a lifelong learner. Your education doesn’t end when you receive your diploma—that moment in time can be the spark that propels each student toward a professional career that will undoubtedly require more advanced knowledge and skills to complement maturity and experience.