10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College:The KNOW-HOW You Need to Succeed

Book Review by David P. Helfand

Book Review
10 Things Employers Want You to Learn in College:
The KNOW-HOW You Need to Succeed
by Bill Coplin, Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, 2003. 259 pages, $14.95.

Coplin bases the advice contained in his book on thirty years as a student
advisor/professor as well as interviews with successful students and alumni, recruiters and a variety of employers and human resource specialists. The result is Coplin’s ten basic categories of skills, the Know How Groups, undergraduates need to survive and succeed in the job market.

The 10 Know How Groups are:

•Establishing a Work Ethic
•Developing Physical Skills
•Communicating Verbally
•Communicating in Writing
•Working Directly with People
•Influencing People
•Gathering Information
•Using Quantitative Tools
•Asking and Answering the Right Questions
•Solving Problems

Coplin states that one may see other terms and groupings used, but these 10 Know How Groups reflect a broad consensus concerning the skills necessary to succeed in gaining employment and excelling in today’s workplace.

Part I of this book identifies the skills related to the 10 Know How Groups and covers about half of the book. Each Chapter in Part I presents one of the 10 Know How Groups, which are further broken down in to 3-4 sub-categories. For example, the Know How Group “Working Directly with People” includes the categories of building good relation-ships, working in teams and teaching others. Each category description is 1-2 pages long and at the end recommendations are listed for both courses and non-course activities that can help students build those skills as well as additional resources (relevant web sites, books and organizations) to consult. Coplin also suggests minimum skills levels, one’s Know How Score (KHS), students should attain in these areas by the time they graduate. This tells employers how well one performs the skills related to the 10 Know How Groups. Although employers may not know the term KHS, they do know what skills they want their employees to have. I found the advice in each Chapter to be concise, to the point and very sound. It certainly helps the reader accomplish the author’s goal for students - to develop an effective strategy to take full advantage of what college can offer.

Part II, Boosting Your Know How Score, offers strategies on how to develop the skills involved in the 10 Know How Groups. This includes approaches to selecting colleges, programs, courses and instructors. Additional topics include finding appropriate summer jobs and internships and how to make the most of these experiences, identifying possible off-campus learning (including overseas) programs, the importance of volunteer opportunities and their relation to career exploration, and possibilities beyond college (graduate school, for profit and non-profit employment). I found all these sections to offer solid advice and useful resources.

Part III, Planning Your Success, offers strategies to help students plan and make the most of their college experience with a focus on a commitment to continuous self-improvement. In this section information is provided that helps students link interests and talents related to the 10 Know How Groups with related career options. As students identify professions of interest it is suggested they create a professional KHS. This professional KHS incorporates higher levels of the 10 Basic Know How Groups and/or adds specialized skills that relate to those professions. In addition, strategies are offered on how students can increase their KHS. This is followed by a work values exercise for easy, yet useful first steps in the career exploration process along with sound advice on researching careers.

From a career counselor’s perspective, I believe Coplin, who is not a career counselor by training, handles this section very well, offering solid suggestions on how to approach and start the important process of career planning.

The book ends with a unique approach to resume writing. Coplin shows students how to best communicate their KHS by illustrating how each of the 10 Know How Groups can be emphasized on a resume. Once again, like the entire book that precedes, the reader will discover practical and useful suggestions. Overall this book is a great resource for students.

While this book may be most useful for those just beginning college, it would be smart for juniors or seniors to read (for it’s never too late to start) as well as a good idea for motivated high school students. The book can confirm if a student is on track or serve as a wake up call so they won’t be left at the station when it comes to having a strong set of skills that would be highly valued by employers.

Dr. David P. Helfand
is the Coordinator of Career Counseling in the Northeastern Illinois University Counseling Office in Chicago. Dr. Helfand is currently serving as an Editor, Organizations Department, of this publication and also writes for the career sections of the 90+ Gannett newspaper websites. He is regularly featured in articles and reviews at several prominent Internet career sites including careerbuilder.com, monster.com, quintcareers.com and infirmation.com. Career Change, Dr. Helfand’s first book now in its 2nd edition, offers strategies for career changers and the challenges they face. For further information visit http://www.neiu.edu/~dphelfan/careers. Dr. Helfand can be reached at d-helfand@neiu.edu.

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