That is definitely not an easy question to answer, especially after the COVID-19 outbreak. Many students and professionals had plans for the near future, maybe they were thinking about studying in a different country, undertaking an internship, working for a different company… All of our plans have suddenly changed and answering the above question has become harder than ever.
Challenges have always been around the corner and the social and economic crisis brought by the Coronavirus is no less tough. It has challenged individuals and businesses all around the world. Many institutions had already started relying on digital tools for their programs, and the current situation accelerated the process initiated before the virus erupted. Now we see educational institutions abandon their old way of teaching, moving to a more digitalized approach to ensure continuous learning to students. These demanding circumstances have had a huge impact on companies that now are forced to change their business plans, and on schools in order to enhance the students' preparedness to be the leaders of tomorrow in a very competitive environment.
At NEO, we have always pushed ourselves and our clients, to stand out from the crowd and be more present to the public, looking not only to survive but to thrive in such a competitive world. Being able to succeed is an arduous path to go through that demands patience, a lot of industry knowledge, trends intelligence, creativity, and innovation. Nowadays, individuals are looking for human empathy and content that can represent their lives. The relationships we are building among ourselves are now stronger than ever, united by a common challenge and based on mutual understanding and support. We also see the rise of many new concepts that weren’t popular before, such as online collaboration and remote working, and these are very likely to be part of the new skills that the employers of tomorrow will look for in a job application. With people working from home and using their digital devices very often, this is the time to increase your online presence and boost your network. For this reason, we need to embrace this historical moment!
Today’s business world is seeing more and more articles related to the importance of entrepreneurship and how key entrepreneurs became successful. But let's face it, people aren’t born entrepreneurs, they are made through a slow and not easy transition. And that is where the underestimated concept of intrapreneurship comes into play.
An intrapreneur is an employee who acts as an entrepreneur within a company's business unit as if it was his own organization. Before thinking big, we should focus on smaller responsibilities, so that we can gain the necessary knowledge and network to be better entrepreneurs in the future. Being good intrapreneurs is a crucial path to go through in the process of becoming an effective entrepreneur. Understanding how a company operates and being able to gain knowledge from it will be fundamental for professional growth. As an intrapreneur, you can attend industry conferences on behalf of your employer and start slowly building that network and expertise that will be useful in your future career.
This approach can also apply for educational institutions willing to change their way of thinking. It is important to create a community not only based on concepts that all students need to know, but also on what each student excels at. If we keep asking a fish to climb a tree, instead of increasing its swimming capabilities, we are only limiting the final outcome. What if we enable each student to put itself in the shoes of an expert in a specific field? What if from university we simulate a class having different business units, and we foster student's collaboration by bringing out the skills they have developed to their best? That's how real businesses work, and yet, most curriculums keep focusing on the theoretical perspective of the workforce instead of a hands-on approach where students can get a real sense of business operations.
No wonder that a lot of employers are not satisfied with the skills students have by the end of their studies: they are not prepared enough, or, if they are, they are not ready for the challenges that characterize a workplace. However, this could be partially avoided if universities would build their curriculums by first asking employers what the job market needs, and then turning those requests into learning outcomes with a set of skills to live up to the work environment’s expectations.
NEO assists the education ecosystem in what has been an enormous transition in our lives. We are taking this chance to rethink and transform the educational environment to surf the new normal wave. In order to be able to grow even in difficult times, we need to be proactive and think ahead on what will happen in the near future and what the new trends will look like, so that we can be ready and live up to the expectations of tomorrow’s job market, education standards and student recruitment trends.
So, how can we still differentiate and think ahead during this crisis? One of the most important soft skills a student, intrapreneur, or entrepreneur can have is creativity. From her student years, our Founder & CEO, Alejandra Otero, was deeply invested in the importance of changing the way schools think, teach, and recruit students. With the aim of making an effective change in how Higher Education institutions operate, she became an intrapreneur in the industry providing competitive insights to educational institutions to improve their student numbers. She finally turned into an entrepreneur by bringing NEO Academy to life with the purpose of having a positive impact on the future of education.
With this unprecedented situation that hit us all in 2020, we should step out of our comfort zone to better prepare the leaders of tomorrow. This is a pledge for the international education community to bring our network together and not wait until the next dramatic change to react, but to better plan ahead and be disruptive by sharing bold ideas around digital tools and new ways of learning to keep the international student dream alive, even during tough times! Let's embrace our role as educators to come up with creative solutions from our institutions to build a meaningful path towards the “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” journey of our students.