Assessing and amassing SKAs

Friday, Feb. 23, 2024

Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,

Happy Friday!

Why in the world are we expected to make life-long, career decisions at 18? How are we supposed to decide on a professional track in our teens and contribute to it for decades and remain enthusiastic and productive all along? I ask because I receive numerous emails from high school seniors concerned about their career path 20, 30, 40 years in the future. And, as a father of a college-bound senior, I have been noticing all the emotions — excitement, fear, hope, anxiety and isolation — that my son has been experiencing to make “the decision of a lifetime!”

Is it that critical for us to know exactly what we will be doing decades or even five years after graduation? It is not often that my son comes to me for advice but when he does, I cherish the opportunity to tell him that it is not critical at all for him to decide on the exact profession to pursue! I point out to him that many of the most successful people that I have known have excelled in careers that they never even imagined they would pursue when they started college. I tell him that his career decision-making process will evolve as his career progresses throughout his professional life. I then tell him what is indeed critical is assessing his own appetite and then amassing his SKAs (skills, knowledge and abilities) to prepare himself for any opportunity that will be presented at any given time. In fact, many career opportunities do not exist today and will be invented as we traverse the exciting world of AI and other possibilities.

This point was clear during our Spring Career Fair this week where hundreds of employers were recruiting for opportunities that did not exist a mere 10 years ago. As I talked to company representatives, it was clear to me that the most sought-after quality, beyond the foundational knowledge of specific disciplines, was the ability to do possibility thinking! “Imagineering” was more important to them than engineering.

To our students, and to my son, I say, if you are going through the process of deciding, you are making progress. I submit that your process should include self-assessment (interest, skills, values and temperament), inclination (engineering, law, medicine, business), research (what does it entail?) and, finally, prioritization of your top three options. As you explore areas of interest, you are getting closer to what maps best into who you are today.

Your journey of college education and career preparation will be non-linear and ripe with life-changing opportunities. And you will not be alone in traversing your exciting journey. Our Career Opportunities and Employer Relations (COER) team is prepared to assist you with general career advising, networking strategies, resume preparation, job search strategies, interview strategies, co-op and internship opportunities and job offer evaluation. In fact, last year, just under 90% of our students used COER services, which, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, is significantly higher than the national average of just over 25%. No wonder S&T is ranked third in the nation for best career placement! And that S&T graduates fetched the highest starting salariesamong all Missouri universities. This remarkable recognition resulted in top-10 ROI-based rankings highlighted by the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

This brings me back to the concept of deciding on our path forward by recognizing that we walk with the times as we grow and develop. Sometimes “in the know,” sometimes in doubt and always in progress. Fully recognizing that great careers are not necessarily decided at the onset. What is decided early is the recognition that we will always be learning, growing and changing. To be prepared, we must constantly and consistently self-evaluate and amass our SKAs. And perhaps more importantly, we must always be looking out, looking up, and looking forward and be prepared to pivot when the next opportunity presents itself.



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Mohammad Dehghani, PhD
Chancellor | 573-341-4116

206 Parker Hall, 300 West 13th Street, Rolla, MO 65409-0910