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Quite often, the notion that students are not prepared for the workforce is bandied about. Freifeld (n.d.) noted that a skills gap is threatening the sustainability of businesses around the world. She further stated that “…while a big part of the skills gap is a shortage of people skilled in the STEM (science, technology, *engineering, and math) industries, there also is a gap in soft skills such as communication and advanced leadership skills”(Freifeld, n.d., para. 2).

In addition to this skills gap is the notion of students not having the work experience necessary for their chosen field. It’s the old question of “How do I get experience, if no one will hire me?”

Well, fortunately, thought leadership allows students to not only demonstrate the requisite critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making skills demanded by corporate managers, but also develop a body of work that positions them as subject matter experts as they enter their chosen profession.

In today’s workplace, students can build intellectual capital as they develop intellectual property as a means of documenting, packaging, and marketing their knowledge.

Here are a few things students need to know about thought leadership to succeed in the workplace:

Students have to show that they can solve problems. What better way of showing corporate recruiters and managers that you have a grasp of industry problems than by diagnosing professional challenges and using data to provide solutions. By enlisting a critical thinking methodology that demonstrates problem solving and decision-making prowess, students become self-proclaimed experts even before they’ve been hired. A simple Google search would show how these students have begun tackling problems that have long dogged corporate leaders. Such documentation goes farther than a resume and allows students to become influential as well as leverage their knowledge for the best organizational fit.

Create intellectual property. Professional speakers and published authors have a greater potential to move up the corporate hierarchy by demonstrating advanced communication and leadership skills. Each time students create an article, book, podcast, or video they are creating intellectual property that is theirs. If potential employers know them from LinkedIn, YouTube, as well as a popular industry blog that students moderate, they become the superstars that managers are seeking. In some respect, students may show productivity and accomplishments in ways that even CEOs, VPs, and corporate executives have not shown.

Produce a publishing and media ecosystem. Marketer Seth Godin postulated that in the Age of the Internet, individuals don’t have to wait to get picked anymore, they can pick themselves. Once upon a time, you had to hope that the media discovered you for your voice to be heard. Today, students can build their intellectual capital by using the major social media outlets used by professionals. Do you know why your competition is limited? It’s not because you have to be a genius to tackle problems within your industry. It’s mainly because most people don’t exploit social media in ways that demonstrate their expertise. While student colleagues are posting pictures of themselves drinking lemonade and other libations on Facebook, student thought leaders will be sharing industry white papers that they’ve authored. Within 5 years, which one of these individuals will be the “go to” person in their profession?

Be relentless and committed to excellence. Comedian Steve Martin reportedly said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you,” when asked about his advice for success. As students establish themselves as thought leaders, they may experience some setbacks. They’ll publish an article, book, podcast, or video and receive lukewarm acceptance. They’ll second guess themselves, because they feel as if they are doing worthwhile work that no one notices. Rest assured, they only need one breakthrough opportunity for success. And no one ever knows when that breakthrough will come. Every company that laments not finding skilled employees, also overlooks talented applicants. Remember, we’re talking about people. And most people operate in mediocrity. Intellectual excellence threatens this mediocrity, which threatens their livelihood. This notion should serve as self-motivation rather than self-criticism.

Students who embrace the notion of documenting, packaging, and marketing their knowledge will not only thrive in a competitive workplace, but become the “go to” people for closing the skills gap. It will be thought leaders who will inherit the earth.

To receive a free 30-minute assessment of your thought leadership strengths, contact us today.


Freifeld, L. (n.d.). Bridging the skills gap. Training Magazine. Retrieved from:

* Freifeld had “Education” as one of the acronyms for STEM in her original article. This author used the appropriate “Engineering” to replace it.