Don’t put so much emphasis on the traditional college education, I succeeded without it. Can you explain to students what they really need to learn?
More than a question, you offer a life lesson. Some of the greatest lessons did not come from inside the classroom. Although college cannot be outdone in teaching valuable skills, there are many necessary for success not found on the curriculum. It seems most graduates are surprised to discover they have to learn a whole new set of skills for the workplace.
Seeing the fruits of four years hard work in your degree is a wonderful feeling. But as the celebrations wane, you discover that the journey of learning is far from over. College teaches about a wide range of topics, including your major. However, it does not teach you how to perform your new job.
Studies show that 70% of college students think they have the skills needed to succeed in the real world; Less than a third of employers agree with them. Many companies recruit from within or via contacts so networking is essential. The phrase ‘it is not what you know, it is who you know’ means more today than ever. Campus life does not teach you how to network on a professional level, building relationships with other business people is more likely to land you a job than any degree.
Attending classes cannot show you how to work with other people. You may have had group projects at college, but you were generally working with peers of the same age group. The first lesson young grads have to learn is teamwork, says a pool construction firm. In the workplace, you need to work closely with a lot of different people, most of them older and more experienced. New graduates have continue absorbing new knowledge, even though they just finished school.
Dealing with subtle aspects of office life, politics and people from receptionists to managing directors, you need to know how to handle them. Getting along with people is also vital for advancement in the workplace, as they will not leave at the end of the semester and you will be working together for a long time.
The level of responsibility you have is greater than anything at college. Working to deadlines that actually matter, being an integral part of a team, relying on others and being relied upon, and actually turning up on time every day are major differences to life on campus. You do not lose points being late a college, but at work you can lose a sale when you customer wants to find self-storage units, explains company managers. At a service firm, punctuality is part of the benefit we give customers.
Handling feedback is another skill you need, sure at college your professor may tell you why you got a B instead of an A, but in the business world feedback is everything. Responses from clients, alterations to projects, suggestions from team members, and feedback from your boss can all affect your progress at the company.
Being presentable and being able to negotiate and sell are life skills not learned at college. Sales are not restricted to sales positions, and you will need these skills for negotiating vacation time, pay rises, budgets for projects or office requirements and possible promotions or transfers. You need the ability to sell yourself for the rest of your life.
The ABC’s are attitude, behavior, and communication skills… Gerald Chertavian.
Written by Suzanne Hite, former publications editor serving the technology services sector.