5 things you don’t learn at university

5 things you don't learn at university

There are lots of useful things I learned while gaining a degree, but equally, lots of arguably more important things I didn’t learn until I was actually on the job.

Here are five lessons you won’t learn at university….

A blazer is your best friend

It instantly makes you look that much more polished and professional. Everybody needs a basic black blazer in their wardrobe.

How to use email

Sure, you know how to hit reply and send, but did anybody ever teach you when to use reply-all and cc appropriately? What makes a good subject line? How do you phrase a request for something? Should you forward praise emails to your boss? When are emoticons okay?!

That everything is about selling

Even if you’re in a non-revenue generating department – IT, admin, HR, editorial – you still need to know how to present yourself in the best possible light. You’ll need to make it through many job interviews in a lifetime. You’ll need to represent your company to outsiders from time to time. You’ll need to pitch ideas. And if you choose to strike out on your own eventually, you’ll sure as hell need to know how to sell your independent services.

Bring solutions, not problems

Or rather, it’s fine to highlight problems – but it’s infinitely better if you can present the fix at the same time. Bosses like to know that things are working, not that they’re broken.  At the same time, be aware not all your brilliant ideas will be used – or worse, they’ll take forever to implement or be warped as they go through many hands in the name of bureaucracy.

The need to toot your own horn

You can do great work, but if nobody knows about it, why bother? (Kind of like that old riddle – if a tree falls in the middle of the woods but nobody is around, does is make a sound?) Self-promotion, like networking, is an occasional necessity (natural for some, nasty for others). Your bosses probably pass on good feedback down the chain to you, but are you doing the same – forwarding on praise, keeping them in the loop on milestones and important updates?

And thus ends my spurt of wisdom for today.

What do you wish they would teach at university?

8 thoughts on “5 things you don’t learn at university

  • Reply Miss JJ May 19, 2012 at 02:11

    I had the biggest problem with the bring solutions part a while back. Normally, I would never, ever bring my bosses problems I can solve myself. If I do turn up in their offices, it is usually because I am really at my wits end. Them telling me they wanted solutions instead of problems just make me want to bang my head somewhere. If I HAD solutions, I wouldn’t be in their office in the first place. Makes me question what they were there for, if I had to do all the work AND solve all the problems.

    I make it a point never to say this to my subordinates, but perhaps this is why I am always such a beleagered manager myself.

    By the way, thanks for your comment on my blog and subscribing. Very much appreciated!

  • Reply Shawanda Greene (@TheyCallMeCheap) May 19, 2012 at 03:47

    I’m annoyed when people make mistakes and then give an excuse as to why they made a mistake. I don’t care what happened! I don’t expect, nor can I give, perfection. What I want to hear is what will you do to reduce the likelihood the mistake will happen again.

  • Reply fromshoppingtosaving May 19, 2012 at 05:05

    All great things I’ve learned while working! Luckily I worked at a law firm during undergrad and I was able to learn a lot of these – blazer, check! emails, check! selling, check!

    Now at my current REAL full-time job I learned about the tooting your own horn thing… at all times. No one else will be watching you unless you make sure of it. Also the bring solutions part is huge. A lot of people like to complain. Be the bigger person and come up with new ideas! Innovate people!

  • Reply Liquid May 19, 2012 at 12:59

    I wish they would teach more industry tools and software instead of just the basics. I’ve learned more about my career in the first year of full time work than my first year of university.

  • Reply Curtis Marshall May 20, 2012 at 01:48

    This is brilliant! I’ve always felt like there was a lack of practical skills and knowledge in school. I think email is crucial! And another one that you didn’t mention is basic financial management. I learned a lot about Economics and Business in school, but Personal Finances was glaringly omitted.

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