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Does school prepare you for the real world?

Updated: Jun 14, 2022

Most people expect that a tertiary education will give them all the skills they need to roll out of university and into a workplace. Well, for the majority of graduates this is not the case.

Some of the most important requirements of employment, particularly in an office environment, are good communication skills, an understanding of business etiquette, and the ability to sell, not necessarily a product but at times yourself.

In contrast to this, the focus when you attend university is the acquisition of knowledge and the ability to research. In order to make this investment useful, there needs to be a greater focus on the ability to sell the knowledge you have acquired and to effectively communicate.

“How you say something is as important as what you say”

- H. Jackson Brown Jr

Having knowledge and ability is useless if you do not have the necessary skills to display it, talk about it and share it. The importance of these skills is particularly relevant in the corporate world, where you need to network and sell your abilities and products to get anywhere.

This issue will only become more evident when online education becomes more popular and accessible. Of course there are benefits from the move to online study including the ability to work remotely, timely online communication and increased proficiency in technology. But the negatives could potentially outweigh those benefits as the decreased experience of in-person formal networking can leave graduates deficient in these skills.

When students can obtain their degree without having to interact face to face with anyone at all, how can we expect the next generation to be equipped with interpersonal skills?

This is not to say that there are not opportunities within university life for students to improve in these areas. Involvement in university clubs and student guilds for example are fantastic opportunities to grow and hone your networking and communication skills.

I always encourage students looking to standout in their future endeavours to participate in extra-curricular activities that highlight their ability to communicate and work as a team. However, I believe there is room for improvement within our tertiary education system to create more formalised opportunities for students to develop these essential workplace skills.

Some may say the onus should be placed on the student to seek out ways to develop these skills. In many cases though, the issue lies in that the student simply isn’t aware of the importance and necessity of them.

For example, a young adult whose immediate family doesn’t have experience in an office environment, may not understand the need for networking and social skills.

Universities could actually create situations within curriculums to make sure students are able to develop these networking skills. It is more than a presentation, or a group assignment. This is about communication with other people; listening, problem solving, reading a room, building a network.

What do you think?

  • Are these actually skills we can teach?

  • How can we better prepare our university graduates for the ‘real world’?

  • Does it need to start before uni?

Written by Taj Morgan, Recruitment Resourcer, Itch.

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