Real World Learning: Why I Gained More From the Workplace Than the Classroom
Question. How influential were your college years toward the success of your current career?
I’ve had some awesome hangout time with high school students over the past few months, and when we talk work and job and future, I often get asked, “Should I go to college?”
The question has caused me to reflect on my own college experience and consider how it’s equipped me for success today.
What I’ve realized, especially as I’ve started this new business, is that the majority of the skills I use today are strengths that I learned and developed earlier in my career. My years in the workplace have equipped me for business success more than my years in a classroom have.
There’s awesome learning in both places, and undoubtedly the school learning provides a strong base for the work learning to build upon. (Take time management, for example. It’s a skill that is learned in college and is continually refined throughout the professional years.)
All that to say, this is how I’ve begun to answer these young friends:
My years in the workforce (both in the marketing industry and outside of it) have trained me for success more directly than college did.
Here are 5 quick reasons that I’ve gained more from the workplace than from the classroom:
1- What the classroom teaches is theoretical; the professional world is highly practical. I’ve taken marketing classes and accounting courses, for example, and that teaching is great–but until those skills are put into practice, they don’t mean a ton. The workplace gives context to theory. It puts meat on the bones and teaches the intangibles of how to use the what most effectively.
2- Learning by doing beats learning by seeing. I know there are different learning styles out there, and each human is unique. My style, though, is definitely in that kinesthetic “trial and error,” “get my hands dirty” category. While classroom learning does often involve hands-on elements (Remember chem lab? I blew up so much stuff), the core of it is auditory and visual.
3- When the stakes are higher, the learning is more real. The consequence for poor performance at school is a bad grade. The consequence for poor performance in the workplace is a million-dollar deal lost or even being fired. With more serious repercussions comes a more serious mental and emotional investment. Increased buy-in fosters greater learning every time.
4- I’ve gained tremendous insight from professionals a few steps ahead. Whether it be bosses, mentors, or colleagues, the relationships I’ve built in the workplace are invaluable. There is certainly opportunity to learn from a university professor too, but the reality of spending your days (all day, every day) alongside an older, wiser person has inherent power for learning.
5- Managing people has led to more maturity and learning than perhaps anything else. In general, people management is a skill that cannot be taught with a book or in a class. I’ve gained so much compassion and wisdom from actually leading and hiring and firing. A drive for servant leadership will always change us because it goes against our selfish nature (at least, it goes against mine!).A drive for servant leadership will always change us because it goes against our selfish nature. Click To Tweet
The nature of life itself is that hands-on, real-life (“the school of life,” as they say) teaches more than a safe, insulated school of theory.
Regardless of opinion, the education world is truly changing due to digital’s influence. More and more, you can access online world-class teaching (for free or for a relatively low cost) that is specialized in the niches you want to pursue. I can’t wait to see how the learning industry–just like all other markets–will continue to morph as technology’s touch changes it.