STUDENT LIFE / MAY. 29, 2015
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Dear Graduates, Here’s What School Didn’t Teach You

You’ve made it to graduation – so, for that you deserve some measure of congratulations. But guess what? Spending four or more years studying didn’t necessarily prepare you for what’s ahead. From finding a job to co-worker relations to personal finance, you, dear graduate, still have a LOT to learn.

Brace yourself, because here’s what school didn’t teach you.

See also: What They Don’t Tell You About Starting Your Own Business

1. Experience counts

Simply put, that fancy degree isn’t enough to prove to an employer that you have what it takes to get hired. You also need experience that proves you have some basic abilities and some staying power. Speaking of that, interning for two weeks in a foreign country isn’t "staying power". Ideally, you should be gaining experience even before you leave school by doing long-term internships, working an entry-level job that is somehow related to your field, volunteering, running your own enterprise on the side, or otherwise gaining some real-world experience.

And that leads to the next point:

2. Basic skills are essential

Sure, you might have all the book knowledge in the world about economics and the methods that work best in business, but can you type up a basic business report? Can you write an effective business email? Do you know how to keep files organized or manage a budget? Yes, book learning is important, but during your education – and even after – you should also be working on the basic skills that are necessary for the job. If you’re not sure what those are, start looking at job postings for your ideal positions to get a sense of what’s required and what skills you lack. Then go out and find a way to practice them.

3. Relationships matter

You may be really proud of that degree that’s framed and hung on the wall – but don’t expect an employer to see it as anything but a hoop that every other applicant has also jumped through. If you want to get hired, you’re going to need to know people who know people. As a recent graduate, you should be working on forming relationships in any way you can. Join a networking group. Become a member of an association that’s related to your field. Ask prominent people in your industry if you can meet for coffee to discuss their career paths. Find a mentor who can help guide you. Join your school’s alumni association. Forming these relationships will be crucial at the start of your career, as well as throughout it.

4. You have to toot your own horn

When you start working, you may think you’re doing good work and excelling in your field, but you may then wonder why your boss doesn’t seem to notice. This is the big leagues, dear graduate, and that means no one is going to be giving you grades on a regular basis (though you may get an annual review) nor will they praise you just for the sake of praise. If you want to get noticed, you have to show your employers why they should notice. During that annual review, come prepared with a list of your accomplishments. When you make a big sale, be sure the boss knows about it. Throughout the year, keep a file of the successes you’ve had, and also the failures. That will help you figure out what things you should focus on, and what things you can do differently.

5. You probably won't make much money – until you earn it

For some reason, recent graduates seem to think they’re going to be earning a six-figure salary right out of the gate. But even in industries where six-figure salaries are a reality, that’s almost never the case for the newbies. So put it out of your head right now, expect to struggle a little financially when you first start out, and for goodness’ sake, learn something about personal finance and money management.

See also: 10 Tips to Supercharge the Way You Learn

What do you think school doesn’t, but should, teach graduates? Let us know in the comments section below!

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