• Eve Arnold

Five Things University Didn’t Teach Me

Photo by Vasily Koloda on Unsplash


There is an ongoing debate about the benefit of University studies. Is it really worth the time and investment of sweet dollar, dollar bills? Do we really need three years to study a subject? Do we need to study a subject to that level of detail at all? Do we need to go to a University a few hundred miles away when there is one in our city?

So many questions…

Universities have been around for donkeys years and whilst I understand a lot of the questions being asked of University’s I don’t think they are all bad.

Having said that, I haven’t used one ounce of my degree in my day job.

But a degree, currently, is the currency of the modern world. So really you are just playing the game.

With that in mind and the reality that once you step off the stage of graduation (not that I ever did, but that’s another story) you’ll probably never use your degree again. *probably — meaning that obviously some folk do. What didn’t University teach me? Well to be honest there is about a books worth of stuff it didn’t teach me and about page full of stuff it did.

When you enter the ‘real world’ it is quite apparent how unprepared you are for it. It’s quite comical in a way. You swan out of the graduation hall (again, metaphorical as I didn’t see my graduation hall), hat in hand thinking:

“Real world here I come!”

And the reality is you are probably about 1% prepared for what you are about to endure. And that 1% is your degree.

You degree is the visa to Australia, it’s the paperwork to the MOT. It’s your ticket to the concert. It’s what gets you in the door.

It is not, I repeat, it is not what helps you stay.

Here’s some things that University did not teach me that I needed in work.

#1 How to wake up on time

University is good at teaching you the opposite to this. In school you have lessons every day 8am-3pm. It’s not a huge workload, it’s not a long tiring day but at least it’s a days-worth of stuff. At Uni you’re lucky if you’ve got a days worth of anything. Courses differ but on average I think I had about 13–14 hours worth of teaching per week. Yes, per week. I remember when I first got my timetable thinking…

Well it’s a bit embarrassing really twelve hours a week.

And it is. It’s not a working week by any means. Not even nearly. You forget what is reasonable for a working week. It all becomes a bit of a blur until you find yourself sleeping in for 9am lecturers and barely making it to workshops.

At work if you don’t turn up you won’t last long. At Uni that is not the case.

#2 How to manage my time

So you’re a year in. You’re sleeping through 9am lecturers, you’re not catching up on coursework. Life is becoming one big night out of sticky dance floors and shots of Sambuca.

And then you enter the world of work. The world of work where you are expected to be awake for all eight hours of attending and the two hours of commuting time. Work where it’s not acceptable to sleep in or turn up late. And on top of that you need to make sure you are presentable, attentive and likeable. It is a steep learning curve.

#3 How to interact with people

At University you can get away with the bare minimum. No sports clubs if you don’t want, no extra circular debate team activities, no thankyou. You can passively sit in a lecturer, nod your head (or be asleep) and no-one really cares. The lecturer did their job. You sat through it… happy days.

When you get to work you have to talk to people. You wouldn’t be able to do your job if you didn’t. You need to pick up the phone to have a chat, you have to participate in meetings. You have to understand your role and if you don’t you need to feel comfortable to ask questions. University practically discourages any type of questioning when they sit you in a lecturer hall full of a hundred students.

No-one is ever going to ask anything with that sort of pressure.

#4 How to get the most out of people

The lack of social interaction in a work sense means that you never really learn how to get the most out of people. You certainly don’t learn things like managing expectations or empathy. For the vast majority of the time you are either asleep, drunk or in a state between the two.

At work you have to learn how to get the best out of people. You need to learn what makes people tick and how to get them on side.

#5 How to facilitate

When would you ever have to facilitate a conversation at Uni. I didn’t even know what facilitation was at Uni. Facilitation is hugely underrated and a real skill in the workplace. It’s about getting people to stay on task, make sure the meeting meets the objectives set out and there are proper next steps in place to achieve the next part of the project.

At University it’s a challenge to keep all your cutlery in the kitchen.

In truth, University is probably just a bit of an excuse to enjoy yourself and learn a bit along the way. And there is nothing wrong with that. But the move from University to work is pretty huge and there is a list as long as my arm of things that University doesn’t teach you.

Enjoy yourself by all means but be prepared for a pretty big shock to the system when you get to work.

#University #Growth #Work #Education #Writing

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