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Monday, August 13, 2012

Back to School!

I swear – even at 5 years out of school, those 3 words still hit me like a ton of bricks. It is the sign that summer is over, both in terms of freedom and weather.

And of course the return of exams and late-night studying…

Although the latter portion no longer impacts me, I think we all did enough of it that the thought of going back to it on a full-time basis would be a tough one.

To be optimistic though, I thought I would look back on my post-secondary education and consider which parts of it contributed to where I am today, and if I could, what I would change - or advice I would give to those just getting started.

Outside of the actual academics, I think when most people say ‘College’ images of pub nights and the fun times quickly emerge – weird how quickly the correlation of great pub nights and long late-night study sessions seems to have an obvious correlation now.

But think about it; the pub night social skills have prepared you well for the quick elevator chat that you have to make. Back then we were all on the same level – poor students. Now when I am in a situation with senior leaders, I try and think back to that – at the end of the day we are all just people; if we get along, who cares of social status?

You may not want to challenge your VP to a game of darts the first time you meet, and the language you may have used on pub night might not be appropriate anymore - but you get my gist.

The other thing that prepared me well for the ‘world of work’ truly was the co-op placements. Anyone who is still relatively a recent grad can tell you that there is ‘what they teach you in school’ and ‘how different workplaces do things’.

This can be something as simple as the terminology used – I remember the laughs that I got took when I first used the term ‘gap analysis’ – most places just say something like ‘do a review’ or ‘look at our options’… live and learn.

The other thing you find out is no one cares (too often) about where you went to school. You might get this impression at your graduation when the thousands of other students with the same degree cross that stage… and that is just your school. What employers (and your co-workers) care about is what you can do, and to similar extent ‘do you get along with everyone’.

You will become familiar with the phrase ‘hire for fit, train for skill’.

This is why I would encourage everyone to take advantage of internships and co-op placements that are offered through your school. Think about it – would you hire a graduate with a 4.0 GPA who has no work experience, or would you prefer a graduate with a 3.0 GPA and three (relevant) 4-month co-op placements?

In my opinion, a GPA is good – but experience is better. I would choose a B student that has some ambition and work experience than a straight academic any day.

Would I do anything different looking back?

Nah… I had a good time and so should you!

If you are just starting out on your post-secondary education (college or university) and want my advice though, it is this:

Get involved in the co-op placements or internships; but don’t forget about pub nights and other social clubs – this is the stuff that will wash away your memories of the late-night studying in the years to come... and wear sunscreen.

Enjoy the line-up at the bookstore!

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