5 Basic Things About Work They Didn’t Teach You in College (And How to Learn Them Now)
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While close to 70% of college students believe they have the skills needed to succeed in the real world, unfortunately, employers don’t share in their optimism. In fact, less than one-third of employers think college grads are ready for life outside the academic bubble, according to a 2015 survey from the Association of American Colleges and Universities.
College may have taught you everything from how to write a term paper to mastering the art of procrastination, but there are some things that just can’t be taught in the classroom. Study up on these essential skills they don’t teach you in school.
1. How to pay your bills when the money starts to come in.
One subject that is seriously lacking in college is personal finance. From car payments to rent and student loan bills, post-grad life brings on several major money stressors. Whether it’s learning how to create a budget, practicing healthy spending habits, or something as simple as setting up automatic payments when possible, start these small things early to pay your bills on time and help build your credit.
Learn the basics of budgeting.
The hardest part of creating a budget is sitting down and actually doing it. What is a budget? It’s a financial planning tool that allows you to plan how much you’ll spend or save each month. It also allows you to keep track of your spending habits. While it may not seem like the most exciting activity, it’s an important part of maintaining your financial wellness. Remember—a budget only works if you’re honest about both your income and expenses. Whether you use a budget worksheet or a budgeting app, your budget will help you get a better idea of where your money is coming from, how much is there, and where it goes each month.
Pay your bills on time.
If you have a lot of bills to pay, it’s possible that some might on occasion fall through the cracks. To avoid this, make a list of all your bills. You can review your bank and credit card statements to add any recurring bills to your list, including things like gym memberships, cellphone bills, student loans, utilities, or online streaming services like Netflix or Spotify. Once you have your list, find out when each bill is due and add that to your list. If your due dates are spread out over the course of the month, you might want to tweak them to make tracking your payments easier. Many creditors and companies let you pick or change the date you pay, so email or call to find out (don’t be scared!).
Once you’re armed with your list and if it might help you stay more organized, have added them to a calendar, set up as many bills as possible to autopay (some companies/lenders even offer a discount for enrolling!). This helps to avoid late fees, but you should only set your bills to autopay if you are confident you’ll have your set amount for each bill at that time every month.
Don’t forget your credit.
Not only is it important to pay your bills on time to avoid late fees or cut off services, but some bills can directly affect your credit. Here’s a list of accounts that could lower your credit score if payments aren’t received on time:
- Auto loans
- Student loans
- Personal loans
- Credit cards
Aside from late fees, failure to make your payment on time can result in interest charges. Every credit card has an interest rate, and if yours is high, missing a payment can result in a hefty amount in interest charges, so set up autopay and mark it on your calendar each month!
2. How to network and build relationships.
Whether it’s introducing yourself through class projects, midterms, or at parties, there are unlimited opportunities to network in college. Out in the “real world,” making new connections and maintaining those relationships takes a whole new skillset.
Don’t know where to start? Update your LinkedIn or resume to build more professional relationships or follow up with a potential employer after your interview. Networking not only gives you a leg up when job hunting, but it can also promote higher self-esteem and confidence.
3. How to find work you enjoy.
Eight hours a day is a long time to spend at a job that might be dragging you down. For most people, work takes up 33% of their day, so making money doing something that leaves you feeling happy and productive is the goal. After you discover the work you enjoy doing, then it’s about finding the right company to help you grow.
Striving to find work that inspires you and a company that supports you? Spoiler alert: it takes time. Whether it’s connecting with a mentor that can help you gain insight into your desired career or consistently building your personal brand, start taking steps to seek out a 9-to-5 you truly love.
4. How to use feedback to improve your work.
In college, professors usually hand back your paper or test with red comments, but you don’t typically have the opportunity to redo your work based on those suggestions. However, in many careers, you’ll be asked to analyze feedback and make changes to improve your work.
This can be a tricky process, especially when you don’t agree with the proposed changes. But part of any job is putting your ego aside and taking feedback into account for overall success. There are plenty of self-help books to help you take feedback effectively, but “Thanks for the Feedback” by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen is definitely a great place to start.
5. How to write in the workplace.
No matter what major you pursued in college, there’s a good chance you had to write… a lot. Research papers, English papers, scientific reports, oh my! Unfortunately, most academic writing doesn’t quite prepare you for drafting emails or writing cover letters for potential interviews.
In the workplace, so much communication takes place through email (don’t worry—in your inbox, no one is checking for MLA citations). If you’re frequently sweating over that weekly recap email that you have to send out, just remember it’s all about communicating in a concise, clear, professional, and relatable way. Tip: download Grammarly to help edit your emails, memos, or weekly reports for common slip-ups that might get past your first or second read-through.
Even though you’ve graduated, it’s still up to you to continue your education. Once you master these career-boosting skills, you’ll be set up for success – no matter what career you’ve chosen.