8 On-The-Job Rules You Unfortunately Can’t Learn in College
1. You don’t know how to manage yet.
College cannot teach you how to manage. As nice as it would be, managers learn to be great from experience, and that’s it. Everyone is different, every situation is different and the only way to be a great manager is to have experiences in your back pocket that you can fall back on when you’re faced with a difficult situation. Over the past few months I’ve learned this first hand by learning to manage on the fly. It’s difficult, much harder than I ever expected, and I have a ton of respect for anyone who is great at it. You can take management courses and read management books, but you’ll never learn to be a great manager without doing it.
2. Everything’s a negotiation.
Negotiations happen nearly every day in business. It’s amazing how many situations I’ve managed through that when I look back on them, I realize were actually a negotiation. Whether it’s Business-to-Customer sales, Business-to-Business sales, salary, equity, or direct report interactions, most of your conversations in the real world will involve some sort of give and take. College can teach you some basic principles, but you’re better off getting practice by trying to buy a used car if you want to learn how to negotiate in the business world.
3. Networking has changed.
Unfortunately, colleges are behind the times. You would think with all the money they charge us, they would be ahead of the curve, but they’re not. College professors cannot teach you how to create a “new” type of network. New networks are created online, with lots of loose connections, managed with social networking sites like Linked In and Brazen Careerist. You create your network by establishing expertise in your field and gaining visibility with the right people who share the same interests. College might teach you how to network in person, but the new networking is done online, and it’s way more complicated and efficient.
4. You must create your own work.
College provides you with assignments, tests, quizzes and projects. Each of these things is handed down from a higher power (your professor) and you are told what’s expected of you to earn a good grade. The business world is a whole different game. You will be handed assignments from a higher power (your boss) but there are also a million things you can do to go above and beyond. And if you want to advance in your company, join another company, or start your own, you need to learn how to create your own work, and that work you create must help the bottom line if you want to be considered successful.
5. Work is never done-There is always more work to do than what can be done
No matter how sure you are that you’ve done everything you can think of, there will always be something else to do when you wake up in the morning. If you’re sitting around at 10 pm and you’re bored with nothing to do, grab your computer and do a little work. Sure, you could put it off ‘til the morning, but I guarantee that when you walk in the doors to the office, you’ll have a full plate, no matter how much work you do the night before.
6. All work is not done sitting in front of a computer.
I often feel like I should be doing more work when my day consists of phone calls, meetings and random discussions around the office. And it’s true, there is usually a lot of busy work I didn’t get done at the end of a day like this, but when you start moving up that proverbial ladder, work becomes less and less sitting in front of a computer, and more and more talking, managing, and brainstorming. In fact, when you get to the point where work is hardly sitting in front of the computer at all, work starts to become a lot more fun.
7. Everyone looks out for themselves.
Some professors may be tough, but in general they all want you to succeed. Sometimes a curve will create a little competition, but for the most part your peers don’t care one way or the other if you fail or succeed. The business world is much different. Everyone is looking out for themselves. If you fail, your peers have a better chance of being promoted. If you started a company, people justify their choice to not take the same type of risk by secretly wishing for you not to succeed. The best bosses are supportive, but when it comes down to it, people look out for themselves. In business, you can’t trust everyone; it’s all on you to succeed.
8. Just straight A’s will not make you a CEO, only a great entry level employee.
Students with 4.0 GPA’s are recognized and honored at graduation and generally admired in school. But I do not want to work for anyone who got straight A’s in school. But I would happily hire anyone who got straight A’s. Why? Straight A’s means you are great at doing the work you are assigned. You study hard, work hard and were rewarded because of that. But leading a company or starting a company requires much more. It requires social skills, vision, and creating work when there is nothing tangible there. It’s no surprise that some of the world’s top business leaders were college drop-outs–you’ve got to be a little nuts to believe you can lead a massive organization or create something from nothing. So be wary if your CEO was a straight A student, he’s probably in the wrong position.