I Have a Degree… But Didn’t Learn Sh*t in College

More and more, we hear a variation of the statement in this headline from recent graduates.

Not that higher education isn’t doing a decent job of teaching traditional subjects in their traditional way – they’re probably doing a no better or worse job than they did 20 or 30 years ago.

Which is the root-cause problem.

College, the only choice for learning at one time, taught many of us the basics of business: accounting and economics, for example. Trouble is, the way our world of work is run now has nearly nothing to do with what is taught by traditional education.

We can Google almost any information we need. Quickbooks and TurboTax can make us functional at accounting/bookkeeping in a day or two, with no formal education. And through experts’ blogs, we can learn best practices from those in the trenches – rather than from those with tenure. It seems many educators simply aren’t adequately teaching what really pushes young talent toward success in today’s workplace.

Take these three subjects, for instance:

Social Media

Social media is now how business is done. Yet careers and businesses are being launched every day without a social media strategy. And far too many students are leaving college without critical social media, and social marketing, skills. (And no, having a Facebook account doesn’t count)

While it doesn’t help those who have recently graduated, many schools – including Harvard, Columbia and INSEAD – have now begun including social media as part of their core curriculum. Not surprising, more nimble schools like Champlain College have led the way with engaging curriculum around social media – and not just for personal networking, but as a media channel for promoting a business and building brand loyalty.

Higher education must understand that social media is now a core skill.

Networking and Relationship Building

In today’s highly competitive job market, many highly successful recent graduates rely heavily on networking, for both their careers and personal branding.

What does it say when emerging careerists are turning to Twitter chats and internet resources such as LinkedIn to actually learn how to brand themselves and expand their sphere of influence? What does it say about higher education’s ability to prepare students for careers when this critical skill is barely touched upon in four, six, even eight years of college?

Shouldn’t college be the ultimate opportunity to network? And to learn how best to network?

Developing Mentorship Relationships

First, let’s re-define mentorships: we’re not just talking about the guy with grey hair patting his young protégé on the back, saying “Here endeth the lesson…

Today’s mentorships are traditional (older generation to younger), mutually-beneficial (where both parties learn from each other) and reverse mentorships, where a member of Gen Y, for example, guides a Boomer through best practices of social media, blogging, and technology.

It can safely be said that without mentors, many recent grads wouldn’t have been anywhere near as far along as they are now in their careers.

So why isn’t the development of mentor relationships a cornerstone of the college experience?

We know there are no absolutes, and we know it isn’t fair to dump all schools – especially those that have already embraced these three subjects – into the same bucket. I’m not suggesting that we get our MBA’s from Google, Twitter chats, or by reading Seth Godin. Clearly, higher education provides a valuable benefit to most who devote a portion of their adult life in pursuit of a college degree.

I am saying: learning should be based on practical, contemporary business practices. And I’m saying that higher education needs to move quickly to update their “product”.

Most important, I’m saying that until they do – you may be better off getting a large portion of your education from the School of Hard Knocks. I guarantee you’ll learn sh*t there.

We all do.

 

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Mark_AuthorAbout the Author: CEO and Founder of YouTern, Mark Babbitt is a serial mentor who has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO.com regarding job search, career development, internships and higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce. A keynote speaker and blogger, Mark’s contributions include Huffington Post, Switch and Shift, The Daily Muse and Under30CEO.

Mark has been honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors” and was recently featured on HR Examiner’s “Top 25 Trendspotters in HR” and several top blogger lists, including JobMob’s “Top Career Bloggers of 2012”. Contact Mark via email or on Twitter!

Image credit: openmatt.org

 

 

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  • http://twitter.com/DrJanice Dr. Janice Presser

    I graduated years ago, and much of what I learned has proven, over the years, to be less than correct, unenlightening, growth-discouraging, and/or completely useless. My real learning didn’t begin until I experienced the ‘real world’ – which is why I am such an advocate for internships, and for beginning your networking life your first day of college!

    • http://twitter.com/YouTernMark Mark Babbitt

      Dr. Janice, I believe many share your experience. However, I’m absolutely convinced the college experience is vitally important, for many reasons. The question is… how much better, and more relevant, can higher education become?

  • Ariella Brown

    What I learned in college goes beyond the actual subjects. I learned to meet deadlines, write clearly, research sources, and recognize biases in presentations. That I do use on a daily basis even though my degree is not essential to what I now do professionally. When everyone goes to college just to qualify for a job because the degree is used as a screening device, then the quality of higher education, inevitably, declines. In any case, I don’t think of college as job-prep. For that, it’s better to just have specific courses like the college programming courses and certifications some IT workers have (many have no degree at all and do very well).

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