Eleanor Klibanoff (SMPA ‘14) is a public radio reporter in Pennsylvania. Paul Organ (CCAS ‘14) is a research analyst at The Brattle Group in D.C.
The class of 2014 recently celebrated our one year reunion. A reunion is a great chance to see friends, catch up with professors and prove to all the haters that you’re still better than them. It’s also a great chance to reflect on the lessons you learned during your four years at GW.
We learned a lot in the classroom. (Professors notice 1.5” margins.) We learned a lot in our dorms. (Please take out the trash more than once a semester.) But now that we’ve been in the real world for ~18 months, we find ourselves relying more and more on the skills we learned sitting behind the front desk at the Honors townhouse.
There are a lot of reasons to not get a job in college: your schedule is too busy, you don’t like waking up early, your diamond shoes are too heavy. But once you enter the work world, you’ll realize there are some skills a classroom can’t teach you.
Remember high school? When you were at school 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then did sports and theater and debate and homework? Adulthood is a bit like that, except you have to make your own dinner. If you spend four years of college going to class at 11 a.m. and pulling random all-nighters to catch up on procrastination, going back to the 9-5 grind is going to suck.
At the UHP, we learned to balance normal, busy schedules and use office downtime to do readings and study. It can be a bummer to go to work at 9 a.m when your friends are still sleeping, but you’ll get work done, earn a little cash and mentally prepare for the endless slog that is the real world. Win-win-win.
Dealing with adults.
We all have that friend who thinks poop jokes are hilarious. And don’t get us wrong: there is a time and a place for a well-placed poop joke. But spend enough time in Thurston Hall, surrounded only by other freshmen, and you might start to think poop jokes are always appropriate. They’re not.
Working in an office gives you a chance to interact with professors, administrators and staff outside a classroom setting. You realize that adults are people too, with interests beyond assigning reading and docking participation points. That’s helpful, because between graduation and starting a new job, something magical happens: you become those adults. Knowing when to make a poop joke and when to avoid one is an important skill. Otherwise, your new boss is going to think you’re immature, and say deuces.
Basic office skills.
When you graduate and get your big, fancy job in the real world, you’re going to have a lot of questions about everything, all the time. Don’t make scanning one of those things.
Know how to make copies, answer a phone professionally and send a fax. (A fax is like, a…never mind. Your boss can show you.) If you learn to set up AV equipment before class presentations, you won’t be frantically learning to set up AV equipment before the crucial board meeting that decides the fate of your company’s future.
Go get hired.
Whether you’re a freshman or a senior, it’s not too late to get that job life going. Ideally, you’ll get to work in a department or field that you’re involved in. But even if you’re a theater major working in the biology department, you’re going to learn office skills that will come in handy after graduation.
Surely you’re all going to get your dream job right out of college, based on your fantastic cover letter, impeccable resume and dreamy references. But getting the job is different than being good at the job–or being well-liked. If you know how to function in an adult setting and how to unjam the copier, you’re going to go far.
Probably. In all fairness, we’ve only been adulting for a year. But neither of us has been fired, so we’re definitely right about everything.