Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.
I could not have hoped for a better beginning. 4 years. One Degree and lots of headaches later – I have graduated. And it strikes me as odd that these four years of university have completely changed my outlook on not only my life but the nature of education itself. Before I came to university, I was an A grade student who though not religiously studious was pretty concerned with how I did. I still am but it is no longer the singular source of esteem and a matter of life and death. Fast forward four years and now an unofficial employability consultant for students so I wanted to share with you some myths that university dispelled for me and my tips for dealing with these tips. I would love to hear what myths university dispelled for you.
Myth # 1: University is soooo hard.
It’s not. Next. Try doing A levels in Pakistan and Singapore.
Tip: Learn time management. I managed a thesis, several student clubs, two jobs and my part-time business in the last two years of my university.
Myth # 2: You will never get a job if you don’t have a 1st.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t have a first and from the 8 jobs I applied to – I got an interview every single time and received a job offer from 7 of them. I had three job offers by my third year and was experimenting by free-lancing in my last year. I won two awards for my performance at internships and got funded to attend a prestigious bootcamp in New York. The point I am making is that the amount of stress I saw in my peers at university was so frustrating because I knew that getting that first doesn’t always land you the job. It might matter for doctors or engineers but every recruiter I have met always said they would still prefer an engineer who could sell to an engineer could not.
Tip: If you have a first – make sure you have other things in your resume like internships and volunteering. Clubs and societies are always good. If you are the technical type(all work no play) then fill up your free time by relaxing with some comfort networking at conferences around the world.
If you don’t have a first – make sure you participate on things you love or explore new interests e.g debates, fundraising, Taek Wan Do etc. Employers love employees with diverse interest. Also, if you like History.
Myth #3: University education prepares you for the workplace.
That has been my reaction whenever I heard someone mention that. These ‘transferable’ skills the university talks about. Groupwork is only useful if people actually work together. Meeting once and one person doing all the work teaches a student nothing but to distrust group members.
Tip: Invite your team members for a drink/coffee and do a few all-nighter. It’s fun and you learn tons about dividing work.
Myth #4: Everything on the course syllabus is true.
Just because it says ‘students will have hands- on experience’ doesn’t mean you get to building something from scratch. How exciting and truly would it be to get business students to start a business in teams by running a yearly-hack day? £5 and let’s see how much the students can make?! This doesn’t happen – infact, though I have absolutely no proof of what I am about to say I will go ahead and say it: Business management students are the most uninspiring and un-entrepreneurial bunch ever. Maybe it is because they spend their academic writing business plans rather than doing them.
Tip: Find out your local student enterprise club (NACUE, SIE, SIFE). Go to competitions like sicamp, Launch 48, StartUp Weekend, FLUX and various other hack days.
Online competitions like Dell Social Innovation and others on Student Competitions are a good place to start for students of any degree.
Myth #5: University rankings are an accurate representation of teaching standards.
Big lecture theatres – uninspired, drone-like lectures with boring monotone(or the horror of electric blue slides) . There is an excellent article on this:
Tip: Look at how many students actually get a job after graduating. Also, smaller class size is so much better. YouTube videos of lectures also are a good way to find out the format of lectures. In all of my university life – the best have only been in psychology. If I knew economics would be so basic – I would have chosen politics which was far more interesting.
Myth # 6: What a university says and what it actually means are the same.
We encourage team building: we force students into groups without monitoring the progress.
Students will have the opportunity to spend one-to-one time with staff: You will have tutorials with our Phd staff who need some confidence building.
Tutorials will be conducive to student learning by peer interaction and intellectual debate : You will sit in a stuffy tutorial room where you will sit awkwardly for an eternity because no one is talking and avoiding to look at the tutor who is trying to encourage conversation.
Students will learn transferable skills like team work etc.: We will throw you into a team. Figure out the rest on your own.
Students will receive valuable feedback on submitted coursework.: You will receive generic one-paragrpah feedback and no we will not take kindly to your complaints about that.
Tip: If you don’t like the rules – try to do something about them. If you fail then just find another way. E.g. want to learn teamwork? Forget uncooperative working groups. Join the Student Union. It’s not just about cleaning after students throwing up though that does teach you patience.
Myth #7: The Careers Department is fully equipped and our graduates have gone to bigger and better things.
While many of the university graduates may have gone on to do wonderful things in the valley of success it doesn’t necessarily follow that the careers department was instrumental in it. For a fact, the University of Kents careers self-help pages are much better than that of Glasgow. On the other hand, the Careers Department at Glasgow were monumental with their mock-interviews and CV check up.
Tip: Do a mock interview for every time you go for an interview. Scour online resources for new ideas especially if you want to impress a fun company. Why not write your CV on a coffee mug from the favourite coffee place of the recruiter(little social media research can pay off!).
Myth #8: Negativity looks awesome on a student looking for a job.
No. It doesn’t. It just doesn’t.
There is always a way. 70% jobs are not advertised. 80% employers google their candidates. If your interview goes wrong because you don’t have anything to talk about – learn from it and research the company before you go. Check them on LinkedIn.
Tip: Smile, smile and smile. Oh and always do your research. When in doubt, google it. When not in doubt, flaunt with style.
Myth #9: Filling up my CV with unnecessary things makes me so employable.
I have known students who would rather join clubs and societies and do internships with firms that are distasteful to them. They think playing hockey might not be as good for their CV as being a receptionist. The t hing is – it is all about how you gain skills at whatever you do. Hockey = team work, motivation etc. Receptionist = organisation skills.
Tip: Work for a startup – you’ll learn much more than you could ever in a small shop or big company. Never work unpaid for more than two weeks.
Myth # 10: The biggest of all: Myth: You need university education to validate your intelligence and achieve success.
Here are the things university taught me unconsciously:
The best gift university gave me was liberation from this myth. After that, in that order: Student Enterprise, Debates and SRC. I learnt to find staff who were truly happy if you told them what you were up to and connected me to their connections. I found the university management to be very proud of my achievements. I found that students are always eager to learn so whenever you give them practical advice – they will do it. Academics taught me three things: importance of freedom of speech, political dialogue, economic impact of income inequality and psychology. I met some of the most wonderful students and staff who encouraged me to do more and taught me how to enjoy life. I raised money for charity by wearing the same dress for one month for two years!
And there is so much more… I am glad I went to university – even if I learnt more outside the classroom than inside.