A vast majority of graduates leave school thinking they’ve learned most of what they’ll need to succeed in business, only to quickly learn their professors only really skimmed the surface of what’s to come.
And make no mistake about it, if you graduated from an accredited program, you did indeed learn a lot. Things like software usage, various mathematical formulas, marketing methods, basic accounting, etc.
You might have even learned how to tie a tie in business school. Some things you’ll learn in b-school will be very beneficial, whereas others can turn your world upside down.
The things your professors can’t possibly teach you are among the most important core skills in business. Things learned in the field; through trial and error, and through over-confidence and ignorance:
1. The art of the deal
Contrary to the controversy surrounding the Trump/Schwartz book of the same name, the art of the deal is a pretty straightforward skill that one just cannot learn by sitting in a college classroom. You have to be a top level communicator, which takes time. You also need to get comfortable with human psychology, and how to manipulate it to your advantage.
2. How important selling yourself is in selling products
You also need to have the confidence to sell your products and push customers toward making the final decision you want them to. Whether you consult with clients face-to-face, over-the-phone or online, you need to be able to sell yourself in order to inspire confidence in your products.
3. The importance of lifelong learning
Maybe you think the last three or four years have been the hardest learning experience of your life? That you’ve absorbed every last morsel of knowledge related to your industry and profession. Wrong! If you don’t come out of the classroom prepared to read, listen, try, fall, get back up – then do it over and over, the business world will kick you and your keister to the curb!
4. That what they’re teaching you might be wrong
Lawyers learn about laws and principals that may get squashed soon after they graduate law school. Nutritionists get taught that certain foods are good for us, then later some study comes along and proves those foods accelerate cancer cell growth or something similar. Same happens in business schools: Professors often teach what the administration tells them to, perhaps tempered with a little of their own real world knowledge. Some times, what you learn doesn’t stand the test of time.
5. The importance of being human
I’m not talking about philosophy or religion here. In order to master the art of the deal, to sell yourself and your products most effectively. And to be able to keep learning indefinitely and decipher what you’re being taught analytically, you need to be 100% human. Computers can’t run a business without human oversight – they can’t understand human feelings, or pivot when emotions get in the way of completing a project or deal.
There are, in fact, a number of things you just won’t know after stepping out of your business school campus into the real world for the first time, up to and including how to actually start a business (ie., most schools teach business management, not business startup). Nor will a business school teach you how to create a market for your business and its products.
You shouldn’t expect to be taught everything you’ll need to know either. Some things are just best learned in the trenches, when consequences create a make-or-break scenario with lasting positive and negative impacts.
You just can’t learn it all from a book!