Getting Older and Wiser: In Business & In Life

When I was a student in university, many of my friends who were already in the workforce told me that I would hardly ever use the things I learned in a classroom to the real world. Years later, I look back and reflect on what my experience has been and why I believe continuous learning is the key to success.

We live in a knowledge economy and no matter where people look for employment, those with university degrees have a competitive advantage over others. Moreover, having a university degree from a well-recognized institution gives an extra edge over other university degree holders. To top them all, graduates with highest GPA’s and distinctions are said to be more likely to get the top jobs with highest pay in the job market. After graduation from university, competition is fierce as every graduate is competing with everyone else to get the highest-paid job they can with a well-known organization. But what guarantee do companies that hire top graduates have that hiring these graduates will mean a good decision of hiring a positive contributor to their organization?

It is true that university education is not entirely used in the real world. Working world is very different from educational world. The skills we need to succeed in the real world are not taught in schools, they must be acquired through continuous learning and self-development over time in order to succeed and stay ahead of everyone else. For example, a business student learns about the subject of sales in a classroom – this means learning the theory, and to an extent, applying those theories learned by working on projects in a team. In order to complete such projects, the student would discuss all the stages of the sales process – from knowledge about the product to the pitch, the presentation, the closing and handling any questions and following up. Unfortunately in school, we are only taught about what a subject likes ‘Sales’ is, not how to actually ‘do the sale’ of a product – this is what real world business is all about.

Anything You Want, You Can Have – As Long As You Act On It!

People who are best at what they do have the right skills to do them, and the good news is that skills are learnable. Let’s look at another example: Leadership. How many times have you heard people say, “leaders are born, not made”? Think of a leader (business leader, political leader or public figure) you admire the most and let’s look at one of the skills a person has/should/must have in order to be considered a great leader:

                   A leader should be able to speak in public.

    1. In order to be a good public speaker, the leader should have charisma and be clear and authentic in his/her speech and diction.
    2. Public speaking will also require the leader to have confidence in him/herself.
    3. The leader will be expected to have in-depth knowledge about the subject he/she talks about.
    4. Great public speaking also requires good control of ones body language/gestures and eye contact.

Highlighted above is only one skill expected of a leader: public speaking. Now consider some of the other skills a person should possess in order to be a great leader:

  • A leader should have excellent negotiation skills in order to make the best decisions for his/her people or organization and convince people that his/her course of action and decisions are the right ones
  • A leader should have excellent networking skills in order to gain public support and recognition
  • A leader should have the right people’s skills in order to gain trust
  • A leader should be able to lead by example
  • A leader should be able to manage, delegate, motivate, and empower people at a senior executive level

They key word here is ‘skills’. No matter how well-educated a person may be, no matter how high your GPA, no matter how well connected a person may be, long-term success depends entirely on having the right skills one acquires over time through self-development. These skills are not taught in schools and you, as an individual, will have to make the effort to learn them on your own or gain the knowledge and skills from those who already have the experience in the area of your interest.

What has your experience been in developing yourself after university? Please leave a comment, I want to hear from you!


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