6 years out of school, 4 years out of sixth form, a year out of university, and a job change later, it has finally hit me that school, and university failed to adequately educate me for most aspects of adult life. You run out in to the big bad world, ready to be the best adultiest -adult there is, to fulfill the dream of being a proper grown up you have since you were 4. Only then, do you realize that actually you are completely, woefully under prepared for your next big adventure.
So, what don’t we learn at school?
How to get a job interview
Obviously education at a school should always come first. What school and teachers fail to tell you though, is that your marks are not the most important thing in the world. What is equally important, is having had work experience in order to get jobs. “Oh you need experience to get this job” “Right – but this is an entry level position right?” “Yes – but we expect this much experience *reels of list*”. The frustration is real. How does one get experience, when you need experience to get experience? It’s a never ending cycle!
On top of this, if you finally manage to get said job interview, in the first few interviews you attend you have absolutely zero idea what you are doing. What do you wear? They have said smart casual? Does that mean a suit? Why is there not a lesson at school, with a PowerPoint run down on what is acceptable interview attire. When you get in the room, do you try and come across as personable and a laugh? Or serious, dedicated but boring? Striking that fine balance is something they don’t teach you. Right along with how to answer those damn competency questions. But never fear though, because I can at an interview tell you how to safely operate a Bunsen burner. Winner. Can I have the job now?
Using the full suite of Microsoft Office programmes
Well done. You got the job! Now you just have to survive learning how to do everything.
Using word? Not a problem. We all knew how to get that perfect piece of word art. In fact we all spent hours perfecting the font, colour and size.
What school didn’t teach us though? How to actually use the other programmes most important programmes that are used daily in an office – Excel! Outlook!
At work you’ll often be thrown a spreadsheet and told to sort and analyse the data. Great. How do I sort again? And then once you’ve got past that you have the formulas to contend with:
Do I want Sum? Count!? CountIF? And those are only the daily ones. What do all these buttons do?!
How on earth does one ‘build’ a data chart in excel? Then what chart does one use?! A pivot table? A clustered column? A radar chart? Then what the hell is this strange hybrid – the mystical pivot chart?! Then once you’ve got as far as selecting what chart might do the job, actually building it is another matter. How do you get the labels to work? How do you change the colours?! Why can’t I label the axis! 4 hours later, and you still don’t have something presentable for that meeting.
Don’t me started on outlook. Everyone knows how to send an email. I mean how hard can it be you say? Well. What’s the difference between just sending it or BCCing or CCing? How do you set out of office responses? How do you use the task and calendar managers to book meetings?! Someone please send some help and a cup of tea. This leads neatly on to:
We were all taught how to write letters in school but in the modern world, email is the primary form of communication. What school didn’t teach you though, is how to effectively write one. How do you address someone in an email? Do you use dear? Hi if you have met them before? Then how do you sign off – regards? Kind regards? Best wishes? Can you sign of with just a thank you? Choosing the right subject is vital as well. You don’t want someone to not open your email because they have seen the first line and don’t want to deal with your request today! What if it’s urgent? How urgent does something have to be before it becomes acceptable to mark is as highly important?! Suddenly, handwritten letters don’t seem so bad. At least they have to open it to get past the envelope!
Managing that all exciting pay cheque and paying those (not so exciting) bills
I can factorize an equation. I can find x in a complex maths question. So why on earth can’t I work out how much tax I should be paying? You look down at the payslip in utter despair. Why have I been taxed this much?! What does this tax code mean? How on earth do I call HMRC and get a tax rebate?! Why don’t they understand that I am poor?
School: prepares you to get a job. What it doesn’t do? Teach you how to manage the money you are earning from said job. One thing that should have been a lesson at school, is successfully navigating how to make your pay cheque/student loan/sudden windfall last more than a day. What you also don’t learn at school – how to pay bills and split them properly when you live in a house share. Who is paying what? Who didn’t pay the electric on time which means we have been cut off?
Talking on the phone
This one is when you know you’ve hit adulthood, and it doesn’t apply to just answering the phone in the office either. Think along the lines of having to make your own doctor and dentist appointments, or sort out your own car insurance and phone bills. “Mummmmmmmm! Who is my GP again!?” “DAAAADDDDD. Why can’t the dentist see me right now!?” No one teaches you the most effective times to call to get your query resolved, and no one teaches you how long you should hang on a line till you get spoken to! Is an hour too much?
How to successfully maintain an adult relationship, and if that fails, getting over a break up
A key life skill this one. School doesn’t tell us how to act cool, bag the one and then more importantly keep them. It definitely doesn’t teach us how to perfect those chat up lines and then keep a person happy once they have worked. You get sex education but that doesn’t actually teach you how you get to that very sacred point.
Then, if all of that goes wrong and you are left sad, single and forever alone, no one tells us how to deal with a break up in an adult way. When it happens to you, you cry, and then sob if it’s a particularly bad one. You flail around moaning that no one can possibly understand. Then when someone tells you it will get better, the response is “NO! YOU JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND”. Thing is, we’ve all been there. If only there was a lesson in how to avoid drunk texting, block phone numbers and take the advice of our parents and friends when we don’t want to listen.
And finally: Who to call when things go wrong
No. Mum or Dad is not always the answer.
But for now, Mum and Dad will still do. Thanks!