There will always continue to be the argument on whether higher institution prepares the average individual for success in the real world.
Of course higher institution has its uses. There is abundant theoretical knowledge on almost any discipline you can think of. Still, I hardly know of any successful fellow who made success based only on what he/she learnt at the university. There are many things higher institution doesn’t prepare you for;
1. Networking: Funny how our universities do not deem it fit to develop a very practical curriculum on interpersonal relationships and networking. The benefits for the average graduate will be enormous. Many leave college still shy and unable to connect effectively with people that will link them faster to their ambitions. If you’ve been to a typical Nigerian higher institution you will have enough academic workload on your hands that you may really not have time to learn the skills that matter later in life ( networking included.)
Joining clubs with focus and involving in students unionism all helped me learn how to relate and meet up with people but it wasn’t easy. You did all that at your own peril or risk. So what it means is that, to learn people skills you have to mix and interact, rack up meaningful relationships especially with people higher up the ladder than yourself. If the higher institution would teach that, most of our young people will have a tool that will serve them well in business and career.
2. Selling: Have you noticed how many graduates have the phobia for selling anything, even themselves. In the past two years I had interviewed quite a lot of graduates for positions within my new company and found one alarming thing; All of them didn’t want to be put where they’ll have to sell anything to anyone or convince anyone to buy anything.
How the hell are you expecting to be paid if you don’t want to sell. All companies make money by selling something and those who are willing and prove to the company that they can sell and pull in the profits have an edge over any others any time any day. I watched appalled as all of the job seekers I interviewed dodged from any marketing or sales related job. Everybody wanted to be in the office pushing papers and generally doing nothing. We had enough office staff but very little marketing guys who could help double or triple revenue. It was not acceptable.
How do our universities not teach students how to sell. Selling is vastly important;
- When seeking a contract you sell yourself and your company to the client.
- You sell yourself to the Interviewer, trying to convince him to hire you.
- You sell yourself to investors asking them to invest in your startup or idea.
- You sell yourself to that pretty girl you met in the banking hall because you want to date her.
- You sell yourself to your boss and that’s why you always want to impress and get that raise or promotion you need so badly.
All we do everyday is sell, sell and sell some more.
How better we will be if our colleges and universities can teach us how to do that.
3. Fundraising: Getting funded is one of the biggest challenges to small and medium scale businesses and tech startups in Nigeria. The funds sit in bank vaults but are extremely difficult to get hold of. I wish I had a course (something like Funding 312) when I was in higher institution probably taught by an established businessman who had to raise his own funds and not by a white haired, stooping professor of Business Administration whose only experience in running a business was at age 9 when he helped his mum sell groceries.
If experienced business gurus and C.E.O.s were to hold fundraising and capital sourcing classes at least one semester for each student, many graduates would have had it easier going into business for themselves and giving birth to the ideas that run riot in their minds.
4. Money Management: Yes, we made money while in school or at least I made money in school but then I spent it as fast as it came, sometimes even faster so I had to be in debt some of the time. A class in practical money management (not the lame financial management classes taught by lecturers that were even broke as they taught) would have done me and lots of others a world of good.
Sometimes you don’t need millions to start a business and grow it big. If you were taught how to bootstrap and form a lean business that will go on to make you serious money, I bet you would have been further on the road than where you are right now. Same as myself. But pity, we had to learn the lessons ourselves the hard way.
5. Rejection: Does our higher institution teach one how to handle rejection and not be bogged down by it. It matters because you are going to be rejected many times in your life before you get that “Yes” that makes all the difference.
Look at what higher institution doesn’t teach you about rejection;
- That girl you had a serious crush for rejects you, how do you handle it?
- They don’t teach you what to do when your job application gets rejected 25 times?
- Do they teach you what to do when 12 banks and 5 private investors turn down your request for funding?
- Do they teach you how to handle the rejection of two investors on whom you had all your hope for funding your startup company?
I could go on and on. These are things that matter and everyday many young bright people get discouraged by several rejections. Wouldn’t it be nice if they taught you in college how to prepare for and handle rejection?
6. Failure: The university/college is probably the worst place to learn about failure. There, they treat failure like a plague. If you fail it seems you have done something terrible. Assuming you were an A student and suddenly you failed 2 courses. Classmates and friends would keep discussing it. “How did he fail? That guy after all, doesn’t know as much as we thought?”
That is why many students cheat. They are so afraid to fail that even after they leave school they can’t work on actualizing their ideas because they are afraid of failing. They are scared of what their parents, friends and relatives will say if their first business failed.
They are scared of hearing things like, “I warned you to get a job, now see how useless you are,” “You threw the whole money away, punk head!” “You are good for nothing, go get a job.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if the college system was changed so that failure doesn’t become an anathema but something to learn from and progress? What if colleges focus on helping students handle failure instead of creating entities that end up so afraid to even give a speech for fear of failure?
7. Creativity: In college, I hated it when a lecturer in one of my engineering classes insisted on having us solve his problems in a particular way. One other man gave you questions to which you must write the answers as exactly as it was in his notes. They simply did all they could to turn us to robots.
The lack of creativity in our schools is scary. And I guess we are paying for it with the quality of graduates that come into the labor market every year.
If you have ever interviewed graduate job seekers you will understand why there is an urgent need to revitalize our colleges and universities.
8. Managing Others: Management is a course in most colleges but that is not what I mean. If we were taught how to get people around us to work in harmony towards achieving a common goal we would have had a better head start in business and life generally. Management of people is an important skill we should have been taught in college but unfortunately, we were just taught theoretical management principles and jargons that really do not equip one for the real world out there, where the struggle can get rough and everybody is inherently selfish.
If these eight (8) things were taught in higher institution, many more people would have been better prepared for business and career success.
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