Think Creative Collective

7 Things We Did Not Learn in College

Boss Talk, Business BasicsAbagail PumphreyComment

Today I thought you all needed a taste of a little collaboration. My husband, Jared Pumphrey, and I are both trained as designers. Sure we are in different fields (he is a Landscape Architect and I primarily work as a Graphic Designer), but when it comes to college we had very much a collective experience. I chalk it up to meeting him my VERY FIRST DAY on campus! 

So here is our version of “7 Things We Didn’t Learn in College”.

Like many, when we started college at Kansas State University it was one of the most transitional phases of our lives. Not only were we living on our own and becoming independent, we were also learning valuable skills in our applicable fields. Design school is like college on steroids where many late nights ensued and imagination was constantly tested. 

1. Grades Don’t Matter

You own your project and build your case to advocate it to a professor for a grade. Success or failure it is your project and beyond the classroom it has little real world implications.

Flash forward to graduation and the start of your career doing what you thought you went to school to do. You just spent 4 years (maybe less if you decide to take summer classes to finish early, i.e. Abagail) or more (if you go for advanced degree, i.e. Jared).  The reality sets in that the project you just obsessed weeks or months over has little to do with reality. Sure, it may get you an interview, and maybe that first job, but beyond that, no one ever looks at your grades. 

Well, unless you are that idiot who lied on your application that you had a degree and upon running a background check it came back as false. Needless to say, he never got hired (true story). Be real about your experience, people value honesty.

2. Budget Limitations

There is an easing in period at your office of choice and you gradually start taking on more responsibility to manage your own projects. Projects for various clients start to become part of your everyday thought process.

You are excited because you have this toolkit that you picked up in school to be a wiz at using the computer or putting together presentations. You’re teaching new tricks to senior folks in how to be more efficient using various software. You’ve spent several weeks on a project, vetting what you believe is the right solution to your client’s problem. But then BAM – in an instant everything changes.

The money runs out, the client changes direction or the whole project gets scrapped. Unlike school where you have a definite deadline and no teacher is just randomly going to take away a project, in the real world you could pour your heart and soul into something for weeks or months and then it is snatched away in an instant.

Don’t let it get personal, just go with the flow.

3. Managing Up & Self Advocating

In school you probably had many chances to work in a team environment. Inevitably you were that kid working diligently into the night, while your partner was out drinking like there was no life left to live. In the corporate waters, in general, we have both had less issues with peers and more issues managing up. What does that mean exactly? Well, you know an assignment will take you X number of hours. Unfortunately your boss, or more likely their boss thinks you own a magic wand and can whip it out in half the time. Jared and I both have learned you have to self advocate. If something is going to take longer explain why. Demonstrate understanding of their need and mitigate future risk by setting a new deadline with them. Generally the BOSS (i.e. your boss’s boss) is open to it and just needs a little educating.

All too often we have seen people over promise and under deliver. You are way better off down playing your capabilities and then knocking their socks off later in the board room. 

4. Time Management

In school Jared and I procrastinated, definitely not as significantly as our peers, but it still waited. Or even if we had started on time we were such perfectionists we would work late into the night, often sleeping in studio. Jared’s preferred method – Yoga mat under his desk. Mine, snoozing in the abandoned Lazy Boy Chair, only to be awakened at 5 a.m. by the cleaning crew. 

I don’t know about you, but now I would much rather go out with friends for a glass of wine or hang out on the couch with pizza and the dog than be at work. It is 100% your responsibility to manage your time. This means finding methods that work for you. 

5. Personal Project/Process Management

It is highly likely the real world will grant you a Project Manager, Team Lead or some sort of person holding you accountable to deadlines – or if you run your own business than the rest is 100% more necessary. These people are not your teacher and they are definitely not your mom. It is up to you to create tools to help you get your job done. Jared and I are both list makers. I can’t tell you how many notepads, sticky notes and notebooks I have gone through since I started working full time. In school, I had that one handy planner and maybe 1 pad of stickies, but now we both live and breathe by our lists. Need help defining goals or creating a plan to complete them, check out this article

6. Trust Must Be Earned

Jared and I are 100% Midwestern blood. We are kind hearted, benefit of the doubt kind of people. At work, unfortunately not everyone is built the same way. We both have run into situations that are less than ideal. Trust used to be handed over the moment we would meet someone, but after a few too many burns and scars later we have learned it is best to test the waters first. Trust must be earned. This is true with co-workers, vendors, and sometimes even clients.

7. Sales & Negotiation

Some people are naturally born to be in sales. Jared and I are definitely not in this category. Selling yourself, our work, capabilities and skills never have come naturally. In school we were often teachers pets, which led to lots of resentment and negativity from our peers. This came because our teachers saw our work ethic and skill. Unfortunately, no matter how talented you are that doesn’t automatically sell you or your product. Over the years, we have honed this talent and Jared and I have developed very different approaches. Jared is the charmer, which generally works best with the older audience. I on the other hand take a more honest approach. Much like managing up I try to under sell and over deliver. This leads to happier clients, bosses, and even friends. 

What did you learn in the real world that you wished would have been taught in school? Comment below. 

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