Monday, December 22, 2014

Why You Need to Step Outside the Lecture Hall

If you're currently attending or thinking of attending a post-secondary institution, take a moment to consider why, and what you're there to do. While education for the sake of personal enlightenment is a noble enough goal, you're going to need a job when everything is said and done, which means you'll need to pick up some practical skills while in school. While our popular conception of both college and university is that of a student in a lecture hall, listening to a professor, there's more to the post-secondary world than that, and there has to be if a student wants to get a leg up in the job market post-school. At the moment, a few Ontario institutions, including Centennial College, offer what's known as joint programs, where a student can take an Undergraduate Degree Program at a university, then move to a college to get that outside-the-hall education. The advantages to getting more than just lectures are numerous.

You'll learn practical skills by doing
As mentioned above, lectures have their use in the educational cycle: They inform a student of the theory of a career. However, if you want to actually know how to do a job, there's no better way to learn it than by practicing it. At a good college like Centennial, if you're in media, you'll get a chance to create some, if you're in health, you'll work on a simulated hospital floor, and if you're in transportation, you'll actually get to work on whatever vehicle you specialize in. Those skills are what you'll take with you, rather than your lectures, because you won't use your lecture notes when school is done. If you think you'll refer to them later, trust me, you won't. I never did. Spend your time picking up skills, building a portfolio, and constructing a network of contacts, and you'll be far more successful.

Employers value applicants who have worked at their job already.
To be blunt, the subject of your GPA will never come up in a job interview, and your grades cease being important the moment school ends. Instead, what you know how to do will be the subject of the interview, and what will connect you to a career. You know how so many of the jobs you apply for require a certain amount of years of experience? Well, lecture time can't count for that experience, but on-your-feet job training can, particularly if you're involved in a project like a school newspaper or applied research. Being able to say "I've made media," or "I've worked on an engineering project" will put you ahead of those that simply say "I learned about it," doubly so if you have a portfolio of completed work you can show off.

While lectures are important, they're merely the first step in your journey to a career, the theoretical foundation before you learn the real skills. Don't get too hung up on them, as what comes after will be more instrumental in defining the rest of your life.

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