You can get a lot out of going to school. It can give you so many of the tools you need to succeed in your career and achieve your dreams.
Disney / Via tenor.com
(Ok, I'm so inspirational.)
BUT, you really can't learn everything you need in school. There are some things that you can only really glean by going out into the world and just doing it.
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So I asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell me the lessons they learned on the job to help each other learn the things you're not going to hear about in the classroom. Along with some answers from the wise people of Reddit, here is what they had to say.
1."I have a bachelor's and two master's degrees. In school, it's good to keep thinking and analyzing, but in the real world, you have to know when to stop. My biggest challenge has been learning when to stop and just move forward with a solution that's 'good enough' because often a good solution now is better than the best solution next month, next week or even tomorrow.
I think schools focus too much on finding the best solution for the problem at hand and don't put enough emphasis on the intangible or external effects of the problem-solving process, especially in a workplace or group setting."
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2."Don't put anything in writing you're not willing to own. It will be shared and it will come back to you."
3."Recap verbal conversations in brief emails. It helps keep everybody accountable."
4."LEARN BOUNDARIES. If you want to survive without losing your mind while working, figure out where you draw the line on things like unplanned or unpaid overtime, working outside your scope of responsibility, how to deal with rude people, working outside business hours, etc. You can reevaluate these lines at any time, but when they get challenged you don't have to play the 'should I or shouldn't I' game. You'll know your answer."
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5."In school, you write essays with minimum word counts and all kinds of structures to assemble arguments and persuade your reader. At work (especially when emailing) you have to get right to the point or you will never get what you need."
6."Speak for yourself. Unless you have been clearly elected to speak for a group, don’t."
7."Be polite, honest, and respectful to receptionists, editorial/office/personal assistants, and the like. Not only are they more influential than you may believe, they're pretty much the gatekeepers to those you want to talk to."
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8."Your voice does not need to be heard as much as you think it does. Stay quiet and pay attention. Then when you do speak, your words will carry more weight."
9."Remove the recipient of emails until you are ready to send. That prevents you from sending too soon, when you're feeling hot-headed, or without proofreading."
10."Bet on yourself. Lots of people have successful small and large businesses. They aren't any smarter than you and it isn't any harder than going through college or having a kid or whatever you have done for a few years and take immense pride in.
After I quit my third job because of the toxic culture, I had to admit to myself that I was the constant in those situations. Even though I believed the cultures to be bad, it was also on me for getting myself into those situations. I quit my last job and started a successful real estate business with my husband followed by a successful art business. I sleep better. I'm happier. I pick my clients. I go on vacation all the time. I take long lunch breaks. I don't work some weeks if I don't have anything pressing. And I make waaay more money. If you're at all interested in starting a business, please go for it. You can do it."
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11."Don't gossip — ever. While you may want to to 'fit in,' it will somehow, someway come back to bite you in the ass."
12."Just because you don’t know the plan does not mean that there is no plan. It’s ok to ask if there is a plan, but accept that you may not need to be privy to the details."
13."Stop being afraid of job hopping. It's more accepted nowadays, and it ultimately makes you more money and can even progress your career faster."
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14."Learned from just watching people excel financially: don’t look down on certain jobs. I used to think hairstylists & adult food servers etc. were failures. No. I was the failure trying to work my way up corporate. Corporate isn’t the same as it was a decade ago. It’s all contract work & internal restructuring. Most servers & hairstylists I know make $150K+."
15."Work group chats are fair game for your boss or IT to view. Be smart with your words."
16."Keep track of everything you do week by week. Write a summary of your activities and save the files. When your year-end evaluation rolls around, you can use this as a helpful reference. If it is not written down, it's harder to remember."
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17."I went to business school and got my MBA, so I received a great education that has helped me get a job, but none of it has helped me with my actual work. I learned everything on the job, from how to use excel like a pro, to how to build and launch campaigns and products. You learn about it in school, but you don’t understand how to actually do it until you’re immersed in it. I’m sure this applies to most fields, but overall there’s such a push for getting a business degree, but ultimately I was working for big international brands with people of all backgrounds, from people with no higher education or community college degrees to those who went to Ivy League schools and had multiple masters degrees."
18."Your career path is your responsibility. My boss at IBM said that to me and my jaw almost fell on the floor. I naively thought if you did the right thing and worked extra and generally crushed it that the promotions fall from the sky. LOL. No. In fact, a lot of people advance in the workplace not because of their skills relating to the job, but because of their skills for managing a career. Those aren't the same thing."
19."Pay attention to the power dynamics in the office. Sometimes the people in charge on paper don't really pull the strings. Get at least one person on your side. I say this as someone who is pretty reserved and quiet at work. I make sure I connect with at least one person so they can vouch for me if I ever need it."
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20."Best advice: You should always be looking for your next job. That way if you stay at your current job it's because you want to and not because you have to. I keep a general pulse on the job market and postings, even if I'm not actively searching."
21."Know who you are outside of work. What your big dreams are, your achievements, your hobbies, and what makes your soul happy. Come into work valuing all of that person you are outside of it. That way you will be able to conduct yourself with dignity and set boundaries well, because you will be acting from a place of self-respect. Continue to foster that self-respect at work. Challenge yourself and follow through on those goals. Don't be stagnant. It doesn't matter if it isn't your dream job, there's dignity in simply learning new things and seeing projects to their completion, while keeping the next step in mind.
It's okay to be friends with coworkers, but be mindful. Life's too short to be paranoid and keep good people at a distance; they could also prove to be good contacts to have in the future. That said, be mindful, don't reveal too much to people you don't know very well, don't backtalk other colleagues, protect your energy and reputation.
A good company culture is where you get rewarded for learning and growing in the role. A bad company culture is where you get punished for not getting it right every time."
What about you? Do you have any "on the job" lessons that have helped you with your career? Let us know in the comments below!
Note: some answers have been edited for length and clarity.