7 Things You Should’ve Learned in School

Arizona State University
Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley via Compfight

53% of Recent College Grads Are Jobless or Underemployed reports the Atlantic.


I genuinely wish I could say I was surprised. But it’s about as surprising as the promiscuous girl’s relapse less than a month after she returns from church camp.

… “college for all” is the wrong mantra. We need to be talking about “skills for all” instead.

The article is primarily talking about more tangible skills like writing code or administering an IV, but being successful goes beyond those things as well. A programmer who can’t communicate with his team and a nurse with no empathy for her patients won’t get hired.

Which begs the question…

What are some other skills young professionals should’ve learned in school?

I asked seven wicked-smart under 30 professionals. What follows are their responses:

1.) What it Means to Work
Diana Antholis discusses the fact that we are taught the skills necessary for certain jobs in college, but we are not prepared for what happens when we actually enter into those jobs.

2.) Life Skills 101
Jake Cripe explains that we need to learn life skills like networking, public speaking, how to change a tire and how to do our taxes. He also explains why teachers are soldiers going to war without weapons.

3.) Entrepreneurship
Sam Davidson insists it’s time to make the connection between education and entrepreneurship. “Perhaps the reason we don’t have more people starting more companies that could jump start our economy is because our country spent the last 20 years educating them to do anything but,” he laments.

4.) Emotional Intelligence
Tom O’Keefe urges students (and educators) to stop playing the memorization/regurgitation game and to focus on increasing emotional intelligence by enhancing the soft skills such as effective communication via body language.

5.) Personal Finance
Rich Pulvino understands that debt and unemployment are two things that have a stranglehold on recent graduates. Teaching students how to find the right credit card deals, manage debt, save money, and invest properly will help combat the confusion they often encounter upon graduation.

6.) It’s Okay to Fail
Patrick Johnson would’ve tried a lot more things, both academically and with respect to his future, had he known it was okay to take risks and to fail.

7.) Leadership
Michelle Bizon starts by admitting that leading isn’t easy. She goes on to explain why neither authority nor expertise make you a good leader, and that we don’t learn leadership in school despite the fact that it’s imperative to establishing a bridge between theory and performance.

What are we missing? What do you wish you would’ve learned in school?


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  • Jeremy Orr

    As a sixth grade teacher, I realize that much of what I teach my students is required by the state but will be forgotten by the time they get to high school. I also realize that the most important things I can teach my students are life skills: how to learn, problem solve, care for one another, to take risks, and to follow their interests. Unfortunately the system isn’t set up to teach that way, I have to take that initiative.

    Nice post.


    Ryan Stephens Reply:

    @Jeremy – Not having taught (formally) I can’t say I feel your pain, but my kid sister also teaches 6th grade so I hear lots of stories.

    Whether they get beat down by the system or the kids, I will say that most teachers seem to give up and just force feed the curriculum and pray their kids do okay on the standardized tests. I don’t think there’s enough good teachers — and I won’t pretend to know which direction to point a finger.

    I will say that MIXING your gifted kids in with the ‘regular’ kids is ridiculous on all fronts. It does not pull up the other kids, it inhibits the gifted kids. (That’s a rant for another day…)

    Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts from an educator’s perspective and for taking the initiative to teach your kiddos important life skills!


  • 53% of graduates unemployed is a huge figure! I think the one thing I’ve learnt is that although you may have all the life skills from school, if you have no work experience employers are unlikely to take a second look at your CV.


  • Leadership should be taught at school. This is one common problem from companies, they have managers not leaders. They should be taught how to handle subordinates, how manage goals and most importantly, how to lead effectively.


  • chris alexander

    Leadership in the economic field is definitely lacking these days our policitical leaders are too quick to point fingers at their opponents instead of working with business to find solutions to problems we should be turning out more people starting business and putting people to work.