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School vs. Work

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If you’re a graduating high school student, and you are deciding which university/college program will land your dream job, then I have something to tell you. Most young adults, such as yourself, have no idea what the real workforce is like. You may think that school is the end-all and be-all to getting a job. Well, you are incredibly mistaken.

School and Work are two ABSOLUTELY different environments. You will find that much of what you learn in school is not relevant in the working world. To put things into perspective, consider this: education takes up 2 lines of a 2 page resume and 1 minute of a 30 minute interview. Sure school is good for learning the basics, but what lands you your job depends almost entirely on work experience and who you impress (important…it’s who you impress as opposed to who you know)

Therefore, I suggest you do the following:

1) Get a volunteer job or a part time paid job in the field you’re interested in.  This will expose you to the true nature of the discipline.  Then you’ll know for sure if you like it. It will also give you the much needed work experience for your future full time job.

2) Go to conferences and seminars to speak with Professionals in your field. Ask them about their job. Tell them about your aspirations and your personality. They will give you insight on how to get ahead in the field. You will also be networking with some important people. If you impress these individuals (this is important, knowing someone means nothing if you can’t impress them), they may consider you for future job positions.

When I first entered university, I made a big mistake in not following advices 1 and 2. It set me back 3-4 years.

Written by John Lai

March 13th, 2009 at 11:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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2 Responses to 'School vs. Work'

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  1. Hello. First of all, thank you so much for sharing your career advice on your blog – they’re very helpful.

    I am a college transfer student who was accepted to study computer science at a top ten university for CS, as well as to one that isn’t. Due to my current financial situation, however, I may have to skip my ‘top ten’ choice and study at the one that isn’t on the list.

    Aside from what you mentioned in your blog (education = 2 lines on resume), I keep hearing from my peers that employers will generally consider those who go to a top ten college to be easy candidates for jobs. Is this necessarily true?

    (BTW, once I graduate, I will have almost a years worth of open-source programming experience, although I’m not sure how employers in the real-world would see something like this.)

    Thank you for your time.


    8 Jun 09 at 12:53 am

  2. Chances are, the peers offering you advice have not worked in industry for at least 5 years. If you come out to work, the one thing you’ll notice is that your co-workers come from ALL backgrounds and universities. If you don’t believe me, convince yourself by visiting engineering companies and talk to the engineers, managers and lead architects. In fact, do that right now! Call up a few companies and ask for a 5 – 10 minute phone interview with other engineers! That ought to convince you.

    Open-source programming experience is great experience! Any kind of programming experience is great as long as you can “make something of value”. You are already one step ahead of the game. Congrats!

    John Lai

    9 Jun 09 at 3:36 pm

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