The context for this blog post is important to grasp, so allow me to provide some background. Having graduated from University in 2017 and promptly joined the workforce, I’m now in my fifth year of employment. When I encounter fresh faces on the team, particularly those born in the 2000s, I feel a sense of age creeping in. They also prompt me to reflect on the gap between academic life and the realities of the working world, bringing to light the fact that excelling in school doesn’t always translate to success in the workplace, although it does enhance the chances.

The first habit borne out of school years that tends to be detrimental in the professional world is being a good problem-solver ONLY. In school, we’re groomed to tackle problems as swiftly as possible; the more practice tests and exercises we ace, the better students we become. Yet, the workforce has taught me that not all problems warrant solving, and the significance of problems can vary greatly. It’s equally, if not more, important to discern which problems are worth our attention. I’m not advocating that we shirk our responsibilities or dump difficult tasks onto others, but broadening our perspective to distinguish the most critical issues to address can be an invaluable skill.

The second habit that doesn’t translate well from classroom to office is the expectation of a syllabus or structured guideline to success. We’re accustomed to detailed curriculums and learning paths in school, but the real world rarely offers such a roadmap. This is mainly because performing well, even within a single industry, demands a diverse skill set, and there are countless paths to achieving success. We must, therefore, learn by observation, soaking up wisdom from those more experienced. Don’t anticipate that your colleagues will freely impart their knowledge; in fact, some might view you as competition and guard their insights jealously. To thrive, we must be proactive, observe others, ask questions, and critically analyze their responses.

The third unhelpful habit is viewing everyone as a potential competitor. The competition in school can be fierce, with everyone vying for that coveted number one spot. However, the real world isn’t as black and white; success isn’t exclusive. There’s room for more than one ‘number 1’. If we focus solely on outdoing others, we risk isolating ourselves, which hampers collaborative efforts. Success in the real world often necessitates teamwork and sharing insights and resources. So, if you’re viewing everyone as a competitor, your reach may be limited despite being an academic superstar.

The final habit to shed is relying on external motivation to learn. In school, parents and teachers often fuel our drive to learn. Unfortunately, I’ve observed that some peers cease to learn once they leave this structured environment, primarily because they lack the motivation to do so. Why subject ourselves to the rigors of learning when no one is prodding us, right? Wrong. The impetus to learn should be self-driven, facilitating our ability to adapt to our ever-evolving world.

A few years down the line, I may pen an article titled “The Bad Habits We Inherited After Working For 10 Years”. Until then, I believe that if we sustain our curiosity, eagerness to learn, and readiness to face and solve challenges, we’ll be just fine.

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