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How can education prepare you for the ‘working world’?

The title of this blog post is a question my peers and I would often ask whilst studying at both school and university. We would wonder exactly how what we were learning would benefit us when we got jobs in the future. I graduated from Queen Mary University in London in 2013 and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not always about what I learned but how I learned that has prepared me for the ‘working world’.

We have many memorable experiences during our teenage years and early adulthood. From the teachers we favoured (and those we didn’t) to the successes and failures both academically and personally. Strong memories for me personally include finishing Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, getting a university place to study English and, more recently, receiving the offer of a Graduate Trainee position at Cambridge International Examinations. My education had a part to play in all these events, but what ‘things’ did my education give me that help me at work?

Can I ask a question?

Last year, my fellow graduate trainees and I delivered a presentation about the Cambridge Graduate Scheme and our journey so far to colleagues throughout the organisation. Little did I know that all those years of preparing for presentations in school or reading William Carlos Williams’ The Red Wheelbarrow  in front of my university seminar group would prepare me for this moment. At the end of the presentation one of my colleagues asked what I had learned most during my time on the scheme. My answer was I learned not to be afraid to question. I found questioning at work became one of the best ways to understand and find clarity.

Colin Billett in his blog, ‘Classroom rule number one- never answer a question’, states that ‘Learners have to think for themselves, and also to begin to ask themselves those important questions.’ Asking a question doesn’t mean you haven’t learnt something properly but that you’re taking control of your own learning – whether in the classroom or at work!

Do you understand?

Billet goes onto say that ‘by explaining something to another person we deepen our own understanding.’ I have experienced this throughout my education but most of all whilst working at Cambridge. Working across different departments has given me a wealth of knowledge not only about the subject area but also who I can call on for advice. Similarly in the classroom I quickly identified my peers who I could ask for help. As Alison King notes ‘From a Vygotskian perspective, learning is socially constructed during interaction and activity with others.’[1]

Ah! I understand!

Without a doubt, the learning experiences I had whilst studying prepared me for the world of work. Questioning my own understanding whilst learning from others has helped me tremendously. I wonder if my peers would say the same thing…

How do you think you’re preparing students for their future careers? What skills do you see as transferable between education and work?

[1] http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1477535.pdf?acceptTC=true

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