From having my first ever job, I have come to the sad conclusion that having a university degree did not prepare me for this at all. I was so naive and starry-eyed going into my first job. I had landed an amazing job (on paper) with an equally amazing salary (one that meant I could live in apartments I had always dreamed of living in) in a top law firm. However, day one, and all my hopes and dreams were shat on. I sat down at my desk, the ambitious and hopeful twenty three year old that I was, to be inundated with phone-calls, emails, documents and excel spreadsheets.
Now I am not complaining (I already complained away all my complaints to my friends). What I am saying is that the skill set I was required did not even vaguely correlate to the skills I gained from my university degree. University does not teach you how to keep your cool when you have a call coming in every five minutes or how to approach your boss when the workload is too enormous for you to handle or that it is not appropriate to use exclamation marks in emails. It also never taught me how to play ‘the game’ or deal with office politics. High school would have prepared me for that though.
My university degree taught me the academic knowledge of law. But I learned far more outside of the lecture rooms than what I learned inside (not that that was too hard to do since I barely went to lectures three out of the four years). But an academic knowledge of the law is not enough and this is slowly being recognised by universities. Take mine for example, which has started a module where you do an internship, write a reflective diary and go to evening classes where you learn about confidentiality and other lawyery things. Great step, but not enough.
I am very jealous of the European kids who get to do an entire semester working in their respective field or who alternate one week in Uni and one week at work.** We should bring in a similar initiative in Ireland. That would be something and I myself would be in favour for the semester long work. Why? From having done internships and working in the real world, there is a big difference. One you are being paid and this changes everything. Being paid and not having the title of an intern or a graduate means people expect a shit ton more from you. More responsibility = more like a real life job. Which in the end is the end goal of university. We go to university to get a good job.
This above rant is by no means a reflection of the company I worked for. I think I would have had the same culture shock anywhere. It is more of a reflection on the educational system in general. The same educational system which is meant to prepare us for 40 plus years of working life. And its failing.
** By European here I am referring to the German and French friends I have. Not sure what other countries have this.