Graduating doesn’t make you ready to work

For all of my time in school, I thought it was preparing me for work. It must do just that, I reasoned, because it’s been around for so long and because everyone says that is the reason for receiving an education.

I used to think that. I know now that my reasoning was wrong.

Just three months ago I left a large university in a not-so-large town after earning an undergraduate degree in architecture. It only took me two months to find and obtain a job in an architecture firm. This was an obvious blessing from God, not of my own doing. I am one of the least qualified architecture grads to work at a firm: my grades were only average, I didn’t network well while I was in school nor serve in an internship, and I haphazardly and hastily assembled my portfolio (arguably the most important item in architecture job interviews).

These weren’t my biggest problems, however. The biggest issue I faced was that school didn’t teach me anything about my degree’s industry.

Maybe that’s going too far, saying I didn’t learn “anything.” I should say I didn’t learn the most important skills. I learned how to use some computer programs common in architecture firms and some things about reading technical drawings. These have helped, but the owner of the company wants me to sell myself and bring in new clients.

He might as well have said he wants me to repair a UFO. I was completely unprepared for this task. Yet it didn’t take long for him to explain that all service-related businesses rely on the ability to sell themselves in order to attract clients, and clients are the only source of jobs, and jobs the only source of a company’s income. This cause-and-effect relationship, simple as it is, had never before crossed my mind, but it immediately sparked a vital synapse that had been dormant too long. For the first time I knew that I must become a salesman to earn a living.

This is common in most professions, I learn more each day. And it was completely ignored in school. This seems tantamount to teaching a doctor the anatomy of the human body but not how to talk to patients. Sure, he can perform surgeries on a mannequin, but if he can’t calm down or reassure an ill person on whom he is operating then no one will recommend him and he will quickly lose his job.

Consider this a wake-up call to all you college students: you must learn to make yourself attractive, to sell yourself, in many of your industries in order to make the most of your job and to gain your employer’s trust.

One book that has helped me a great deal (and I haven’t yet finished it) is Rain Making by Ford Harding. His writing is simple and clear, and what he teaches in it was never taught to me in school and is valuable to many trades.

However, I will send a warning: gaining this ability can easily make a person haughty. Once someone knows how to sell their business, they can feel superior to the people around them who don’t have that skill. Such arrogance will hurt your ability to connect with other people and, for all disciples of Christ, can cripple you on your journey with Him. Many times the authors of the Bible and God Himself warn against pride, seeing it as a detestable trait that is good for nothing. Instead of becoming proud, learn to relate to other people and help them in any way you can. A person who can sell their services can also give their abilities away. This sends a powerful message to the people around us about the God we serve. Trust the Lord to provide for you when you need it, and allow Him to use you as the provision for other people who need what you have.

Learn to sell yourself for the sake of your business and your employment. But love your neighbor as yourself by using your abilities to care for them. And always rejoice in the Lord for allowing you to improve your skills for His glory.

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