5 things you learn at work that academia doesn’t teach you

Aerate Inc
3 min readJan 22, 2018

Because getting ahead isn’t just about getting perfect grades

When you’re at school or in higher education, you might be made to feel like your future success is bound up in how many exams you pass or A-grade coursework you can deliver. And while getting high grades can be a good indication of some abilities, there are other aspects to success that academia plays no part in. In some career paths, it bears little to no relevance whatsoever. Here are five things you learn ‘on the job’ that you probably won’t pick up during your school days…

Navigating office politics

While getting good grades is more or less the key to “mastering” school, the world of work is a completely different ball game. Getting ahead can be more about how well liked you are and having the right people in the company on your side, rather than just how good you are at your job. You soon learn to pick your battles and choose your ‘allies’ wisely, especially if being perceived as a team player is a crucial factor in your winning that promotion or being made permanent.

How to manage money (and an excel spreadsheet)

You might know how to do long division and advanced algebra, but managing a budget — whether it’s for work or your own personal finances — is something you pick up as you go along in the working world (especially if you don’t live at home). Excel spreadsheets are your best friend here, particularly if you’re freelance or a limited company — it’s vital to keep track of what money’s coming in and going out. Knowing about credit scores and how to make sound investments is also vital when it comes to keeping your finances in check.

Dealing with issues professionally

At school, having bust ups with friends or stand offs with the teachers are commonplace. Not so in the world of work, where everyone is required to be a ‘team player’. If issues do crop up at work, you learn to pick your battles wisely — is it worth the time (and possible drama)? If things become unbearable, arranging a calm face-to-face discussion in a meeting room is preferable to ranting and raving in front of the whole office, or over email (the latter of which can be documented and forwarded on to anyone, FYI).

How to build a career that’s your own

While years ago, graduates and school-leavers stayed in one job for the majority of their working life, today’s workforce has changed. It’s normal for someone to have several career changes throughout their life — something which academic institutions don’t properly prepare you for. “Portfolio careers” which involves freelancing across several different disciplines are also on the rise for those looking for variety. Being in the working world teaches you how to forge your own unique path, you learn what you’re good at and what you enjoy — whether that’s managing a team or going it alone as a freelancer.

Asserting yourself

At school, most of the time you’re responsible for your own workload and operate as an individual. If you sit at the back of the class with nothing to say, you normally get left to your own devices — especially if the teacher has a noisy class to deal with. At work you have to learn to speak up if you want to get ahead and get noticed — especially if other colleagues are taking credit for your work, or if your current salary doesn’t reflect your performance. This doesn’t mean going in all guns blazing, but making your point calmly, using objective facts to back up your case.

For more tips and insider info that you won’t get taught in academia, a mentor can be an invaluable source of knowledge and support. Visit connectmentors.london to get matched up with a professional in your field.



Aerate Inc

Aerate is a social enterprise that creates and develops scaleable concepts that connect and support people through online platforms and applications.