College is good for a lot of things: lifelong friendships, arcane knowledge, and questionable dining hall food, to name a few.

It is not, however, very good at preparing you for the modern workforce. Here are 7 things you won't learn in college but will help you succeed in "the real world":

1. How to find a job

You find most jobs through people, not job listings. In fact, around 80% of jobs are found through weak ties (i.e. your dogsitter, or your friend's old boyfriend).

I can corroborate this. Practically every job I've ever gotten has been through the friend of a friend, which means starting a job search any other way is totally inefficient.

The lesson: When job hunting, do not spend 80% of your time on Indeed and Monster (rookie mistake). Instead, spend it reaching out to your network. Write emails; go on LinkedIn and message relevant people; have lunches; talk to everyone. Social media is your friend: post on Facebook and let everyone you know what you're looking for. Always include parents and family friends, as they're more likely to know people higher up on the totem pole.

2. How to interview

You "interview" to get into college with your application, then never again.

The lesson: Practice. Google the 10 most common interview questions and role-play them with someone you trust. See which answers you still need to polish, and where you need to stop rambling (not rambling is a particularly valuable interview skill).

3. How to negotiate salary

The first time I was asked, "So what are you looking for in terms of compensation?" I froze. I eventually came up with a figure, but the fact was, I was unprepared.

The lesson: Research the average salary for the job you're interviewing for before you get on the phone or go in for the interview. Use Ask around. Then role-play the conversation with someone you trust.

4. How to build alliances at work

In college, professors don't have the power to promote, fire, or give you a good or bad performance review. You sometimes have to collaborate with fellow students, but the consequences are minimal.

In the real world, you absolutely need allies at work. You'll need help navigating the system and figuring out who the real decision-makers are. You'll need favors from people. You'll need support.

The lesson: When you start a new job, invest heavily in relationships. Find people with whom you click and ask them to lunch or Starbucks instead of retreating into email during breaks. Ask them what they wish they'd known when they started, and listen closely. Social ties at the office will be critical, so prioritize them; it'll make your life infinitely easier later on.

5. How to ask for a raise

This is a notoriously un-learned skill in college, and arguably one of the most important (especially for women).

The lesson: Talk to others in your department about what they make. Put together a few bullets on how you've contributed and what compensation you want. Role-play the conversation with someone you trust and practice being concise and confidant. Then take deep breaths and just do it. (And if you're a woman, read Knowing Your Value. It's one of the best things I've ever done for my career.)

6. What to do if/when you get fired

I've been let go several times in my life, and haven't been in the workforce all that long. The fact is, we live in one of the most unstable times ever when it comes to job security.

The lesson: Especially if you excelled in school, be prepared for the eventuality that you will not always excel. If you "figured school out" early on, you probably always had similar experiences: study, do well, repeat. The real world doesn't work like that; in addition to your performance, there are complex relationship dynamics, funding issues, personality clashes, and more at play.

Be aware of this, and if/when you do get let go, know you're not alone. Expect to have feelings, and feel them. Then go back to point 1, and keep the faith.

7. How to find a job that truly fits you

Everyone says "follow your bliss", but no one really talks about how to do it. Well, happiness scientists say what really matters is that you spend most of your time doing things you're good at.

I'm a writer. After working several sexy startup jobs I thought would be great but I ended up hating, I now spend most of my time writing (not checking email). I'm happier than I ever have been.

The lesson: The "what" of what you do day-to-day matters. A lot. Talk to people in the position you're looking at and ask what they spend most of their time doing. Prioritize jobs where it's something you're good at and like doing.


Getting a good education is important. Just make sure that's not all you're learning, and that you never stop.