I’m sure that every one of us who have been out in the business world for a few years can look back with perfect hindsight and name a few college courses that we should have taken. What’s more disconcerting to me is that I can name a few that weren’t even offered!
I won’t even try to cover here the ones you didn’t find for your personal life, like managing personal finances and credit. But on the business side, here is my list of useful courses that we wish existed, but as far as I know, still aren’t generally available:
- Basic Office Politics. Office politics involves the complex network of power and status that exists within every business, large and small. Don’t you wish that someone had prepped you on how to read the body language, interpret office gossip, and when to hit the delete key on your email rather than the send key?
- Dress for Success. “You are what you wear” works in business, just like it did in high school. But no one tells you the business norms, so Gen-Y’ers come to work in jeans, baseball caps, tattoos, flip-flops and expect to be treated as executives.
- Touch-Typing for Dummies. How many hours a day does the average professional and executive today spend hunched over a computer keyboard “hunting and pecking”? Throughout a career lifetime, just think of the return on that investment.
- Business Writing Skills. Writing in business is not the same as in an academic environment. In school, you’re taught to stretch weak ideas to reach your page limit. The business world expects exactly the opposite. The challenge is to communicate your idea in one page and relegate the supporting detail into an appendix.
- Demystifying Business Logic. Another term for this is how to be a skeptic. Understand the ways people can mislead deliberately or accidentally with numbers, bad logic, and rhetoric. There’s some untruth hidden in 99% of everything you’re told. Can you find it?
- Business Budgets and Benefits. The focus here would be on the actual nuts and bolts of how things get budgeted and financed in business. This will pay big dividends in getting your favorite project funded, or justifying your own salary, or negotiating a bonus.
- Business Sales Techniques. We can find tons of “marketing’ courses in colleges and universities but everyone must think that “selling” is intuitively obvious. The art of selling is a complex blend of relationships, persuasion techniques, negotiation, and knowledge.
- Root-Cause Problem Analysis. Business professionals need to analyze problems from a big picture perspective. Most classes in college focus on a narrow area of interest, which just teach students to focus on problems through one lens. That’s how unforeseen consequences go unforeseen.
- Minimizing Business Workloads. In the office world, there’s always way more work than there is time to do it. You need to be able to figure out what not to do, and how to not do it, by organizing and prioritizing, and still impress your boss with your thoroughness.
- Job Hunting Basics. People need realistic expectations about how much effort and time it takes to get just about any job. Atrocious resumes and social network antics will kill your career. The difference between job descriptions and accomplishments seems to elude most people.
The real problem for many of these, I suspect, is finding qualified instructors to teach. Until then, the best alternative I can recommend is to sign up for job internships at every opportunity, while still in school. You might find on-the-job experiences more valuable than all your other courses, or you might change your major.
Amazingly, it seems that people in business are more highly educated these days, but less well prepared than ever before. What’s another course that you wish you had taken in school but didn’t realize was missing until too late? There’s another generation coming that needs to know.