Did You Learn More Lasting Career Lessons In School Or At The Office?

We asked, and you shared your experiences.

Did You Learn More Lasting Career Lessons In School Or At The Office?

Last week, Fast Company’s Drake Baer explored a question of concern for many recent college graduates and working professionals alike:


Can education get in the way of being able to learn?

Baer explores what he calls “differentiation”–effectively saying that if students are all learning the same things in college, their ability to thrive (and avoid complacency) in an environment that rewards new and exciting ideas may be limited.

It’s important to note that while every institution used to be able to tell you what you needed to do to function best, the innovation-centric workplace will always be hungry for new, different, un-mined ideas. So if we’re going to become exceptional there, we need to become exceptions.

The best way, it seems, to prevent yourself from becoming one of the sheep is to vary your life experiences. As Steve Jobs used to say, developing a breadth of knowledge through life experiences is essential to real connections with other individuals–an essential requirement for a successful career.

But enough from just us: To open a discussion about the article we asked our readers (that’s you) on Facebook if anything they learned in school really helped them do better at work, or if all of their learning experiences came from within the workplace.

Below, we’ve included some of our favorite–and what we feel are the most informative and thorough–answers. If you have any additional points, please add them in the comments.

School is a training ground, but real experience is priceless.


School teaches you to think critically and finish something. It also teaches you to interact with others and is practice. However, actual job experience–having to rise to the challenge in a “real” situation is unparalleled. Internships should be required to graduate. And people should worry less in college and have fun. You’re gonna work a looong time! –Lauren Vogt

Mentorship and real-life experience offer the skills of a college education.

Learned my path by walking it. Did not attend college. I’m not anti-college, depending on what it’s for. As for people and social skills, they are learned throughout your life. These are the skills that will take you wherever you want to go. At almost 50 years old, I now run my own successful businesses and even more importantly I coach others and help them develop the life and/or biz that they desire. So, I definitely lean toward learning more on the job. There is no better teacher than experience. –Walt Ford

Ideally, both experiences–in the classroom and the workplace–should complement each other

I worked nearly full-time all the way thru college and grad school, and part-time during most of high school. So I was constantly inter-applying what I learned from school with what I learned from work, and vice versa. Best way to grow up, in my opinion! –Sarah K Asaftei

The creativity nurtured in the classroom is key.

Studying and practicing Fine Arts in college opened a million + doors for me. Everything is possible. If it is not “Art,” then it is “Art Supplies.” Nothing is absolute. Creativity and a good attitude are great sleds for the long traverse. –David McGinn

Join the discussion below: Does anything you learned in school really help you do better at work, or did you learn everything on the job?

[Image: Flickr user Alex]

About the author

Former Editorial Assistant Miles Kohrman helped run Fast Company's homepage and completed miscellaneous tasks around the newsroom. He is a 2013 graduate of The New School.