Things I wish I Learned in Grad School

By Dana Shreve

$24,000 spent on graduate course work at a four year university. In three years, I learned the history, theories, current practices and upcoming technologies for my profession and a second degree.

What I did not learn was how to survive on internships, part-time work, minimum wage and a car that always needed repair. The professors warn you at the beginning of the program that the job market is fiercely competitive and that we students would not be raking in piles of money. So where was the class that provided feedback on job searching, resume building, and the like? Some professors would allow for meetings to help with such topics, but they were usually trying to finish their research, grade assignments and eat lunch.

Why not give students recipes on how to be creative with Ramen noodles or where to find the best deals on Red Bull? Or how to un-jam a stapler, copier or printer? How about tips on how to get toner out of khaki pants or ink out of a blouse? These are the life skills that should be taught before graduation.

With that, I propose the following coursework to be taught concurrently with the Final Project or Practicum. 16 week course, two days a week

Weeks 1-7
Computer Basics
Turning on the Computer
Locating the Volume Button

Office Basics
Jams: Staplers, Copiers, and Printers
Refills: Paper, Toner/Ink, Paperclips

Wardrobe Basics
Stains: Toner/Ink, Coffee, Lipstick
Casual versus Professional

Dental Hygiene
Coffee Drinkers and Smokers: Breath Mints Please!
Removing Food from Teeth: Tooth Picks, Not Pen Caps

Email Etiquette
Grammar, Punctuation, and NO CAPS
How to Reply, Reply All, and Forward

Telephone Etiquette
How to Answer and Transfer
Volume Control

Break Room Etiquette
Eat What You Bring, Not Others People’s Food
What Not to Heat Up in the Microwave (e.g. fish)

Week 8: Midterm
1000 word essay on Ramen noodles and pizza

Weeks 9-15
Job Searching Tips
Where to Find a Job
How to Apply Only Once

Resumes and Cover Letters
One Page or Two?
How to Give Them What They Want

Interview Basics
Why Do You Want to Work Here?
What to Do With Your Hands

Online or Notebook?
When Is Too Much?

Associations and Affiliations
How to Join Before Graduation
No, Webkinz Does Not Meet Requirements

Difficult People
When it’s Your Boss
When it’s Your Cubicle-Mate

HOV hours
How to Dress the Dummy

Week 16: Final
1000 word essay on how to keep your job

For supplement information on how to live in the real world, workshops would be available, each a 2 day session.

Car Repair: Duct Tape and Coat Hangers
Ramen Noodles and Pop Tarts:
How to Survive in College
How to Crank Out 10 Pages in Two Hours
How to Survive on Minimum Wage:
Get Another Job
When 24 Hours Are Not Enough:
Surviving the Deadline

Yes, if only some of my college tuition had gone to this coursework or workshops, I would be a better employee. No longer would I have to call for maintenance, computer help desk or my mom.

(Dana is currently the Electronic Resources Librarian at Grand Canyon University, and she loves her job, really.)

4 thoughts on “Things I wish I Learned in Grad School

  1. LOL. Very funny, but true. The practical side of career prep and life skills that higher education rarely deals with. What? you shouldn’t be eating a bowl of Rice Crispies at the reference desk?? Who knew? I went to grad school after twenty years in the working world, but I look back to some of my clueless behavior in my undergraduate days and cringe. 🙂

  2. Great list!
    I’d like to add “Smelly Foods in the Office Dos and Don’ts: How best to NOT alienate your coworkers.”

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