Does Education Prepare You for the Office?

With many years of business behind me, I began to ponder the question “Does education really prepare you for the working world? Honestly, I would answer yes, and no. Education teaches us fundamental skills like reading, writing, math and depending on what we study and how far we go, things like history, geography, philosophy and a concentration in a field.

I have been blessed with an education that included a fairly rigorous high school, engineering school and later in life got an MBA. Though these have made a huge difference in what I am capable of I would also credit all the years I have worked in anything from manual labor to project teams.

“Street Smart is an alternative form of ‘streetwise’. This word is succinctly defined as being the knowledge and experience required to handle dangers and potential difficulties in life in an urban setting. Book smart is defined as having knowledge obtained from study and books; bookish and scholarly. This word is often used to imply someone lacks an understanding of the world or common sense.”

When I attended WPI, they were known for their education system called “The Plan”. It was project-based and prepared you for immediate integration for the environment your education field would be typically like. Mechanical engineers worked in teams to solve a design issue; chemists worked independently on a research project.

Why are we so concerned with education? It is the basis of B2B interactions. For example, if we are existing in a global economy, isn’t it helpful to know the distance between Topeka, Kansas, and Boston or the time difference to Australia? In some circles the universities where you studied put us in a more elite echelon of clients. If you have continued onwards in the system and you might add an MBA, a Ph.D., and other degrees. What does that bring you? Greater knowledge, greater trust and hopefully, greater income.

On the other hand, no education can prepare you the way practical experience can. Dealing with others, office politics, and dealing with the general public, being in an urban setting, having street smarts is valuable. Some lucrative paths like the trades or programming, it isn’t where you studied, but what do you know. I have been blessed to experience many situations for physical labor, the restaurant industry, research labs, event marketing, warehouses, hospitals, offices, and even retail. I believe having a combination of both is very useful.  skills I have mastered on my path like cold calling, packing and shipping internationally, dealing with tourists from many countries have been extremely helpful.  Having an advanced education has helped with problem-solving, interacting globally and of course writing!

I wanted to know what the current consensus is and read a few things.” If you believe a university degree alone will get you there, you may have some re-thinking to do. A new report released last week by the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) found that only a third of executives, and a quarter of hiring managers, believe graduates possess the skills and knowledge to advance or be promoted Chronicle report.”

Both groups consider the following learning outcomes as the most important: oral communication, critical thinking, ethical judgment, teamwork, written communication, and real-world application of knowledge and skills. There is great emphasis on skills and knowledge that cut across majors, and what many would argue are more likely to be gained from a liberal arts education. Real-world industry experience and continued learning matters too. Internships or apprenticeships give fresh graduates “an edge” over those without.

For me, my education gave me training in how to think and solve problems either in materials or with communications. My street smarts give me good gut instincts about people and makes me very situationally aware. I am grateful for all I have learned but happy to know that my more out of the book skills have helped me deal with people from every walk of life and social status.

Education is not a preparation for life, education is life itself.

~John Dewey


Cynthia Kosciuczyk, MBA
Cynthia Kosciuczyk, MBA
I took the less-traveled roads which led to many careers. Each of these contributed to my unique mix of expertise: science research, teaching, food, art, and textiles. Owning and operating my own businesses (a bakery, a gallery, and a consulting business) thrust me into the driver seat of learning many diverse roles from customer service to public relations and resulted in my unique management style. Participating in the creation of startups, working in design, and my own businesses and technology endeavors. My quest for knowledge and seeking out the best has turned me into a networking enthusiast. A lifelong passion for textiles and Persian rugs taught me an array of professional skills such as research, writing, and community events. Networking resulted in a multitude of business opportunities. My experiences include Management, Entrepreneurship, Sales, Design, Descriptive Writing, Business Strategy, Color, and Textiles. Every facet of my work and life comes together like pieces of a puzzle. I strive to be a phenomenal networker and problem solver who continues to learn and grow.

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  1. Cynthia, you are asking a great question. In our early years, we learn things like math, social studies and more as a base. As time progresses we learn more. Going back I always wondered why is it I needed to know some of these things as they seem to be of little use later on. Spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. are critical to know. Skills for work you develop as you go along. I learned how to work in an office when I started to work in an office. Part of my job was filing alphabetically which I learned in Elementary School. Everything else I learned on my own. The streets provided me with a different education that also served me well as time went along.