Bennis Inc. | What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.
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What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.

What I wish My College Professors Would Have Taught Me: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.

There are some things that can and will never be taught in the classroom. Maybe it’s because those topics are seen as too radical or have been flagged as a lawsuit risk, but truly these are the missing pieces of wisdom that leave many college grads as an incomplete puzzle with still much to figure out in the real world. In the spirit of Back-to-School, this will be a 5-part series exploring the top lessons I wish would have been included in my own college degree. It’s blunt and it’s honest, but it’s sure to be interesting.

Lesson three: In the real world, you’re not expected to have every answer.

Pop quizzes and cumulative exams have taught us to panic at the thought of not knowing every answer. But this neither prepares us for reality nor sets realistic expectations. If you think you know everything, you’re going to learn nothing from life. Instead, I wish at least one of my professors would have tested us not on our ability to memorize answers but to handle questions we had no way of knowing the answer to in a professional and educated manner.

This would have been the ultimate test to our ability to survive the real world.

I have yet to make a pitch to a client where I haven’t been asked at least one question that I had to go home, gather more information and get back to them about. I feel like being able to openly admit when you don’t know the answer is both humanizing and demonstrating your thoroughness of getting an accurate answer rather than faking one just to look good. I’m not saying DON’T be knowledgeable in your field, but focus more of your efforts on being a genuine and approachable person who has a sincere desire to seek the answers they don’t know.  This will win you more business and more respect than by being a know-it-all or rather—a “fake-it-all.”

In case you missed a few “classes”, here’s some reading homework:

Lesson One: Group projects can be completed alone.

Lesson Two: It’s okay to NOT like everyone you work with.

Stephanie Shirley

stephanie@bennisinc.com