Students: Stop Thinking Uni Isn’t the Real World

For my entire time studying at university I often hear lecturers, tutors and students talk about this thing called ‘the real world’. Having spent eight years working and travelling before university, I was confused by this term. Studying at university IS the real world – you’re just not treating it that way.

I am going to put things into perspective for you and show how university is just like working in a big organisation.


Think of your lectures like big, interdepartmental or company-wide meetings. They’re not as frequent in the workplace, but they do happen. In both situations, a few key people will deliver important information that will affect you in some way. You need to be able to pay attention, no matter how boring it may seem. A person who is attentive can use this information to their advantage. Not only is this good for you, but using this information makes you look better to your superiors.

Lesson: Pay attention and take notes, it’s important.


These are your department meetings. They happen pretty regularly and you will be expected to have some input. In the workplace you will be updating the rest of the team on what you have been doing, and what’s coming up next. If the person managing things is organised, then they will hopefully give you an agenda beforehand, however this is pretty rare in my experience. Either way, you need to come prepared to talk – so know your stuff and have notes handy if you need to. Also, be ready to take notes from others as there may be info which affects you.

If you come to one of these unprepared, not only will you look incompetent, it will negatively affect your marks or yearly review.

Lesson: be prepared to update the department and take notes from others.

Group assignments

In the workforce, you will probably need to work with other people either outside or inside your department on a specific project. You probably won’t have any choice as to who you work with, so be prepared for anyone. University, just like the workforce, will present you with a mixed bag of people. Some will be hopeless and you will just have to deal with them; others you will get along with socially and end up as friends outside of the office; while a rare few will be absolute superstars, so keep in contact and network effectively. There will be a set outcome with a set deadline, and meeting this could be challenging, so be ready for anything. Group assignments will give you the people skills to effectively handle anything that comes your way. If you feel up to it, now is the time to develop your leadership skills.

Lesson: dealing with all sorts of people is a valuable skill so make the most of this opportunity.

Individual assignments

Your boss may ask you to research and put together a report to convince senior management to take some sort of action. Like any individual assignment, the task may be vague or specific. While university assignments have learning outcomes and marking rubric’s, you might just get a short email from your boss in the workplace. It is absolutely essential you ask the right questions, especially if it is a vague request. Your report must solve a specific problem, answer a specific question or make a specific argument for some action. Your report must be logical and evidence-based, regardless of the discipline in which you are working. The ability to communicate clearly will put you in good stead in the future.

Lesson: Proper question asking and clear writing is essential

Study Time

Sweet, sweet study time! An opportunity to focus and maybe relax. Put your earphones in and crank up the tunes! A time to get something done!

This is when you must be able to prioritise your work-load and get shit done (I like to call it GSD session). What’s important here is the ability to show results, not just put in face time for the sake of appearances. Write down a list of things that need to be achieved before you get started. Then you need to stick to this list and avoid distraction. Don’t fall into the trap of ‘multitasking’ – it doesn’t exist and only reduces your effectiveness. Lastly, ensure you have regular breaks and get up from your chair.

Lesson: The ability to work effectively unsupervised is an essential skill that is highly valuable.

So how can you apply this? You can avoid stereotyping in your job interview – something that happens more than you think. You can now also say that you are able to work effectively in a group with anyone; contribute in a meeting environment and work independently.

There you have it folks – you’re already in the real world. Use this information to help get yourself job ready to give you the edge. As always, remember to Keep It Simple Sunshine

Do you have any other suggestions as to how university and work are the same? I’d love to hear your insights in the comments below, and maybe do a follow up to this post.


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This blog post is the third in a new series authored by The Job Search Coach marketing intern Jasha Andrews. Jasha has been invited as a Guest blogger to TJSC to help uni students hunt smarter for a position. If you are a regular reader, this could be the refresher that you need on basic job hunting.