Why do students prepare for school but fail to prepare for a career?

I am not alone in my respect and admiration for Coach John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach at UCLA whose teams won 11 national titles during his tenure. Known more as a teacher than a coach, his simple but insightful concepts are relevant not only to athletes but to anyone seeking to better themselves.

One of his favorite bromides is “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” Many of us have learned the hard way that his advice is spot on. So when it comes to finding a career, why is it that most students who will spend all night studying for a test will show up for a job interview sorely unprepared?

“But I did prepare,” complains the student when the interview does not go well. He arrived on time, may even have had a copy of a resume; nevertheless, no match occurred.

I believe the answer lies in how students prepare for school compared to how they prepare for careers. Students begin studying when children. Whether an academic subject or an extracurricular activity, by the time a student is ready to graduate from college, they have spent hundreds or thousands of hours preparing to be expert in their field of study. Yet when they transition towards a career, they have spent almost no time preparing to demonstrate why they are the right person for the job.

Preparing to be a competent job seeker requires the same intensity, focus and practice that students apply elsewhere in their studies. And as with most new pursuits, there will be failures before success. It is therefore better to experience and learn from those failures as soon as possible so that success comes as quickly as possible also.

Steve Giusto

CEO, Purposely