School’s works and industry’s works

When college graduates begin to work in the industry, they will be facing an environment that is so different from what they are familiar with in school. The transition from academic to industry is confusing even for the well prepared students. That is why many often make mistakes that can be avoided with proper guidance.

In school, most works are “individual based” but at work, all works are “team based”. Without teamwork skills, you will not succeed and may be considered by others as “Arrogant” or “Un-cooperative”. You need to learn that project works are divided among team members with assigned roles and responsibilities. Depend on the roles; you must follow given instructions to work as part of a team. You must share information with team members and any decision must be discussed with the team for approval as coordination and cooperation are essential for the team to succeed. If you do not know or are not sure, ask the team leader or project manager.

At work, team members discuss assignments and status on a daily or weekly basis. During the discussion, you must learn to keep a positive attitude. Try to keep your view of other members to yourself by avoid criticize anybody. It is the project manager's job to evaluate team members, not you. In school, there are top of the class students and bottom of the class students but at work everybody is equal members of a team. Do not try to be a “hero” or show superior to anyone. There is no place for hero in teamwork.

In the industry, project's activities are always planned with assigned tasks and schedules. Team members must follow the plan to make sure that things will work well together. Unfortunately, manystudents are NOT taught about follow a planed approach so they often do things according to their own thinking. Students must understand that planning optimizes resources as each member has a role to play. Doing things individually often create conflicts that could be unproductive.

In school, some students often wait for the last minute before exam and cram instead of steadily studying. They think cramming at the last minute will help them to remember things better. At work, you should not wait until the last minute to do your work because you never have enough time to finish it and any delay on your task may impact others. In the industry, time is equivalent to money, a miss schedule causes wasting project money. You must follow the plan and schedules carefully and avoid any delay.

Some students' behavior is tolerated in school but NOT at work. Students may misbehave during school activities due to their immature and get away with it. At work, you must act professionally. Certain behaviors, certain phrases, certain languages are NOT acceptable because there are rules and etiquette that you must follow as you are responsible for your activities.

In school, knowledge is mostly based on books and curriculum. At work, you should explore other means to keep your skills as current as possible.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University

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