Recently our Creative Director Jason spoke to an advertising class filled with upper level college students at Westminster College. One question that was brought up was quite interesting: “What did you learn on the job that you didn’t learn in school?” This marketing class was about to get the inside scoop from Jason — classroom learning is very different from hands-on application, but there are merits to both.

When it comes down to it, there is only so much that can be learned in the classroom. You cover a ton of material, but think you may never apply a huge chunk of it. This lack of hands-on application leaves the student with a nice, high level understanding without the actual benefit of applying this knowledge to the real world.

Once you find a job in the ‘real world’, start by actually doing. If you are having trouble finding a job, offer to work for free.Shadow a trainer, watch over a shoulder a few times, fully immerse yourself; there is no better way to learn than to jump right in. After all, the best way to learn how to swim is to be pushed into the deep end. Granted there is potential risk involved, but the poor soul who got pushed in always ends up with more experience and applicable knowledge than the one too afraid to take a risk.

Experience becomes the bottom line. It is no wonder that many business schools require students to complete an internship. They are valuable learning experiences and provide a hands-on training. You learn by doing, and an internship is a great way to test your hand in the field you are pursuing. Sure, sometimes as an intern you sit in meetings and wonder why you’re there, or ask ‘what is grabbing coffee going to teach me?’. But even the most mundane and simple jobs begin to teach you how to act professionally. Don’t be late, don’t speak out of place, don’t forget that Bill wants two sugars and no cream, learn how to market yourself, shake hands and kiss babies. Immerse yourself into a field and you will learn more than any book could teach you.

Now I would like to backtrack a bit and let you know that I am not advocating skipping school altogether. While school does not give you the hands-on experience necessary to instantly thrive in the workplace, it does teach you very crucial lessons that you can’t learn on your own.Time management for starters, how to work in groups, how to ask for help, and how to balance your life. Not to mention the mass amounts of academic information you may or may not have remembered.