Three Things They Don’t Teach You in School

And What You Can Do about it
Adulthood can’t come soon enough. Although we think we have many years to prepare, when it comes, we realize how unprepared we are. As you start your first job, you may realize all the things your teachers never taught you but are essential for adulthood. To help, I will share three things they don’t teach you in school (i.e., learning how to communicate and negotiate, understanding financial literacy, and health benefits) and what you can do to be proactive and begin to prepare for your future.

1. How to communicate and negotiate
School does not teach students how to integrate or develop communication skills, which are necessary both in and outside of the workplace. How you communicate in an interview can be the deal breaker or deal maker in whether you get the job or not. Equally important is knowing how to negotiate for what you want, including salary – something I didn’t know how to do because my teachers didn’t teach me.

How can students be proactive?

  • Think before you speak to convey your message clearly.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, there are no dumb questions.
  • Develop your communication skills by joining organizations, clubs, and sports.
  • Practice active listening when others are talking by maintaining eye contact and good body language.
  • Ask open-ended questions to allow respondents to include more information, such as attitudes and understanding of the subject.
  • Acquire negotiating skills through practicing, asking questions, allowing silence, practicing deflection strategies, and by ensuring your goal is a win-win.

2. Financial Literacy
School also falls short in teaching financial literacy. Banking, budgeting, taxes, and the development of proper financial habits are all essential to adulthood that go largely undiscussed. Without proper research and advising, bad budgeting and lack of information regarding banking and taxes can be detrimental. For example, if you don’t know what your budget is and how taxes and medical contributions affect your take-home pay, then you may end up accepting a job offer that does not meet your financial needs. Also, passing up on 401ks because you don’t understand them can cause you to lose thousands of dollars in free money through company matching and compound interest. My family did not teach me about the importance of opening a 401k and this resulted in a huge loss of savings for my future.

How can students be proactive?

  • Ask your school if it offers a life skills course elective or if the university career centers have workshops. These resources are oftentimes available, but the key is knowing to look.
  • Check for free online courses or YouTube videos on topics such as: how to create a budget, opening a checking/savings account, difference between a bank/credit union, interest rates and what happens after 0% expires, obtaining money orders, filing taxes, w2 forms, opening a 401k, etc.

3. Health Benefits
Health benefits are so important for our well-being and financial health, and yet the school system lacks education on these aspects. When searching for a job, it’s important to look for an employer that offers good health benefits that enhance your overall compensation package and help keep you healthy and happy.

How can students be proactive?
Familiarize yourself with benefit options to make filling out the paperwork when hired that much easier. This facilitates the likelihood of selecting the right plans and decreases the likelihood of a financial mess when an incident occurs. Do your research by asking:

  • What is the average price of health insurance?
  • Difference between HMO, PPO, HSA?
  • What is a deductible?
  • What is a copay?

Although school helps students prepare for their career, it lacks teaching many important aspects that also mold their future. Thankfully, we are in an age where there is an abundance of resources that can be tapped into through our networks and the internet. Invest in your future and be proactive – think “what knowledge am I lacking and how can I learn more?”

Guest Blogger, Jassmine Gonzalez, is a Human Resource Intern at Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE) within the University Recruiting team. She is a rising senior at the University of Houston majoring in Marketing and Management. Jassmine continuously seeks opportunities to be a more well-rounded individual and is very active within various university programs. She currently serves as President of the UH Society for Human Resources Management chapter.

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