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School, Work… What’s the Difference?

Helping Our Children to Make the Transition

Last time we spoke about those young adults who would not be going off to university but would instead be going off to work. Maybe you have a child or a young friend who will be looking a job and would benefit from the advice below. Today I want to talk a little bit about how work and school resemble each other … and also about how they don’t.

Whatever your hands find to do
Ecclesiastes 9:10
transition from school to work

Photo taken by Shantel P. 

5 Ways Work is a Lot Like School

1. You have specified amount of time that you are allowed to be absent – Typically, schools require that you attend at least 90 percent of the classes for the school year in order to matriculate to the next level. Failure to do so may see you repeating a grade. On average there are 180 days in a school year which means you have to be present for at least 162 school days. That’s 18 sick days for the year!

Your employer, on the other hand, only allows you 10 sick days for the year. In Jamaica, sick time (with pay) may be taken after the first three months. An employee accrues 1 sick day every 22 days. Time over the ten days may either be taken from an employee’s vacation balance or docked from their pay.

In the US, Federal Law dictates that an employee who is unable to work because of sickness should have his wages replaced either by the employer or by a third-party. However, each state has specific criteria that must be met.

2. Punctuality is a big deal – When I was going to high school there were two start times: the time that school actually began which was 8:00 am (9:00am EST) and the time you were marked late – usually about 8:15am or 8:20am when devotion had ended and the class register was being marked. There were a lot of times that I was saved by this grace period.

A little secret … most employers don’t offer grace periods.  The time is either docked from your pay or expected to be worked back. If you are in your probationary period you may not be confirmed if you have tardiness issues and if you are already on staff there may be disciplinary measures.

3. There are rules and there are penalties for breaking them – Some employers give you a handbook which is really just a list of their rules and expectations. Most companies have an orientation during which you are exposed to the general rules and guidelines that govern the organization. If your manager or supervisor does not have an orientation with you, ask for one. The last thing you want to happen is to be terminated for breaking a rule you didn’t know existed.

4. You have to be open to learning – Even if the job is in the field that you studied in school for the last ten years, it’s not going to look like the textbook scenarios. Be prepared to learn how your new employer expects things to be done.

Be open to change – that’s how you’ll become an expert at doing your job and open yourself up to opportunities like lateral transfers and promotions.

5. There are a lot of different personality types crammed into a tiny, little space – Unless you are working for a very small company – in which case you only have to share space with your boss – the work world will be filled with people from different ethnicities, socializations, political outlook, sexual orientation, religious belief and the list goes on. Diversity is to be expected in the working world.

Tweet: You write your own resume ... be careful what you put on it. http://bit.ly/2crvZF0

5 Ways Work is Very Different than School

1. You have to “play nice” – Back in high school my friends and I were very cliquish. If we didn’t like you we didn’t speak to you. Period.

Thinking back I can’t even tell you why most persons were excluded from our group … maybe a few persons had different interests than us. But in a lot of cases (all of them?) we had no valid reason to not like the person and we had absolutely no qualms about sharing our disinterest.

We stuck to our side of the school yard and they stuck to theirs.

At work … eh, not so much. You have to be civil to everyone. It doesn’t matter how you feel about them. Personal disagreements have no place within a team. Do you have to go out for drinks after work with that individual you don’t like? No (not unless it is a company event). Do you have to be polite and professional? Absolutely.

2. There is no such thing as “extra-credit” – Do you remember how in high school you could do extra work and maybe improve your grades? In the working work “extra work” is in most cases required and will not be paid for.  Unless you are an hourly paid or unionized employee, in most cases overtime will not be paid.

3. In some cases there’s no one interested in “making you succeed” - Your employer has a business to run and given the current job market there are a lot more dogs than bones (this just means that there are a lot more people looking to be employed than there are jobs available). For that reason most employers are not really focused on employee-retention. They do the minimum required and that’s it. The onus will be on you to ensure that everything is done to retain your employment.

4. Productivity may affect your salary – While there isn’t always an incentive driven factor on your regular salary, more employers are moving towards an incentive based system of payment. This means that a good portion of your salary will be based on your performance.

At one of the companies that I worked, not only was my incentive (which was at the time 60% of my salary) based on my performance, it was also based on the results of my team.  I spent a lot of hours coaching and doing make-up audits so that my team members and I could go home with decent salaries.

Your company may also offer discretionary bonuses such as perfect attendance awards or year-end bonuses that are based on your ability to meet preset criteria.

5. There are no mid-terms, weekends or extended holidays – This is the thing I miss most about school and every summer holiday I wish I had taken my mother’s advice and become a teacher. Remember how I told you earlier that there are on average 180 days in the school year? Well, there are 260 working days per year. That’s a difference of 80 days! Even when we take out our vacation time (usually 10 days for the first 5 years) and the 10 sick days (which should only be used in the event of actual sickness), that’s still a 2 month difference in expected attendance.  That’s a huge difference. And these are just some of the things that can be expected as we transition into the working world.

Another point of interest: some employers work 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. A shift can cover any 8 to 9 ½ hour period during that time. Sleeping in on weekends may become a thing of the past for you and you may find that your week begins on a Wednesday or a Thursday which will serve to make you completely confused.

One final tip: you write your own resume. Sure you may hate the job that you’re doing and are actively seeking your way out … you may believe that you can get by doing the bare minimum to not get fired…

Maybe you’re doing a convincing job, but at some point you’re going to want to move on either in your career or on to further your education. You may need that same employer to whom you gave slip-shod work to write a reference letter for you. While employers will not necessarily write a negative review, they have the right to refuse to recommend you. Or they can write a bare bones letter which just says, “Yes she worked here. These are the dates.”

The habits we form follow us through life. A lazy employee at one company will more than likely be a lazy employee with a new employer. Either that or they will feel completely overwhelmed because they had gotten into a habit of only putting in a little bit of effort.

I want us to remember also that while we may elude the eyes of men, our heavenly Father sees everything that we do and he knows our motivation. So yes, we may get away with mediocre work but ultimately we are painting a poor picture of Christ and making it difficult for our brothers and sisters who come after us.

We want it to be said that Christians are the best employees to have in your business and not that they are the laziest set of people to ever be employed.  We are on earth to work on our character and if we don’t do that, then there is no reward for us in heaven.

Add to this list: what are some of the differences and similarities between work and school? How can we help our children to be better stewards as they transition into the working world?

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