Real World Ready?

Are you making the transition from college into the Real World? Or are you a parent / employer / friend of someone who is?

This is probably one of the most challenging moves we make as adults. And unlike many others – not a lot is out there to guide us. You can buy books and read Harvard Business Review articles about what to do as a new manager, leading a new team, starting a new company or project, but not much on diving into the Real World, as an Apprentice… something we ALL inevitably do.

I think back to my own experience - growing up in a union, blue collar Chicago family and going to work for a Fortune 100 Technology company. – I was naïve and too often – lacked confidence.

So after 20+ years of working with or for Fortune 100 companies and teaching at the University level, here is some advice that I hope will empower you (or your people) as you transition into the Real World. ​​

So yes, first, realize that college has probably not prepared you for everything. Real World skills are more than academic. Our start-up kit should include learnings, advice, knowledge and experiences from parents, siblings, coaches, and people-in-the-know. We all need such skills as business acumen, and emotional intelligence in order to survive and thrive. But to start, I would encourage you to focus on the following:

  • Communication

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  • Open-mindedness 49 % ​

  • Humility

  • Confidence

  • Stamina

  • Emotional Intelligence


Some theorists think that communication is the reason we are all here – on earth. Although I am a professor of Communication at two Chicago land universities, I am not in this pack of thinking. Although I do believe communication is one of the most important life skills. I just don’t think it is our purpose on earth. I consider it to be a tool, a skill and an art. And the good news is – research suggests we can improve our communication skills – whether we are starting as mediocre or fabulous!

Keep in mind that communication has several aspects and we should be good at all of them. It is not just about talking. The other, and probably more important ones, to consider:

  • Interpersonal – Interacting successfully with others

  • Intrapersonal – Thinking, which in turn, helps us to be articulate

  • Listening - Perhaps the MOST important, but under-utilized

  • Mediated - Using email, and other technologies to communicate

  • Public Speaking & Presentations - Being able to present in a competent and confident way at meetings, workshops, conferences

  • Writing - I personally believe writing is a critically important skill. So if you are good at writing – show off!

And with all communication, I recommend that we keep in mind these important ABC’s:

  • Appearance

  • Body Language44 % ​

  • Credibility


As I say in one college syllabus – “Have an Open, but not empty-mind.” It’s easy to say we are open-minded and non-judgmental. Yet we all know people who are close-minded and don’t realize it. Well, just in case – don’t be like that!

Open-mindedness requires active listening. It is listening to everyone’s ideas, and considering options other than what we have in mind. Being open-minded and receptive can lead to creative, new and unique solutions.

Humility and Confidence

Humility means we are less important that the cause or the people or the organization. If it is of paramount importance to you that you receive CREDIT for ideas, or projects or success – this could be a showstopper. You might disagree, and that’s OK. But some of the most influential people in history did not seek out credit for what they did.

Being humble means not being the most important person in the room or the project or the company. The opposite? Ego. Arrogance. And no one likes those characteristics.

However, we should be confident. Confidence is an important personal, professional and leadership characteristic. But don't confuse confidence with arrogance. Confidence starts with a belief in self and is often portrayed through Nonverbals (body language).

More on Stamina and Emotional Intelligence later! In the meantime, we have numerous resources, videos, podcasts, webinar recordings and tips on our website – to help as you take the leap into the Real World!

#millennials #college #realworld #parents #employer

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