I know a young lady who has recently graduated from college and is embarking on her career. A career, which by this time has been well in the works for a few years as she has taken advantage of many opportunities throughout college to pursue interests and demonstrate her motivation, drive, and skills. She is very impressive, and I have already put out recommendations on her behalf.

As she was preparing for graduation, we had one of our regular coffee chats, and she was telling me about her career search. The conversation turned to her schooling and the path she'd taken from high school graduation to college graduation. During this conversation she revealed what I believe is a significant differentiator for all students and business people who wish to get ahead.

She went to a private school her first year of college and didn't do well. She then came back home and went to community college to figure out what she wanted to do. From there, she transferred to a state university, where I met her, and that is where she said she became a student. It was there that she realized the key to a successful education was that the education doesn't end when the bell rings. That is actually just the beginning.

She said to me,

"It's not like high school where you just do assigned homework after class. After class you need to study what you learned in class. Regardless of homework or assignments, you just need to study the subject to really understand it and be able to use the information."

What a simple concept this is for everyone who is trying to learn something new (say, changing a business model) or keep up with the changes going on around us everyday (like HCR and the demands of employee satisfaction).

It is a lesson to live by

Doing the minimum will not get you ahead, and likely will not even keep you where you are for very long. To get ahead, you have to study, regardless of the assignments or tests in your immediate future.

The difference between those who know a few statistics and those who know how to diagnose root issues and apply solutions is profound. That difference lies in understanding the implications across the organization. And this knowledge is learned though study and application of ideas in actual workplace settings, and then studying or analyzing the results to learn for the next application.

It's this recognition so early in her schooling and career that has clearly made her such a standout. Ask yourself, are you studying after class lets out, or are you shelving those thoughts until class is back in session a couple of days later?

Photo by dcJohn.