Lessons from Night ClassPosted: September 2, 2013
As I may have mentioned before, I’m still pursuing my college degree, mostly out of masochism, but also due to a deeply rooted sense of self-hatred. Due to the fact that I have an actual job (unlike most college students and, apparently, most college graduates from the last few years) this means I have to take night classes. (Online courses? Never heard of them. I go to a school whose motto is “Where crushing innovation is tradition.”) What with the commute from work, parking, and the scheduling of such things, my classes don’t start until after 7PM and run until 10PM. This has given me the opportunity to learn some lessons that I believe would translate well into the business environment, lessons that are more implicit in nature. They won’t show up on any tests, but believe me; they’ll be more valuable than knowing who was the first Roman Emperor.
First, respect my time. This covers a lot of ground, but the first example I’ll give is the guy in class who asks a question (usually at the end of class when everyone wants to go home) that is completely irrelevant to everyone but him. For every minute you are speaking, you are wasting a minute of every single other person’s time in the class. Do that in a meeting in a business environment and you’ll be lucky if you’re politely told to “take it offline”, which is a nice way to say STFU and discuss it later. If you’re unlucky you’ll just be told STFU.
The flip side of this is the professor who keeps the class past the scheduled time. Look, I realize you think your bloviating is the most important thing in the universe, and we’re all paying just for the privilege of hearing it. Let me correct that misperception: we’re paying for the degree. Listening to you drone on is part of the price, not a benefit. In a business environment the guy who drones on like this doesn’t get invited to meetings, which is a great strategy right up until you discover you’re out of the loop, not involved in projects, and oh yeah, no longer necessary at this company and there’s the door.
Second, respect my opinions. I’m not suggesting you have to agree with everything I have to say (lord knows I think 90% of people are idiots), but at least hear me out. And don’t just sit there spending the time planning what you’re going to say when my lips stop moving, actually listen to what I’m saying. Process the information, and form a cogent response. Even more importantly, be aware of whether you are actually adding value to the conversation or if you are only speaking because you feel the need to “get your two cents in”. The guy who has to be heard on every issue is the guy who nobody wants to work with, and believe me when I say that there is nobody who is so highly skilled that they are irreplaceable if they are intolerable.
Third, respect the space. I don’t know what it is about night courses, but people come in with food and drinks all the time (too rushed to grab dinner on the way in, I guess) and then leave their trash lying there when they finish. This kind of disrespect for public space says as much about you as your appearance. Whether or not there’s janitorial staff is irrelevant; that’s the moral equivalent of saying “Mom will pick it up.” Act like an adult and clean up after yourself. There are plenty of public spaces in an office, such as meeting rooms, kitchens, and break rooms, and if you treat them the same way as you treat those classrooms, you’re going to find yourself out on the trash heap next to your trash.
It doesn’t take much, but it makes a big difference. Pay attention to these little details, show a little respect, and you’ll be a better student and a better coworker.