This is the start of the preface of my book about unlearning from school, beginning with the book-jacket bio. And a little gift for S.*
Rosa Mikeal Martey has been studying work and job-seeking for over 20 years. She has a Master’s degree in labor economics and a Ph.D. in communication, both from the University of Pennsylvania. After working as a strategic planner for the international advertising agency J. Walter Thompson, she spent some time as an entreprenurial development director for a non-profit in the northeast United States. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Communication at Colorado State University.
You’ve been in school pretty much your whole life. And in school, you learned a lot of things about what success is, what it feels and looks like, and how to get it. Sure, you may not always have followed those lessons exactly. Maybe you skipped a few classes, or maybe you did an assignment not quite the way the instructor asked you to. Maybe breaking the rules worked for you sometimes, maybe it didn’t. But the world you were living in, a school world, was your point of reference. It set the boundaries, defined the Good and the Bad, told you the Right Answer, and gave you a system to work in or fight against. Whether you loved it or hated it, from the age of 5 you were taught a set of rules from school that helped you survive – maybe even thrive.
Now it’s time to unlearn those rules because – sorry – most of that stuff is useless now.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that school taught you useless rules for school. And not everything school taught you is useless by any means. Some pretty helpful things are in those rules. Ask questions. Listen. Take notes. Do your homework. Be respectful. Take care of yourself. The school rules you learned did a pretty good job of laying out what you needed to succeed back then.
But the work world is a different world, with different rules, and most of the rules school taught you about success don’t work on the job market. That’s why you’re reading this book. You need to unlearn those old rules.
I’m going to tell you that there is no clear path of progression from grade to grade. That what you did in school, internships, and summer jobs isn’t why people will hire you. I’ll break it to you that the most successful work isn’t about quality. That getting to the page limit actually means you didn’t work hard enough. I’ll explain why you shouldn’t close the book and work independently. I’ll let you down easy about the fact that getting the right answer isn’t the point. And I’ll tell you what you already know: failing isn’t actually a sign you’re doing the wrong thing.
Okay, well, I’m a professor. I can’t just leave you like that. So after you unlearn the old rules, I’ll talk about a few things you can learn. And yes, they will be on the test. But I promise you can get an A if you try. It just might not quite be the A you were thinking of.
* If I were extraordinarily clever, I would write a book about how going from school to the work world is like playing WoW, but that might be a little too clever.