College as Practice for the World of Work

Here are two points to ponder:

a) Close to 90% of 1st year’s cite “to get a job” as the most important reason for them attending college.

b) Top companies focus on hiring candidates who not only have classroom knowledge and comprehension but who also show a proficiency in “soft skills” such as: communication, adaptability, teamwork, time management etc. 


Being professional is not something you are born knowing how to do, it is however a set of skills that can and must be learned if you hope to make the right impression not only in the workplace but during your college years too.

Why would you need to be professional at college? Because college is in fact very similar to the world of work – both environments require you to:

  • be punctual – be it arriving on time for work/lectures or meeting a work/assignment deadline.
  • communicate in a professional and mature manner – be it applying for leave/extension on a due date or requesting information from a colleague/lecturer.
  • work on team projects – don’t assume that your work colleagues are going to be any different or better than your college peers when it comes to pulling their weight on  group projects.

The list of similarities is endless…

The point is, college administration don’t put “rules and regulations” in place just for the sake of monitoring and controlling the student population – as many a student likes to point out: you are not in high school anymore. The fact of the matter is, deadlines, punctual attendance, mindful editing of work, respectful disagreement with peers and lecturers are the exact same behaviours you will be required to demonstrate in the workplace.

Professional Communication

Communication is central to any relationship, be it personal, casual or professional. Professional communication, unlike that between friends, family members or even acquaintances, occurs within the culture of the specific workplace, industry or academic environment. As such it is up to the employee or student to take note of and adhere to the communication expectations and characteristics of the particular company or academic institution.

When it comes to communicating with work colleagues or college staff the communication format and tone should always be formal and professional. The thing to remember is: any form of interaction, be it written or spoken, represents you to your boss, co-worker, lecturer, academic manager.  As such it is vital that you pay careful attention to:

  • the wording of your communication,
  • the receiver’s perspective and,
  • the desired outcome of the communication.

The point is not to offend or alienate the person you are communicating with, particularly if you are requesting something of them or if they hold any authority over you.

Some Real-Life Examples:

Ask any lecturer, academic manager or administrative staff member and they will be able to provide you with a veritable book full of examples of unprofessional, poorly worded and formatted e-mails they’ve received from students.

Below are some word-for-word, real-life examples of bad student e-mails which were sent to an academic manager recently:

Example 1:

Subject: introduction letter proffessional skills 2 

Joe Soap 
ID: 123456789123
Student no :15010000 am specialsing in video3 ( Television) and please let me know when the introduction letter will be ready.

Example 2:

Subject: ‎

Hi Jane.
Joe Soap, student number 15010000 , my I'd number  123456789123. I'm majoring in Radio. Let me know when I can collect it. 
Thank you.

Example 3:

Subject: Joe Soap, 15010000, 123456789123, is currently registered as a media studies student specialising in (Public Relations) at Boston media house. 

Dear Jane here are my details for the letter of introduction.
Please let me know when I can collect it.

Example 4:

Subject: Experiantal learning

Joe Soap
Student No: 15010000
ID No: 123456789123
Specialisation: Radio 3

A. Can you spot the mistakes?

  • blank subject line
  • an entire message within the subject line
  • incorrect spelling
  • poor or missing punctuation
  • incomplete sentences
  • no greeting and/or signature and/or thank you
  • no context or point of reference

B. Answer the following questions honestly:

  • Is this the type of e-mail you would dare to send to a co-worker or even your supervisor when requesting something at work?
  • No? Then why would you send it to your academic manager?


Grattan, K. (2015). Thoughts on Professionalism and Communication Skills when Content Reigns. Retrieved from:  [Accessed on: 29 February 2016].

Professionalism & Communication. (2012. Retrieved from:  [Accessed on: 29 February 2016].

Weimer, M. (2013). Helping Students Learn to be Professional. Retrieved from:  [Accessed on: 29 February 2016].