Thursday, September 29, 2022

Oxford Stories: The Skills They Aren’t Teaching Us in College

Courtney Kamm, author
Courtney Kamm, author

As students, we are taught from the beginning to work hard in school, get good grades, and then we will excel in life. But is this really the case?

Now a sophomore in college, I have been lucky enough to participate in two internships outside of Ole Miss. I must say, I have learned more throughout these internships than I think I ever could sitting behind a desk in a classroom.

Now, I am not ridiculing school in any way. I think it is very important to receive an education, but I definitely think it is not the most important thing in life.

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My first internship was the spring semester of my freshman year in Walt Disney World. Yes, that’s right, Walt Disney World. I lived and took classes in Orlando, Florida, while participating in a program called, The Disney College Program.

While it did seem a little early to leave college, I would not trade the experience for anything. It was overwhelming at times, but the experience taught me so many valuable lessons that I could never learn in the classroom.

Disney taught me how to deal with people, both pleasant and not so pleasant. This is an extremely important concept to learn because no matter what profession you are going into, you will have to deal with people in some aspect of your job.

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Whether it’s working with your boss and co-workers or with clients, everyone has a bad day, so you must be ready to deal it. Most people don’t thoroughly enjoy their bosses either, but this is not a good reason to walk away.

Learning to deal with all types of people is just a part of life, and teachers tend to leave out these lessons in the classroom, so the only way to learn them is through real life experiences.

Another thing Disney World taught me is to always be happy with my career. If there is one thing that links people to an unhappy life, it is their workplace.

There is great importance in knowing if your career path will really make you want to wake up every morning and go to work. If not, there is probably a better career for you out there.

You may be good at math, but will sitting behind a desk every day with little human contact make you happy? Most would say no, but don’t know this until shadowing or interning at an accounting firm.

Math class might teach you the skills, but it won’t give you any insight into the life of an account. Internships are the best way to get this insight and really see if this job is right for you.

The second internship I pursued was with a furniture company called Arhaus. Although I am not going to school to be in retail or sales, Arhaus is a great company with many contacts that may come in handy later. So I thought, “Why not!”

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Arhaus is a furniture store located in 23 states and continues to grow very rapidly. It’s style is often compared to that of the women’s clothing store Anthropologie.

I interned at the Arhaus headquarters the summer after my freshman year of college. I carried out numerous office tasks, including filing papers and running errands for other employees in the building. In addition, I was given the opportunity to work directly with the CEO on a project concerning their 30th anniversary.

This project required me to interview employees who had been with the company for many years, presidents and vice presidents, and even family members. With the information I collected, I created a timeline book of all the company milestones and important events.

Although it may sound like a lot of busy work, I learned interview and people skills I would have never learned otherwise. Although companies do look at your diploma and resume while hiring, companies tend to form opinions about you through a face-to-face interview.

Most schools do not focus on the importance of learning what it takes to have a good interview, but every employee made sure to mention to me how professional and eloquently I spoke.

These are definitely not qualities I obtained in history class. Some students will never learn these skills if they never leave the classroom.

Students missing out on these important life lessons may have a direct link to the reason some fail to get jobs after graduating college. Maybe it is not that there are less jobs, but that less students have the capability to win over a company.

The most important lesson I have taken from my internships is the importance of networking. Today’s business industry is a dog-eat-dog world, and sometimes where you go to college doesn’t make a difference.

Sometimes, the key to getting a job is about who you know, not what you know. And the only way to know people is through personality and people skills.

I feel confident that I can make a name for myself and make my dreams come true because I have learned the importance of having people skills and knowing how to network myself.

As American businessman, motivational speaker, and author of Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki once said, “The richest people in the world look for and build networks, everyone else looks for work.”

Column by Courtney Kamm as seen on

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