Colleges teach workplace social skills

To help graduating seniors find jobs, colleges and universities are teaching the social skills of the workplace, reports the Hechinger Report.

After final exams are over, MIT students will return from their holiday break to experience something different from their usual studies—but almost as important.

It’s the university’s annual Charm School, offering instruction in everything from how to make a first impression to how to dress for work to which bread plate to use.

Other colleges have started teaching students how to make small talk, deal with conflict, show up on time, follow business etiquette, and communicate with co-workers.

Employers complain new hires don’t know how to act professionally. “This is a generation with an average of 241 social media ‘friends,’ but they have trouble communicating in person,” said Arthur Levine, president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.

“Students don’t really know what’s meant by professional dress,” says MIT’s Hamlett. “Most students just roll out of bed in whatever it is they want to wear. There’s this ‘come as you are’ about being a college student.”

At Wake Forest University’s business school, master’s candidates are required to wear business attire to class, and be in the building from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

. . . MBA and law students at the University of Iowa learn table manners at an annual “etiquette dinner”—where to rest their silverware between courses and on which side of their settings to return their water glasses.

“Helicopter parents” haven’t taught their entitled children what the real world demands, says Aaron McDaniel, author of The Young Professional’s Guide to the Working World. He also blames universities for letting students slide by without working hard. In the workplace, McDaniel says, many graduates “expect that, just for showing up, they’ll get credit, just like they used to get at school.”

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  1. Halleluiah! Their parents haven’t done it, so I’m glad their schools are. This way, they don’t get sent to HR because they are wearing tank tops and flip flops.

  2. Yeah–remind me, how Asian is MIT again?

  3. My IT/Business grad school contained a “social learning program” to help with etiquette/social graces (and let’s face it some of the IT guys needed it). It included interview skills, business dinner, wine tasting (including how to look at a wine menu and select a wine/sound like you know what you are talking about), golf (according to the director, you don’t have to be good at golf if you have a sense of humor but if you mess up golf etiquette-golfers will not think kindly of you again) and some other events. Thank you notes were expected.

    • Well,

      A prospective job candidate who does not know how to dress for an interview usually won’t last more than 10-20 minutes in a regular interview.

      I mean, what is it that it is so hard for dressing for a job interview that most persons under the age of 25 can’t understand it? I mean, I learned how to do this in high school careers class in 10th grade (9 week course taught by a career military man who did everything in triplicate, including going to the restroom) 🙂

      • Mark Roulo says:

        I don’t see that the claim was that this was *HARD* to learn. Just that the kids didn’t know it.

        If you took a 9 week class to learn this, it isn’t the sort of thing that can be handled with 10 minutes of instruction.

        • Ummm, it was a comprehensive careers class, we had field trips, guest speakers, CEO’s, job application, interviewing prep, resume prep, and was a nice diversion in the school day for a 9 week period (since another required course was health and it was a semester long, and that course was NO fun at all) 🙂

  4. MIT has been teaching a one day charm school for at least 22 years. it’s during IAP, the MIT equiv of j-term,an extra long winter break period with fun things to do on campus that most students skip or sleep through.

    Charm school at MIT isn’t about getting a job. mit nerds have no problem getting hired for jobs without possessing social skills. it’s about making light of socially awkward nerds not being able to ask someone out for a date. much more time is spent on that problem than the job interview.

  5. I wonder how they’re going to transfer this to online education, what with all those online schools being increasingly popular… Is it going to be the end of company dress codes? Or maybe the start of online etiquette courses?