Can You Follow Instructions?

Yesterday’s post was Why Universities Don’t Prepare You to Follow Instructions.  Here is a perfect illustration: Careerealism.com’s post about 5 things every employer wants to hear in a job interview: #1 is I CAN FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS.

Take this quiz to find out if you have what it takes to get the job and keep it:

Your boss has just assigned you a small project to complete by the end of the week. The next day while working on the project, the copy machine  breaks. Do you:

a)    Check to see if you can clear a paper jam or otherwise trouble shoot the problem

b)   Get the attention of the person in closest proximity to the copy machine to see if they can help

c)    Ask your boss what you should do

d)   Call the 1-800 number listed on the side of the copy machine

By process of elimination, answer C should already be gone!  

Now the critical thinking skills that employers say they want you to have kick in. You have to think on your feet and figure out the solution to this minor problem.  You should probably try to fix the problem yourself by following the onscreen cues on the copy machine or using a manual (printed or online–whichever you can access easily).  Then you should seek out a support staff who either is responsible for the equipment or highly experienced with it.  If that’s not possible, maybe call the 1-800 number or maybe there’s a friendly co-worker nearby who offers to help…

There’s no right answer and this is the irony of your expensive college education: on campus, we prepare you to answer lots of philosophical questions to which there is no right answer. But we don’t help you apply those skills to practical, real-world situations for which there are no right answers–like a silly copy machine that won’t work!

In fact, we encourage you to seek help from others rather than to work independently to solve those “trivial” problems by yourself. But the working world is full of such trivial problems and we know that employers want you to use all your analytical and critical thinking skills to solve them independently. And you can–as long as you are confident in the knowledge that that is what you are supposed to do.  Rest assured, it is.

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