Bridging the gap between academic learning and the corporate world

We have all been learning for as long as we can remember. Before we even saw the inside of a school, our parents were teaching us how to speak, how to be well-mannered, and pretty much all the core values we hold today.

Learning is a lifelong journey. Yet, many of us still think learning happens only through academic training. Formal education is still an important part of the journey, but learning goes beyond the comfort of school and university.

But here’s the reality we face: what we learn at school and university doesn’t necessarily prepare us for the corporate world. Yes, we gain some of the knowledge, skills, and connections required to get ahead, but because the world is constantly changing, we also need to constantly update the knowledge and skills we have.

Here are five steps to bridging the gap between academic learning and work in the business landscape.

First, do some self-reflection and define what you already know and are good at. Understanding yourself and all your strengths, weaknesses, motivations and interests means understanding what you can do well at work and what else you can work on to improve.

With your strengths and weaknesses in mind, we move to the second step: research the general skills in the business landscape and the specific skills of the industry you’re in. The skills in demand change often and no matter how long you’ve been part of the workforce, they will continue to change.

The skills needed can vary from general qualities such as leadership to more technical and industry-related skills like coding. Today, artificial intelligence and automation are taking away a lot of monotonous tasks and jobs. Therefore, the gap in skills can be filled with enhanced capabilities to apply human emotion, intuition, and understanding toward better customer service, for example.

Third, check for the overlap between what you already know and are good at and what is required in the business landscape. This allows you to see the gap. What current knowledge and skills do we have that are still relevant today? What is irrelevant? What are we missing?

Of course, at the end of the day, we cannot know everything. But this is the beauty of learning – there is no limit to it and we can continue to learn as much as we desire so that we can know more and add value to our skill set.

Fourth, define your learning goals. To keep track, define the goals you need to achieve to fill the gap you’ve identified. However, keep in mind that we cannot fill the gap completely. Our world changes fast and before you know it, the skill demand has changed.

To make sure you’re not wasting your time, stay agile and be ready to adapt to changes. Define your goals and what you want to achieve with learning so that you know whether or not you’re on track, but at the same time, keep it flexible and constantly loop back to steps 1 to 3.

Fifth, consider mixing and matching different types of learning. If you’re a student, try expanding your learning beyond the classroom. If you’re already part of the workforce, expand beyond the training that your organization provides.

In my experience within my own organization and those of clients I’ve worked with, a one-size-fits-all approach has never worked. Whether it’s in leadership or learning, there is no such thing as a single best way to lead or learn.

So if there is no one best way, a great approach to learning is to mix and match different learning styles. This blended learning uses different learning styles such as online courses and classrooms to match your needs and provide the most effective ways of learning.

The last step is to loop back to steps 1 or 2 when necessary. Our world is changing faster than we can ever realize; therefore, we must constantly learn to catch up.

All in all, bridging the gap between learning at school and university and skill demand in the real-world business landscape is a constant journey. Once you feel that you’ve bridged the gap, new challenges will always come up. The only way for you to get close to bridging the gap is to learn continuously.


Arinya Talerngsri is Chief Capability Officer and Managing Director at SEAC (formerly APMGroup) Southeast Asia’s Lifelong Learning Center. She can be reached by email at arinya_t@seasiacenter.com or https://www.linkedin.com/in/arinya-talerngsri-53b81aa