SURVEY SAYS: High School Experience Effect on Career Experience

November 12, 2012 - Last week, I asked NewsDash readers how their high school experiences affected their career experiences.

Responding readers were allowed to select more than one answer, but the response that was most selected, by 33%, was “It has had no effect on my career experience.” Thirty percent said it gave them the study/organizational skills needed to work well/efficiently, and 23% indicated it gave them the confidence needed.  

Additional results were: 

  • It gave me a connection for a job – 2%; 
  • It gave me the idea for the career I wanted to pursue – 7%; 
  • It gave me the people skills I needed to succeed – 20%; 
  • It taught me what or who to avoid – 13%; 
  • It taught me communication skills – 18%; 
  • It taught me how to “fake it” in certain situations – 10%; and 
  • Other – 20%. 


“Other” responses included: 

  • It taught me how to develop long lasting relationships. 
  • If high school were truly where you are taught what you need to know to guide you to a career (or even “life”), everyone would not have to take Geometry. 
  • The strict Catholic school I attended from 1-12 grades really encouraged a strong work ethic, but also to not question authority. 
  • My class ranking got me into a good college and later helped get me into interviews. I was #1 out of 650. 
  • The lack of “cliques” taught me that divserse perspectives improve your ciritical thinking ability. 
  • It confirmed my feeling that I needed to get the hell out of my hometown if I was going to succeed at anything. 
  • It taught me how to deal with bullies (later known as Senior Management) without violence 
  • A tough but fair high school football coach taught me how to react positively to adversity 
  • It taught me the writing skills I needed to succeed 
  • I learned how to be independent and do it on my own! 
  • that which did not kill me, strengthened me (with apologies to Frederick Nitze) 
  • It taught me survival skills. 


In the verbatim responses, some responding readers recounted bad experiences in high school while others had extraordinary experiences. Several readers noted that sports or college had more of an influence on their career experience. And, a few readers pointed out the similarities of the “cliques” in high school and in the office.  

Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “I went to high school around the time that ERISA was enacted, but it took years of “on the job training” to learn that ERISA really stands for “Every Ridiculous Idea Since Adam.”


High school taught me that the caste system in place revealed the true nature of people. Those who were shallow, selfish and self-centered and those who would take a bullet for you. College really affected my career experience and where I found life long friendships. 


I went to high school around the time that ERISA was enacted, but it took years of "on the job training" to learn that ERISA really stands for "Every Ridiculous Idea Since Adam". 


I agree with "Emily Owens, MD". Work is like high school. The nerds run the IT or Acct dept. The popular kids are the marketing/sales reps. The "nice" kids do all the work w/o complaining. The jocks always have to be told what to do. The student body president is the boss. 


I do not understand how my high school experiences, when I had no idea where I fit in or what I wanted to do with my life, would have any bearing on the person I am today. That person has been formed not only thru high school but college and work experiences as well. 


Loved high school and I am still in contact with a number of high school friends who are equally successful in life! 


Never considered the connection previously but there may be something to it. However, I also know others who "peaked" in high school. 


High school first exposed me to cliques (or maybe I became aware of them). Funny how I see this in my workplace. 


Most people transition from childhood to adulthood during high school, and unfortunately, some of the roles assumed during those formative years may stubbornly stick with a person. 


I was never fully accepted in the "in-crowd" because everyone thought I was a snob. Truth was, I was just shy. I never developed confidence until much much later in life. 


Participating in sports, more than high school itself, taught me more about teamwork, goal setting, discipline, leadership, and dealing with conflict. Survey that and give adolescents something positive to strive for than just popularity. 


Would never go through it again. Horrible - just horrible. Kids are cruel. The high school counselor was a joke - he didn't encourage me to go on to college - I was female. Had a few great teachers along the way that taught me a lot and gave me encouragement. If it had not been for them, I would probably still be working in a cafeteria or other low-paying job - along with several of my classmates from back then. Not many choices in my hometown. The ones who succeeded moved somewhere else. 


As I was entering high school, I was determined to overcome shyness with revealing 'niceness' in many small ways. I was kind to everyone and chose not to belong to any clique. But by being kind and making friendships with so many others with different talents and gifts, I emerged as the 'leader' even though I didn't seek it, or want it. Back row was fine with me. But my classmates saw it differently. They forced my emergence as a leader because I worked hard at trying to do the right thing for everyone, which was viewed as 'genuinely kind' in their eyes. And our class became the unique clique that comprised 'all of us.' Among the many titles they elected for me, a few included Student Body Co-President, Junior Class Representative, Prom and Homecoming Queen. We came together, grew together, and respected each other. And still do 35 years later. That early recognition, and the responsibility that came with it, provided the confidence in 'me' that was so lacking as a young adult. That confidence became the foundation for success in college, in career, but most of all, in life. 


I learned the basic lessons of motivation, determination and hard work in high school. Those three core attributes are what I credit to whatever success I have accomplished.

Verbatim (cont.)  

I enjoyed accounting classes in school & that is the field I ended up in. 


I was very involved with sports in high school, but was not part of the "popular" clicks. I couldn't wait to get out of high school, and unfortunately, not much changed in the work world. I have done very well for myself without needing to be "popular". 


I was shy and High School was okay but nothing I look back on and wish I were there again. It seems to me the more popular kids are the ones now that want to go back. 


I tend to find that those who reflect too much on high school tend to be the ones who don't go very far in their careers. 


I am happy that my high school experience had no effect on my career experience. I always hated school, my life would be totally miserable if I felt the same about working. 


It taught me to understand the differences in personalities and how to better manage those who appear to be "shy" versus those who are outgoing and how to work with them on the skills needed to be successful in their positions 


I was quiet, bookish and overweight in high school - still am. I never fit with the "in" crowd, the cheerleaders, the politicians, the jokers, the jocks. My breakout years were in college; if we were talking about those years, I could tick off most of the positive choices on the list. 


Although I fondly remember my high school years it was college in my opinion that affecting my career more. It taught time management, honesty and hard work along with how to deal with different types of people. 


I was very shy, so I survived high school. High school was a check the box requirement. Working at various jobs and taking different classes in college seemed to open up life and help me find the path I did not want to take and the one I did. 


Being in every music group and drama production helped me gain the confidence to speak in public. 


in my experience, high school is either the best time of your life (and if so, sorry about that), or the worst. Our memories of that time are frequently glossed over, but once you have kids in high school, the painful, awful aspects of it all come flooding back (or did for me). Yes, there are some really great times - but I'm happy to be able to look back on it, rather than look forward to it. As for the notion that the clowns that were popular in high school fare better in the 'real world', not a chance. Most of the jocks couldn't make it at the college level (and apparently lost all sense of identity), while the prom queens - well, let's just say beauty is fading, and karma is a bi... well, you know... 


I knew geeks n' nerds, then, who now light their cigars with $20's and I knew bullies, then, that still light their cigarettes with geeks.Glad I don't smoke. 


The workplace is sometimes all too similar to the high school environment; gossips, cliques, "popular" kids with nothing between their ears getting ahead just because they went to the right schools, or were born into the "right" families. I think the worst, however, is how some employers treat you like you are still IN high school.... Thankfully, it's easier to change jobs than to change schools... 



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not the stance of Asset International or its affiliates.