The battle between street smarts and book smarts
By ADRIAN HERNANDEZ
Good job reading Shakespeare’s plays; now try to use that knowledge when you are applying for a job or struggling in a cutthroat workplace.
Everyone is told from first day of school that we will learn everything we need to know from the book, but that is just one side of the coin. Generally, there are two types of knowledge: book smarts and street smarts. People with book smarts can take tests and pass classes easily, while people with street smarts learn from first-hand experiences and apply that knowledge to real-life situations. While both styles of intelligence are needed in today’s society, people tend prioritize book smarts over street smarts in order to survive the demanding and competitive environments.
However, with street smarts, people could be more aware of their surroundings and assertive in unfamiliar situations—two crucial qualities needed to be ready for whatever life throws at you.
Although many may believe that their immense library of knowledge can make up for their lack of first-hand experience, best-selling author on project management Scott Berkun states that “imagining how you will handle a tough situation is a world away from actually being in one.” If book smart people merely rely on the information they learned in school, they are going to have a hard time in real-life situations because school fosters a safe space for mistakes; however, the real world is not so forgiving.
For example, a person who is strictly book smart would probably have a hard time fixing a tire in the middle of the road. This line of reasoning also applies to when someone needs to talk his or her way through a problem like asking a teacher to round the grade. Therefore, we should have more of a balance between having street smarts and book smarts.
Being street smart can not only help you handle everyday problems, but can also increase your chances of getting hired for a job. According to the Evolve Learning Group, a UK government-approved company that helps people find jobs, “employers [in the UK] are keen on hiring people who can demonstrate skills rather than listing empty, theoretical qualifications.” Granted, most job applicants may meet the basic requirements they need to get hired, but if someone has more street smart skills, like being alert to surroundings, he or she may be more likely to get chosen, even if others possess a more prestigious degree.
This counterintuitive phenomenon is not limited to one country; the skills shortage is prevalent worldwide. Hays, a global specialist recruitment service, says that companies in all 31 countries they operate in have a big demand for skills. While some jobs explicitly require higher education, most jobs rely more on common sense and practical skills like good communication and leadership.
Because we may never receive these lessons in classes, people should invest the time to gain practical skills. Not everyone needs to have a degree to get a job, but everyone does need street smarts to communicate effectively with employers and increase their chances of getting a job—and maintaining it.
Overall, everyone needs to be street smart and book smart in order to succeed in real world. Nonetheless, street smarts beat book smarts nearly 100% of the time. As Tyler Durden wittily asks in Fight Club, “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?”