The real difference is that Year Up takes great care to prepare its students to succeed in a professional culture. “We often talk about hard and soft skills,” says Chertavian. “To me, it’s actually hard and harder skills.” The merely hard skills are things that many training programs cover — for IT, it might be using software applications or installing hardware. The harder skills are more nuanced. They involve questions like: Do you know how to communicate in a team? If you’re running late, do you know to call ahead? If you don’t have enough work, do you know to be proactive and ask for more? Do you know how to write a professional sounding e-mail?Do you know how to respond to the woman from another department who calls you on your cell phone to tell you that she just sent you an email letting you know that she'd left a voicemail on your office line, which you can disregard because she got the answer? Do you know what to do with the guy from receivables who calls you eight times a day and precedes every single conversation with the phrase, "Okay. Quick question." Do you understand how managing open-ended projects related to abstract ends like "improving systems transparency" and "increasing operating efficiencies" allows you to play coloring-book with Excel's graphing features while occasionally producing glossy reports that will impress your boss. Have you learned to refer to yourself as a "Six Sigma Ninja" in a high-fiving, boo-yeahing voice? Do you realize that all lunches can be stretched to three hours if you keep your Outlook calendar stocked with out-of-the-office meetings that are sufficiently plausible to be believable but vague enough to remain unverifiable? Has anyone told you that anytime you are confronted with a task that was assigned but unfinished, you should respond that you are still "waiting for bids from a few vendors" and that you will push and/or apply pressure to get them in? Do you always remember to keep your ALT-Tabs in order so that when you are blogging and a colleague walks in, you can immiately jump back to something vaguely financial in appearance? Are you aware that by using exclamation points liberally in your emails you can say nearly anything without it occuring to the recipient(s) that you are calling them fucking morons? Are you able to make constant, vague references to staying late and/or coming in early in order to suggest that your 30 hours a week are actually 60? Can you remember that the asshole who sits constantly nodding as a boss or higher-ranking employee speaks is the second-most hated person in the room, right behind the person who, upon the question, "Any questions?" asks a question. Have you successfully eliminated any residual belief that white-collar management professionals possess or need to possess any special skills or knowledge? Are you comfortable pretending not only that you know what you are talking about, but that everyone else knows what they're talking about? Are you willing blithely to use jargon that is already almost devoid of real meaning in a manner completely orthoganal to its bare sliver of actual significance and to tolerate such usage in others? Can you, without giggling, employ the phrases, "our industry," and, "in this industry"? Yeah? When can you start?
Chertavian points out that the social signals new employees send can make all the difference. “It’s how you make eye contact, it’s how you dress, it’s how you shake hands, it’s how you make small talk at a Christmas Party,” he says. “It’s when we speak, are you nodding your head? Are you leaning in and asking questions? It’s knowing how to introduce yourself. It’s knowing what’s appropriate for conversation. All of those things are learned. If you don’t have that context, boy, it feels real foreign to go through the security gate at Fidelity and exist in that environment.”