Opinion: The importance of gaining work experience while in college

As college students, our ultimate goal is to graduate and land the career of our dreams. For many, a college degree is the key to unlock the door to several career and financial op­portunities. In fact, a 2015 study conducted by Georgetown Univer­sity found that college graduates earn $1 million more than non graduates over the course of their lifetime.

Before college students perform their money dance, consider this: Many employers favor graduates with work experience. The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ 2017 Job Outlook report found that, of the 169 surveyed employers, a little over 90 percent preferred to hire candidates with work experience. Of the 90.6 per­cent, 64.5 percent preferred candidates with relevant work experience, while 26.1 percent preferred candidates with any type of work experience. A degree is a huge asset to have when applying for the career of your dreams. How­ever, it is imperative to use your college years to gain work experience via an internship, volunteerism, or a part-time or full-time position.

This is especially true for those seeking jobs in more competitive fields. Katherine Felts, a career prep consultant in UW Tacoma’s Career Development Services, emphasizes the importance of having a job, intern­ship or volunteer experience before entering one’s career.

“If the industry you’re aiming for is competitive, you’ll want to have some experience under your belt before you graduate — so you can enter the work­force ready to make waves,” Felts said.

Imagine the workforce is a pet store, and you are one of several fish in a tank. Your work experience is like the color and silvery gleam of your scales. The more work experience you have, and the wider the variety of places it comes from, the more colorful your scales will be. And who wouldn’t want a rainbow fish? Or at least a fish with more variety in their scales?

In addition to standing out to po­tential employers, there are several other benefits of working while in col­lege. Felts pointed out internships, jobs and volunteering as important because they allow students to “meet people outside their normal circle and build personal and professional networks.”

In some cases, who you know can be just as important as what you know. The connections you create during these experiences can provide you with a host of benefits, including references and opportunities to work on programs and projects.

Deciding to gain work experience now can alter the course of your student career. Felts advises students to explore different areas they are interested in.

“Gaining work experience in the field you’re interested in will tell you once and for all if this is the right choice for you,” Felts said. “If you love it, you know you’re on the right track with school!”

For some students, the mere thought of adding a job, internship or volunteer experience into the mix of their busy lives sounds asinine, espe­cially when so many are currently preparing for their midterms. How­ever, it is possible and advantageous for your future career. I myself juggle two part-time paid positions, volun­teer and attend school full-time. The key is learning to manage your time efficiently. Time management is a cru­cial skill both in college and in the workforce. The earlier you learn it, the better off you will be when faced with impending deadlines.

“Set clear boundaries for yourself and your time. Don’t overcommit,” Felts said. “It will not benefit you to accelerate [and] burn out at any point.”

So, are you ready to work?

To get help with resumes, cover letters, or finding and applying to jobs or internships,
visit drop-in hours or make an appointment with Career Development Services in MAT 106