Dasha Shkipina -- November 4th, 2020
Picture this: you have gotten perfect grades in high school and are now working hard at maintaining your GPA at your dream university. School is the number one priority in your life, and there is no time for anything else. You worked hard and finally earned your well-deserved college degree and academic accolades and are now applying for your first job. You notice a strange pattern, however – most entry level positions require professional experience! Your classmates with lower GPAs and less applicable coursework – but more work experience – are getting these job offers instead of you. It turns out that companies are placing more value on experience and past projects that provide proof of skill than the courses you took in college! Why is obtaining diverse work experience so important?
Need for Applicable Skills
Approximately 3 in 4 employers say it is difficult to find candidates with skills their companies require. In many cases, academic courses focus on (often outdated) theory and do not spend enough time on practical applications. A McGraw-Hill Education report has found that only 4 out of 10 college students feel prepared for their future career. There is a gap between what is being taught in schools and what is needed in the workplace.
Trial and Error
In addition to the lack of real-world preparation at most universities, many students 1) are not even sure what they want to do, and 2) do not understand what the day-to-day life of their desired position entails. This may lead to students going after jobs they do not actually want, and later needing to backtrack to seek a switch in careers from their initial field of study. According to the Washington Post, only 27 percent of college graduates are working in the field that they majored in. Doing an internship is a low risk opportunity to figure out if the job the student wants, is what they expect it to be.
Internships provide a unique opportunity to network with professionals in the student’s desired field. These connections come in handy when students are searching for a full-time opportunity and may need a warm introduction to the company. Connections made during an internship can also take on a mentorship role and guide the student through the journey to a career in their desired field.
In conclusion, although there are obvious gaps in the education system, doing well in school is important, as it signals an extraordinary work ethic and ability to learn and retain new skills. But it is just as important for students to seek opportunities to apply their skills in real-world scenarios and prove their capabilities. Successful preparation to transition from school to the work world revolves around the balance of both learning theoretical concepts and applying those concepts to solve real problems. Although most people only start to consider internships during their junior or senior year of college, taking on extra-curricular projects and leadership opportunities (big or small) early on can have a tremendous impact on a student’s post college career. These opportunities can include leadership roles at clubs, classmate event organizations, volunteering at charity events, and taking advantage of companies such as Seedstages.com, whose goal is to match students with internships at tech start-ups.