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"Hey, man, what did you do this summer?" I asked a college classmate at the start of the fall semester.
My friend looked at me like I had two heads. "What do you mean?" he replied. "I work hard all semester long. I deserved a summer vacation and I took one."
He was taking pre-med courses and also considering other professions. While other classmates had spent the summer working in hospitals, doctor's offices and other jobs in fields related to their degrees, he never worked a single second as an undergraduate.
There's a difference between studying hard and working hard. My friend believed his grades were all that mattered for admission to graduate school or to land a good entry-level job.
I'm here to tell you he was wrong. In fact, colleges are the first to tell you that you need more than a degree to get hired.
Graduates with work experience are more attractive than those without.
After reviewing numerous studies,
A 2013 report by
"New graduates who've not had any work experience at all during their studies are increasingly unlikely to be offered a good graduate job after university," said Birchall.
How work experience helps -- even if it's unpaid.
Many ambitious young adults disrespect the value of work experience because they've had jobs that have no connection to their future plans -- and pay poorly.
But working can teach you many valuable lessons, even if your job isn't intellectually challenging. Try to get a job in a field you're interested in, even if the job itself seems like a dead end.
Perhaps you'll find the industry so interesting that an internship will cement your career decision. Perhaps you'll find the industry so boring that your internship will lead you to change your career plans. But it's better to learn that lesson during a one-semester internship than as a full-time employee.
Performing well as an intern can also lead you to the next step in the industry. Your manager may write you a recommendation for graduate school or for a better internship. You could even get a full-time job offer or a job lead from a co-worker who was impressed by your work. Don't discount the opportunities that working for free can provide down the road.
Plus, interning can give you a chance to learn what your best job skills are, which skills need improvement and how to work with people.
Work experience and your degree go hand-in-hand.
Many ambitious young people think that lower-level jobs are an impediment to success because they're time-consuming and cause employers to stereotype you as someone with lower-level skills.
Several schools disagree. In fact, these schools represent so many different fields that it's fair to say their advice might be pertinent to dozens of careers.
Students pursuing a master's degree in business administration from
Students who make the jump without work experience "are less competitive for employment when they finish their degrees than their classmates with work experience," according to Croft.
Future employers want more work experience.
Colleges aren't the only ones weighing in. Even future employers -- in a variety of fields -- feel that real-world experience is the only thing standing between some graduates and their dream jobs.
Take it from
That's right -- even medical professionals want to see you put in a little legwork. Besides showing them how responsible you are, it gives you an idea of what to expect from yourself.
Don't be afraid of spending your summers putting in a few hours in your industry, no matter how menial the job may seem. The few weekends at the lake you miss will be well worth it when you graduate with job offers and your lake buddies don't.
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