Career Management

In the past, it wasn’t quite as common for someone to have a degree as it is today and therefore you were almost guaranteed a job as a college grad. However, the number of people who go on to study at University has risen a lot over the years and studies have shown that starting in 1980, employers began to pay more attention to work experience and internships when they make hiring decisions.

In 2013, research conducted by High Fliers Research found that it is unlikely that college grads will secure themselves a job based on their degree alone and internships and work experience will be what sets them out from their fellow graduates when applying for jobs. 

So is experience more important than education?

Work experience is as important as your degree.

Some college students think that working in low-level jobs while they are at University isn’t really worth it, as they take away from time that could be used to study and they don’t think they can learn anything from these jobs, so why bother?

A survey done by the Iowa State University’s Engineering Career Services found that around 90% of engineering grads were hired upon graduation, after they participated in education programs that enable them to alternate school and work terms. The survey also found that only 50% of the engineering grads who didn’t participate in one of the education programs got jobs after graduation, suggesting that the industry in experience is valued more highly than degree results. 

How can work experience and internships help?

You can gain lots of valuable lessons through working, even if the work is boring or seemingly unrelated to the career you wish to follow. Work experience gives you the opportunity to learn useful “real-world” skills that you won’t necessarily learn in school and are extremely transferrable between different industries, such as communication, initiative and time-management.

Completing an internship or work experience will also give you an insight into what working life is like and creates the opportunity to work with people from all sorts of different backgrounds, who you can learn new things from that may be valuable in the future. 

Furthermore, interning in a field related to your major allows you to learn more about the industry and can play a vital role in helping you figure out your career plan. If you find the industry boring or not as you expected, you may wish to alter your career plan. On the other hand, if you perform well as an intern, the company may offer your a permanent role when you graduate, or at least offer you a good reference to help your job hunt.

Employers value industry experience.

Whether the work experience is paid or unpaid, the involvement in your chosen field will show employers that you are show initiative and are motivated and dedicated to building yourself a career in the sector. By looking at your experience, they know that you have the skills and knowledge to perform your job and it is likely that an employer will choose a candidate with work experience over someone who has none; therefore, work experience is often the only thing that stands between college grads and their dream jobs.

Image Credit: Shutterstock


About Sophie Deering

You can follow Sophie at @SophieDeering.

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