Growing up I was told, as most students are, that grades are everything. Grades will get me into a good college. Grades will get me good scholarships. Grades will get me a great career.
Now I am a senior in college, and I’m looking forward to graduating in May and starting the career I’ve been preparing myself for for the past eight years. At least I thought I was preparing for it.
My wake-up call came when I was applying for some lower- level jobs that had the possibility of advancement into a good career. After a few times of meeting the owners and being shot down, I sensed that something was wrong. A lifetime taught me that a college education was the gateway to a better career, so these results were a little confusing.
The next time that I was told I wasn’t right for the job, I asked why and I was told that the other applicants had more experience in the same field they were applying to.
I’ll admit that it makes sense. Reading about doing something is much different than actually putting it into practice. Employers want to know that you can walk the walk and not just talk the talk.
My boyfriend works as a salesperson for a Fortune 500 company and he has only completed one year of college. When he was hired, he was told that he beat out applicants with master’s degrees because he had more than five years of successful experience in other sales positions.
The thing that nobody tells you is that there are two parts to getting a career. First, you need the degree under your belt, but you also need experience with the kind of work you are looking to do.
NMU has a few services that help students find ways to gain experience in their field of study. Setting up an internship is probably the best way to go for experience. Each department has its own guide for related internships, but as long as you can prove that you will be learning valuable trade skills, any job can be turned into an internship.
Internships are also a great way to get your foot in the door and make an impression on potential employers.
Another way to work your way into a career is by volunteering. Almost every major has opportunities to help the community with their skills. Not only will employers see that you have successfully used your skills in a real world setting, but they will also see that you are willing to work for the good of others and willing to put yourself into unconventional situations.
Other possible solutions to gain experience in your field are to shadow professionals and to learn from them. Engage your professors in a dialogue about being referred to a real world job that would give you experience. Attend job fairs and get your name out into the professional world.
NMU Career Services works toward this very goal: to give students a leg up on the competition by helping them find opportunities to gain working experience.
The moral of this story is that grades are not everything, but paired with a well rounded resume of experience it can lead you to the career of a lifetime.
Don’t settle for a burger flipping job to pay off tuition when working for an employer that can teach you important trade skills will increase your chances of being hired after graduation.