Myth #8

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Myth #8: All work experience is the same

Reality - All work is not the same. When companies hire, they look for skills and experience that’s directly applicable to their needs. Companies don’t want to have to spend months/years training someone so being strategic about developing skills relevant to your intended career path is very important when it comes to landing a job.

When entering the workforce or applying to internships, students tend to have a laundry list of co-curricular activities and summer jobs that loosely relate to one another. Although these opportunities may provide fundamental skills and basic knowledge, it’s important to understand that not all work experience is the same.

When companies hire, they look for mostly hard skills and experiences that directly apply to their needs. Thus, a student who hopes to secure a job in Management Consulting should try to gather knowledge through internships in this specific role or roles that require skills relevant to the job such as data collection and analysis.

This will allow students and recent graduates to stand out amongst other competitive applicants. A hiring manager looks for someone who brings value to the company and prefers to hire someone with background experience as opposed to having to spend months or even years training an employee with no experience. Thus, developing skills relevant to your intended career path serves as a critical component to landing a job.

The Association of American Colleges and Universities found that 94% of hiring managers “would be more likely to hire a recent graduate who has held an internship or apprenticeship”.

An internship serves as one of the best ways to show a potential employer that you can succeed in a work environment. The traditional 9 to 5 office job requires a unique skill set that isn’t taught in the classroom. Although college provides students with essential soft skills such as teamwork, decision making and oral communication, the only way to gain industry specific knowledge is through hands-on experience.

Similarly, companies no longer look to hire students with the highest GPA. Instead they look for students who have real world experience and demonstrate the ability to apply the knowledge learned as an undergraduate to the workplace.

All work experience is not the same. Can you spot the difference?

This concept is best illustrated with an example: An employer looking to hire a project manager has two potential candidates. The first one graduated with honors and has a nearly perfect GPA. The other candidate has a comparatively lower GPA, but held relevant internships at established companies over the past three summers and received good references from all three.

Most employers will opt to hire the person with internship experience over the individual with a strong academic record. Why? Grades can only tell an employer so much. An individual may be excellent at taking tests but frequently skips class, never participates in classroom discussion and works poorly in groups.

Conversely, the student with internship experience holds the critical advantage of industry knowledge. This individual already understands basic aspects of the job and has a general sense of what is expected as an industry professional. Similarly, this student has dedicated their past three summers learning the inner workings of the position of a project manager, showing dedication and a drive for success.

However, it’s important to note that this student received the job over the objectively smarter student because their internship experience was relevant to the position. Had this student spent his summers working as a lifeguard or as a camp counselor, the outcome may have been different. The student would no longer have the edge of industry knowledge over the other potential hire.

As internships become more and more essential to landing a job, a growing number of companies now use their internship programs as a replacement for on-campus recruiting. This allows both the employer and employee to test out the position and see if it’s a good fit before committing to anything fully. Additionally, this allows the employer to teach promising candidates the inner workings of a specific role.

This saves the company resources such as time and money as well as allows for students to better understand what career path they hope to take after graduation. A profession may seem exciting at first, but with no experience in the role, it can be hard to figure out if this is something you want to do.

However, not everyone has the ability to take part in an internship program, especially if it’s unpaid. For students in this position, try to apply to jobs that require basic skills that may be relevant to your intended career path. For example, if you hope to go into sports, try to apply to on campus jobs in the athletic department. Similarly, try reaching out to your professors and ask if they are working on any research projects that you may be able to assist them with. If you explain your situation, you may be able to work for only a few hours a week while still gaining skills that will help make your resume stand out.

The worst thing to do, however, is to do nothing and graduate with only a degree and no relevant work experience. Employers no longer see high GPA’s and college diplomas as the tell-all for candidates anymore. In fact, 60% of employers say new graduates aren't adequately prepared for the workforce. This is largely due to the lack of hands-on experience college students have upon graduation.

To stand out in this increasingly competitive job market, you have to demonstrate both experience and interest in pursuing a path. PathMatch can help.

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