The Dreadful Piece of Paper

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We all want it. Most of us were raised with the idea that getting it will be the smartest career move in our young adult lives. As graduation season is among us and our friends are getting ready to embark on their summer journeys, it got us thinking about the costs that come with that piece of paper. While there’s no doubt it’s extremely valuable, will it ever surpass the quality of experience?

It’s the classic “entitled millennial” syndrome that our elders like to accuse us of. We work our butts off in school, and only school. Maybe a small side job at the local yogurt joint, the clothing store down the street or a lifeguard during the summer– and once we graduate, we expect a job to be handed to us. The truth is, if we don’t have experience, finding a job will not be easy.

Make no mistake, a full-time college students’ job is school. But other than long nights studying, grueling exams, mortifying class presentations and dollar-menu lunches, what’s the hardest part about being a college student? Not knowing if you’re going to find a job.

This is where most students can get confused. We’re raised to think that if we go to college, we’ll get a job, but what employers really like to see is real world experience. And sadly, it’s difficult for students to make that happen while trying to cram in classes. While we’re here, what’s with all the cramming?

We get it. You want to leave your parents’ home, strike out on your own and do your thing. So is busting through four years of school without stopping to think where you’ll be on the other side a smart idea? Perhaps students should think about expanding their years in school to figure out exactly what they want and who they want to be. What’s the point of rushing through school if you’re unsure of your passion? Maybe it’s worth putting in a little more time.

The crazy part is that you could bust your butt for five years and if you don’t have one internship, it’s very possible the person next to you who has five years of working experience but no degree may have a leg up.

According to a survey done last year of more than 2,000 adults by job listing site Glassdoor, although the vast majority of employees believe their college education has been a benefit to them in their career, 72% said getting trained in a specific skill is more highly valued by their employer.

That being said, students should take a good look at the industry they’re thinking of working in, and not only that, if this is really right for them. Get to know the industry and the people in it.

The majority of students want to jump right into GED classes or the so-called “boring high school-like” classes to get their degree as quickly as possible, but they don’t understand how much they are hurting themselves by not getting experience. School is expensive. Make it worth it. Pick up an internship for a couple of hours a week. It’s worth it.

I had a smart professor in college who gave me some really good advice. “At the end of the day everyone’s going to have that same piece of paper. It’s the people you know and the experience you have that will set you apart from the rest.”

He was the only professor who had ever said that to me before. He really wore his heart on his sleeve for his students.


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