No, this is not rant against “dirty hippies” or a blind ignoring of the miserable economy; this is the best advice I have to offer college students today. Because I keep meeting students who don’t know this simple piece of wisdom: to get a career, it helps to have had job experience.
I don’t have children, but I mentor teens and college students on career choices. One of the most surprising extensions of teen-dom I come across is meeting new college grads and college students who have never once held a paying job. Not because the economy is awful, but because their parents insisted they not work for a penny while in school.
I feel for those kids. They have never had a single workplace experience or had to pay a bill on their own. And their resume’ is useless when it comes to applying for a job. When I’ve been on teams hiring students, we always pick the C student with great job references from McDonald’s over the straight A’s who’ve never worked. Every time.
We do not need to hire someone who is good at writing papers or taking tests. We need to hire someone who will show up in a timely fashion, who has worked well with others, who has had a supervisor and demonstrated the ability to get along with a supervisor, and who can support the required workload. All of the Harvard course credits in the world may show that you are smart, but they don’t tell me anything about your job skills – the day-to-day ins and outs of interacting in a workplace.
Before you explain to me that no one will hire you around your class schedule for the kind of job that fulfills your inner spirit animal, please note: it doesn’t matter if the job is in your “field.” Or rather, it doesn’t matter much. Yes, it would be wonderful if you had years of part-time experience doing whatever you do when you apply to do it full-time. But it’s not necessary. You want to be a lobbyist, but you’ve only worked retail? Fine. You’re bringing to the table working for long hours, the ability to discuss other people’s concerns and complaints, multi-tasking skills. These are all useful wherever you go.
Your skills, from job to job, all go into your toolbox. Believe me. I know. I have had, at last count, at least 52 jobs. Why? Because I worked as many part-time jobs and internships as I could while in high school and college (initially because I liked having my own money to spend, and eventually, because I needed the money). One job leads to another, leads to the next.
As some of my friends start parenting older children and teenagers, I see them struggling with whether to “let them” get jobs. Parents, you are only preventing them from getting where they want to be. Even if you can afford to pay all of their bills, a job for spending money is not out of the question. It may be the extra piece their resume’ needs to get them out of your basement one day.
(steps off high horse).