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Opinion

Working is prime college experience

December 1, 2006

The more you see or hear something, the more you tune it out. This is unfortunate, because those messages are usually pretty important. They don’t just keep you away from drugs and remind you of the importance of giving blood. Some of those messages are important for your future.

The one that I recently began to appreciate was the old college mantra, “It’s not so much the grades, but the experiences you’ve had.” And although social experiences are important, that’s not really what I’m getting at. It is extremely important, pretty much vital, that you gain real work experience while in college.

Yeah, that stuff can really cut in on your sitting around time and all those social activities or whatever you do with your time, but fast forward a few years to your first big job interview. When they ask you for an example of when you went above and beyond the call of duty, or when you worked successfully with a group, it’s not going to fly to say that you took out your garbage, or your team went undefeated in beer pong. Employers are looking for people who know how to function in a working environment, who know how to work with people and who are confident enough in their own abilities to work alone.

Although working anywhere is a good experience and provides some nice spending money, working in your chosen field is invaluable. It shows you have a real commitment for that kind of work and you have already started the base on which to build a career. It will also tell you if that career is right for you, which is good to know while you are still in school. A lot of the time this means a pay cut or no pay at all. In the long run, having that experience could land you a higher-paying position than if you went for more money now in an unrelated job.

It is difficult for college students to find a job related to some fields. For those students, and really for all students, campus or community organizations are another great way to show you care. These kinds of activities involve a bit more self-motivation, which will get you some brownie points with interviewers. If there isn’t an organization that is involved with anything that interests you, this is a great opportunity to show initiative and find others with the same interests and goals to start your own group.

It sounds rough, finding ways to exercise your degree before you even have it. Getting all sorts of great experiences sometimes requires depending on loans, going out of your way and putting out some extra effort. But when you are faced with an employment application with lines of space to fill in with your experiences, or sitting before a panel interview, it’s important to show how much this profession means to you. It’s also nice to have an arsenal of experiences to call upon to give you the confidence to leave that interview feeling good about the time and effort you put toward that interview, and the dream job it will result in.

Cassie Rodgers is a student at UW-River Falls.

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