You’ve probably heard that people who have a degree from a trade school or college tend to have higher earning potential than those who don’t. But, you’ve probably also heard that a degree doesn’t matter much after that first job in the field.
In fact, colleges have internships and other similar programs because experience in the field is much more valuable than a degree on its own.
Competition among recent graduates
A degree is essential to getting an entry-level job in many fields and each year the labor market is flooded with recent graduates. Those who already have some experience in the field, through temp work or an internship, have a massive leg up on those who don’t.
The job market is much better than it was just a handful of years ago, but unemployment for new graduates is always high, meaning there are a lot of them seeking jobs. Furthermore, many recent graduates find themselves ‘underemployed’ – a term that indicates someone has a job for which they are overqualified. Recent grads also tend to languish in unemployment or jobs outside their field right after they receive their degree.
Simply put, if you can get experience in your field before graduation, you are more likely to find a job, find it relatively quickly and find one you are suitably qualified for if you have work experience in your field.
A lack of useful skills
A classroom experience can’t accurately represent a real-world work environment. An instructor can’t accurately represent a boss. Fellow students aren’t reliable stand-ins for co-workers. As a result, graduates without work experience don’t have as many real-world skills as their experienced counterparts.
Employers understand this skills gap very well. A recent survey by Knod found 75 percent of employers said schools do not adequately prepare people for the global economy. Employers also overwhelmingly said they favor applicants with work experience, with 80 percent citing experienced candidates as a preference.
In particular, job seekers without work experience don’t have adequate ‘soft skills’ to navigate the modern workplace, skills such as critical thinking abilities, good communication and problem-solving.
While degrees prepare students for a specific job, most programs don’t. They leave it up to students to figure out what they’re supposed to do with their knowledge. By gaining work experience, you are also gaining insight into an industry, as well as the various departments within a company. You may go into a job thinking your career is headed one way, and be opened up to a whole new world of possibilities.
Also, working is a great form of networking. The people you meet in an internship or through contract work can turn out to be some of the most reliable contacts in your entire career.