I did 11 years in the management department at LSU teaching among other things Human Resource Management and Employee Selection/Placement. I also did stints as department undergrad adviser and as internship coordinator.
During that time I worked with hundreds of students as they transitioned from student to intern to employee. Here are some things I learned that I hope will help you college students out there.
Work experience is important. Working during summer breaks is a good idea. If possible, get a different job, with a different company each summer. As your college career progresses, you will take more major-specific classes. In the same way, seek job opportunities more specific to your chosen field every year. Internships can be great source for these.
Regarding work, it may be easy to babysit for a neighbor or work for your parents but doing something like that isn’t very helpful in the long-run – unless of course you want to be a day-care worker or plan to go into the family biz.
Work is important for getting that post-grad job offer for many reasons because it:
- helps you learn more about what you do and don’t want in a career.
- provides evidence (to recruiters) that you are a reliable and conscientious worker. HR’s preferred reference is an immediate supervisor (past or present).
- exposes you to others with backgrounds different from your own. The ability to deal with diversity is quite important in today’s workplace. Many students I taught had private school educations and little previous interaction with people unlike themselves. Nothing like a job in the hospitality industry or retail or construction for learning about diversity.
- allows you to demonstrate that you possess the knowledge, skills and abilities that companies want.
Several years ago, a survey of companies that recruited at LSU found job-related work experience was the #1 quality recruiters wanted in students. And, yes, that’s inherently a Catch-22. How can you get experience, when companies only want to hire people with experience?
Not easy, but certainly possible. However, it requires you be proactive. Ask your boss if you can get involved in a project related to your ultimate goal. For instance, you are a restaurant server who wants a career in HR. Ask if you can participate in training new employees or in selection interviews.
A little initiative is usually welcomed and it certainly can’t hurt to ask. Companies that hire students typically want to them to be successful.
Realizing here that I have too much to say on this topic for just one post so stay tuned…
Would love to hear your thoughts on getting a job after graduation.