Fun fact: no matter how fancy your college degree is or how high your GPA was during school, if you don’t have any job experience when you graduate, you probably will find it extremely difficult to get a job. And not just your dream job, it’ll be hard for you to get any job — which is why having a part-time job in college (or maybe even more than one) is a great idea. Part-time means 10 to 30 hours a week, smarty pants! It’s not that hard!
I’ve had to work since I was 16 years old, so by the time my college days were over, I had more than eight years of job experience. That’s basically quadruple the experience some of my classmates who didn’t work during college had, and who do you think companies hired? That’s right: me. I know that getting into college and doing well in college might be a lot harder than when I was a freshman, but I hate to break it to you — for the most part, a future employer is not going to care how many classes you took, or that you got As on all your homework assignments. They want to see “real world” skills, and what better time to hone these skills than when you’re young?
It might seem important to graduate in four years and get perfect grades and a shiny summa cum laude tassel, but believe me, it’s more important to get out of college ready to work, even if it takes you a few extra years.
1. Everyone has to start somewhere
If you think you’re going to graduate and automatically land your dream job, you’re probably wrong. Unless you’re the luckiest, most talented person on the planet, we all have to start somewhere. And usually that place is not super fun. My first jobs were as a hostess in a restaurant, and as a sales clerk in a sporting goods store. I wasn’t curing cancer, but those jobs led to other jobs and better jobs, and so forth.
2. Terrible jobs still give you skills, even if it’s just on paper
Working retail or in the service industry might not seem important, but you still acquire basic skills that are important for your resume. If you work in a restaurant, for example, you can now include key words like “good phone manner,” “customer service-oriented,” and “team player” on your resume. Having a job at the mall means you know how to work a cash register, and that you can be trusted with keys and important details. Your first part-time job might be boring or tough, but you’ll be thankful for the skills you rack up.
3. It’s better to get some bad jobs out of the way now
I can tell you from personal experience I would never be able to tolerate working a starter job in my late 20s — so you might as well get some bad jobs out of the way now. Not that all part-time jobs or first jobs are awful, but most likely you’ll be stuck doing something that is less than ideal in order to build your resume. I had two really boring jobs before I had enough experience and extracurriculars to get my first real career-focused job, so you don’t have to tough it out at sucky jobs for long.
4. You can make some non-school friends
Going to college in a new place and having to meet new people can be scary and a bit nerve wracking. If you’re living in the dorms, you might have a few built-in friendships. But if you’re living off-campus, it might be a bit harder for you to meet people. If you’re working in a place with a lot of people your age, you’re bound to make at least a few friends. And you’ll at least have more to talk about than homework, or who didn’t do the dishes.
5. It’ll be easier to start your career after you graduate
I know some people are looking forward to taking a gap year to travel or volunteer or chill out after they graduate from college, but if you want to try and get a job right afterwards, you’re going to need some work experience. No matter what job you want or career path you’re on, no one will hire you if you have a blank resume. That’s just reality. As my mom always said, it’s easier to get a job when you have a job, so start with a part-time job now, and build on that.
6. You’ll be more well-rounded
School is awesome and all, but if you and your whole life is about school — well when school ends, you’re going to be a bit lost. Having a part-time job gives you an opportunity to do something productive that isn’t writing essays or doing labs. Having a job also gives you a greater sense of responsibility and financial freedom than if school was your “job.” It’s also a good opportunity to add some non-career related skills to your life resume. Be it mixing a mean drink, being able to drive a Class A vehicle, or knowing exactly what shoe size a certain celebrity is, you’ll walk away from a part-time job with some stories for home that don’t include the words “school” and “test.”
7. It’s a chance to really figure out what you want to do
So you’ve wanted to be a veterinarian your whole life, and then you end up getting a part-time job in a vet clinic, only to realize that it’s not a job you could ever do. So many times kids go into college with a dream, and when that dream becomes a reality it suddenly dons on you that your dream job is actually a nightmare — or it doesn’t even exist anymore. This happens all the time. That’s why it’s important to test the waters with some part-time jobs to make sure that the career you want is really the one you want. Who knows? You might go into college a history major, and discover through your part-time job that your true calling is marketing.
8. Some jobs can help put you through school
Some companies are going above and beyond to help their workers graduate, whether it be through a College Achievement Plan, or simply by helping you get the money you need to pay tuition costs. And if that isn't a good reason to get a part-time job, I don't know what is.
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