By CEO Jim Annis
This article speaks to you – the student – who may be facing the philosophical duel that society has been fighting for a while now. Which is more important? Education or experience? In my mind, there is no clear winner. It is akin to, “which came first? The chicken or the egg?” So as a student or recent graduate, how do you avoid getting sucked into the debate all together and best position yourself when applying for a job or an internship?
All professions and all kinds of work, assuming they are legal and ethical, are honorable in my eyes. Work has many definitions. In terms of a career, it can be, “mental or physical activity as a means of earning income.” However, I would urge you to use the broader definition, “involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a purpose or result.”
I am sure if you have chosen to be a secondary education student you have worked in a meaningful way, can meet deadlines and have at minimum a glimmer of ambition that an employer like me can appreciate. First, you need to acknowledge all that you have done and account for it. Begin a table/list of all the “work” you do or have done that might be transferrable to a job. Start with your studies: group projects (time management, leadership, results); internships (technical skills mastered, essential knowledge gained, network building/mentors and contacts); Greek leadership (civic engagement, wellness/safety training, risk management, diversity and inclusion, accounting/finance, awards achieved); and then work in your general work ethic, tenacity, presentation skills and specific technical abilities.
Look at your life in general. Are you a caregiver to a grandparent, parent or sibling who has health issues or special needs? Those caregiving duties can include transferable skills such as scheduling, ability to follow set rules and protocol, transportation provision/coordination, communication with clinical professionals, empathy and compassion, astute observation skills, knowledge of health insurance policies and paperwork. Do you participate in athletics? Apply the attributes you have been doing on the field, including leadership, confidence, commitment, grace (hopefully) under pressure, coachable, teamwork, know how to compete successfully, disciplined and self-motivated.
In an interview, if you have done the homework above, you will probably be more adept at a bigger picture dialogue about your skillset than the interviewer. That is ok. Sell yourself anyway. A good interviewer will not pigeonhole you. An even better interviewer will pepper the interview with behavioral experience questions, see true talent and potential and grow a candidate like you in-house versus opting for a candidate with more experience and no degree.
One last thing. Take the service job. Why? We all experience job phases. Everyone has been told to specialize, specialize, specialize and if you have not you are doomed. I have a lot more years on this earth. Specialization has its own set of limitations. If you are an English major, you are not going to proof at Harper Collins Publishers right off the bat. If you have to work to survive, then go get work, and build from there. It does not have to be perfect to be meaningful. Minimum wage at an entry level position is really ok. Most of us started off that way and we’re doing fine today. I promise. Now go get that job!