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Well, that paper IS worth something, like I said, it opens doors for you (hence why there is still a reason to obtain a college degree). Without that degree, there are many less positions available to you. But if all you have is that piece of paper, with no experience in the field, that’s ALL you have. It shows you can learn, basically. That is why internships are so important if you want to obtain a job in your field, whether they’re completed during college or after. Career fairs tend to offer students internships (experience) foremost, for the students who aren’t part of a specialized program. Specialized programs, like accounting, teach students the necessary skills during college, but there are many other majors that teach at a basic level (like management). You seem to have a real problem with the fact that most businesses don’t want to hire graduates without work experience. You put too much stock into that piece of paper, without realizing just how many graduates drank their way through college, used exam files the fraternities and sororities usually have to cheat, and paid other people to do their work. Employers are aware of the prevalence of this. They’re also aware of the sheer number of graduates, making that piece of paper on its own worth less because of the high supply of graduates. It’s supply and demand. Businesses demand experience (as was shown in the study you had a problem with) because there is less of a supply of graduates with experience than there is of graduates in general. They want the best of the best, and those who didn’t take initiative during college (or after) didn’t set themselves up to be the best. Now that going to college is the norm, the degree on its own has lost value.

To break it down, let’s say there’s a job opening that requires a Bachelor’s Degree in economics. Preferred qualifications include relevant experience and specific skills related to the field, like ability to interpret statistics, ability to forecast economic variables, advanced experience with Excel, etc. The company has narrowed it down to two applicants:

Applicant A, fresh out of college, has a B.S. in economics and a few relevant projects he worked on during college that would be applicable. He has experience with Excel, but it’s limited to a few class projects. He probably understands how to use it, but has not had to use it on a regular basis to have an advanced and practiced knowledge of the program. Let’s say, in this case, he worked at a grocery store, so he did in fact work during college (many graduates do not work at all).

Applicant B, fresh out of college, has a B.S. in economics, a few relevant projects completed during college, AND has completed an internship (and/or worked a job during college related to their field). They’ve used Excel extensively in their job/internship, created many reports, compiled, analyzed, and reported data to explain economic phenomena and forecast market trends, while applying mathematical models and statistical techniques for the company. All of the experience gained at this company can be used to bolster his application, and he has tangible evidence of completed projects that were accepted and used by the company. They’re not just theoretical like a class project. Not only that, he has valid references within the field. He has networked and worked with employed economists.

Who is the company going to hire? Ceteris paribus, Applicant B has relevant work experience and has more of the preferred qualifications. It is obvious they’ll hire Applicant B, because he’s the better candidate. The fact that this applicant was able earn a degree while gaining the experience speaks volumes of their work ethic and focus. Applicant B took personal responsibility, gained the experience they knew they’d need to get a job within their field right after graduation, and therefore came out ahead. Applicant A can choose to say “ugh, this is abuse of power! This company shouldn’t even be in business because they didn’t pick me!” …or, they can get an internship (or a related job focused on training young people in these skills) to gain that experience, so that they can come back and match the other applicants’ skills, or even come out ahead of others who have no experience. This situation doesn’t even account for the fact that most times recent graduates will be competing against people who have already held a steady job in the field.

If they were truly looking for “fresh minds with no experience,” then more recent graduates would be employed in their field (the number is currently quite dismal) and countless studies wouldn’t show that experience/a degree make more of a difference than a degree alone. Fresh, inexperienced minds are wanted for internships. They’re not wanted for well-paying, skilled jobs that require a working knowledge of the subject, and these are the jobs graduates want. Quite frankly, these are the jobs graduates need to pay off their immense debt. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve encountered students who don’t work during college and for some reason expect to land a high paying job right after graduation because “well I got my degree didn’t I?!” They’re setting themselves up for failure by a) taking on immense debt at expensive colleges, oftentimes because they weren’t willing to go anywhere cheaper and by b) not taking the opportunities for internships and related jobs while they’re schooling, or immediately after. When their loans come due shortly after graduation, they have no experience, don’t want an internship because they think they deserve a great job right out of the gate, and nobody wants to hire them for a high paying job because jobs are limited and there are better applicants. This is something that’s getting lost on many, many college students, and then they turn around and blame everything but their own behavior (constant partying, napping for hours, claiming they’re much too busy attending classes for a few hours each day so they can’t possibly work, (because then what about their social lives?!)). Our current job climate doesn’t support those who aren’t willing to step up and make sacrifices. A degree on its own doesn’t hold the power it used to back when it was less common for people to have a degree. The workforce needs to adjust and step up to this change (partially due to our ever increasing population, automation, and to, as you said, jobs being given to those who they can pay cheaper and overseas), instead of blaming the businesses that are interested in American workers for doing what businesses do: hiring the best applicant.

It seems as if your confusion may be stemming from the fact that you didn’t actually use your college degree, nor did you use your time in college to further your experience for that degree. This makes a lot more sense after your explanation, though it’s a bit confusing that you are telling me that I think work experience carries too much weight, while simultaneously telling me that you make a good salary in a job you got purely through experience. Oh well. It doesn’t really matter. Congrats anyways!

Professional experience is certainly not “impossible” to get during college, unless, I guess, you choose to work in a field entirely unrelated to your own. If it was “impossible,” how did I do it? How did my friends do it? We must be magic! Unicorns really. We can do the impossible! ;)

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