With higher rates of un- or underemployment among college graduates in recent years, a national debate about the value of a college degree has gotten louder, especially as tuition continues to rise.
The slow economic recovery has hit young adults hard; in 2012, 44 percent of recent college graduates with a bachelor’s degree were underemployed or working jobs that do not require an advanced degree, according to a report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Other studies, including a recent one from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity, have had similar findings.
“There’s no question that an advanced degree gives college graduates a tremendous leg up compared to those without one; those recent grads are working jobs non-college grads want – and graduates typically find good work soon enough. It’s just a matter of how much of an advantage students demand right out of college,” says Matt Stewart, an entrepreneur and spokesperson for College Works Painting.
College Works Painting provides practical and life-changing business experience for college students who have shown potential for success. Interns operate their own house-painting business with hands-on guidance from mentors.
“Unemployment for our alumni is less than 4 percent; this kind of challenging yet fun student experience helps ensure a good career for college graduates right out of the gate,” says Stewart, who offers tips for what students should look for in earning professional experience while still in school.
• Know what you will actually be doing. Interns tend to be eager to learn, wide-eyed and optimistic about gaining an internship somewhere. While simply being in a company’s culture has some value, many businesses simply want students to do their lowest-level work. Grunt work, to some extent, is a fact of life in most professions, however, students probably aren’t looking to gain experience in coffee-making or cleaning. Consider an internship that gives you real responsibility and provides experiences that will definitely come in handy in your future career.
• Consider the industry recognition of a company. While college is certainly worth the investment, it is costly and you want to get all you can out of the experience. Don’t accept working for free with just any organization; think about how the name will resonate on a resume. If you can, get information on how other former interns fared at a company who would have you.
• For entrepreneurial students, real experience is crucial. If you’re an artist, athlete, musician, theater major, English student or a STEM fields student, it’s much easier to get real experience by simply doing what one loves. But for business majors and future entrepreneurs, getting experience often comes with a heavy price, including the loss of personal or family finances. Look for opportunities that provide guidance while allowing you to apply skills to real-life challenges such as budgeting, marketing, and managing employees.