Make It Count: Valuable Experiences
for Working Students
ADAPTED WITH PERMISSION FROM ONLINECOLLEGES.NET
Enrolled college students who also maintain part-time or full-time employment are a common part of today’s academic climate. According to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 70% of U.S. stu- dents held down jobs during their four years of undergraduate study, and roughly one in five logged 35 hours or more
per week throughout the school year.
Clearly, a routine that effectively balances school and work
with family and social life is crucial for employed college students. However, it’s also important for all undergraduates to gain
experience in the professional field they are studying during their
program, and for many employed students, their current occupation does not match their long-term professional goals.
This article provides some tips and ideas for students who
wish to gain valuable skills and experience vital to their prospective career — without sacrificing that much-needed paycheck.
The life of a working student
Before pursuing professional opportunities related to their
degree path, students should ensure they are able to make
such a commitment. For this reason, University of Pennsylvania
professor Laura Perna recommends that students curtail their
weekly work schedules. “While working more than 15 hours per
week may be financially necessary,” she told U.S. News & World
Report, “I suggest that students first be sure that they have taken
full advantage of all available sources of financial aid, especially
financial aid in the form of grants.”
That being said, it’s still important to note that some employ-
ment options are more beneficial to students than others.
Robin Dizes, manager of career development services at Peirce
College, told Fox Business that certain opportunities — such as
paid internships and temporary positions in a student’s chosen
field — often lead to promising career leads after graduation.
“If you choose employment that meets your needs, you will be
more likely to continue to work there long-term, and long-term
employment is attractive to employers, builds your résumé, and
allows you to have stability in your career,” she said.
An additional reality is that many students are required to
take on jobs unrelated to their field just to finance their tuition
payments, pay rent and bills, and provide for extracurricular
activities. Rather than jeopardizing their primary means of support, academic experts urge students to seek out opportunities that will assist their career plans without consuming large
amounts of time or energy.
Internships are highly coveted among college students, for several
reasons. First, they enable students to experience firsthand the
working environment they plan to enter once they have obtained
a degree. Additionally, these positions allow students to network
with professionals in their field, learn practical skills not taught
in the classroom, and collaborate with other interns to hone their
teamwork skills. And in many cases, internships can also lead to
entry-level positions for students once they graduate.
However, there are also some drawbacks to internships. Time
commitment is a major factor; most internships require 20 hours
or more per week — and since the majority of these opportunities
do not award any monetary compensation, students must forgo
paid work to satisfy their demands as an intern. However, even
paid interns often encounter another problem: the work they
perform is vastly different from that performed by hired employees. Interns often assist with housekeeping, office logistics, and
other menial tasks that may have little (if anything) to do with
their prospective career. Finally, the quality of the internship is
important; some companies seek interns with the genuine desire
to train them and expose them to working conditions in their
future field, while others simply view them as free laborers.
Students can learn about different internship opportunities by
reaching out to their professors and corresponding with officials
at their institutions’ career centers; information is also available
through nationally oriented websites like InternMatch.com and
Indeed.com. However, Forbes contributor Frances Bridges says the
key to landing a desirable internship is through thorough research
of the industry as a whole. Students should look into hiring practices and business philosophies of all the major companies and
organizations in their field, as well as the companies’ stock market
performance, popular products, and other constantly changing
variables. Students who can intelligently discuss the current state
of their prospective profession fare best during intern interviews.
Undergraduate students often opt to tutor children and adults
in their local community, as well as their collegiate peers; some
specialize in group classes, while others tutor clients one-on-one.
Many student chapters provide opportunities for their members
to tutor through their chemistry departments. Some chemistry
students also pursue independent tutoring gigs (based on the
demands of their individual schedule) that allow them to gain
experience in their field and earn a little money on the side. The