Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Survey finds employers value internship and work experience over grades

By Eric Bosco

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Flickr/Nicholas Roznovsky

A large percentage of employers esteem on-the-job experience over high grade point averages and distinguished academic records, according to a recent survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education and American Public Media’s Marketplace.

The survey results showed that a bachelor’s degree does not necessarily indicate that a student is prepared for the workplace environment beyond the classroom walls. Participating employers cited a lack of adaptability, communication skills and ability to solve complex problems demanded of the workplace as areas where student applicants haven’t been measuring up to.

“Anybody can sit in a dorm room and study all day, but putting the theory into practice is what it mainly comes down to,” Ryan Kennedy, a senior in the Isenberg School of Management, said. Kennedy has previously interned at Interpol’s Washington bureau as well as the United States Department of Justice.

Kennedy said his experience as an intern taught him the skills and adaptability employers in his career field value most. His research and analysis as an intern at Interpol was useful on a broader scale than just a term paper in a professor’s mailbox. Interpol compiled his work as part of reports for the French Embassy, among other organizations.

“Working forty hours a week, understanding workplace dynamics, seeing the repercussions of mistakes that may have been forgiven in the classroom and adopting the pace of a corporate environment has taught me so much,” said Molly Boushell, a UMass student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in journalism and English. She is currently spending the semester working a co-op, or a joint educational and professional opportunity, with Reebok.

The opportunity to learn and develop skills in a work environment is an invaluable necessity to ambitious students, an opportunity not granted by the structure of academic courses according to some businesses interviewed by The Chronicle.

Hands-on learning for students in the workplace pays not only in terms of salary for paid internships and co-ops, but can also result in job offers for students after graduation. Sixty-three percent of students who participate in internships or co-ops receive at least one job offer after college, as opposed to 40 percent of graduates whose resumes boast only academic achievements, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) 2012 Internship and Co-op Survey.

Communication student Kasey Kinsella says her experience as a marketing intern at Northfire Recording Studio in Amherst also validated her career goals and gave her the confidence to pursue them.

“The more experience I have, the more comfortable I will be going into the next interview,” she said.

The growing importance of workplace experience has forced college students to focus on more than just achieving a degree, and for UMass students, there are tools to assist in gaining job experience. The University ranks among the nation’s top 10 schools in percentage of graduates who participated in internships, according to the 2011 U.S. News and World Report.

Career Services, located in Goodell building, will be hosting a Career Services Boot Camp for students of all majors that will consist of a variety of workshops from 12 to 4 p.m. in the Campus Center April 18. The department also has internship, resumes, and job hunting resources for students of any major.

Eric Bosco can be reached at [email protected]

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