A college education is important. Traditionally, it’s been the most important factor in creating a path toward a successful career. This prevailing sentiment fittingly suggests that a college degree drives career opportunities: in a nutshell, to obtain better job choices, get a college degree. This thinking has always been reinforced by statistics showing that college graduates consistently earn higher wages and are more successful in their careers than those without a college degree. Given this sound logic, more people are attending college and earning their degrees. Ironically because of this trend, a better educated population coupled with an increasingly globalized economy has made the talent market more competitive. A college degree has become more like career requisite than a career advantage. Given the complex and changing economic environment, today’s college graduate must posses a new premium that goes beyond a college degree. This is why securing an internship, possibly two, during a student’s college years is now so critical to long-term career opportunities.
Students receive advice from career counselors, instructors, peers, and career websites about the many advantages of obtaining an internship: the opportunity to apply classroom knowledge in a “real world” setting; the opportunity to develop professional relationships and contacts prior to graduation; the opportunity build additional knowledge that enhances classroom understanding; and the opportunity to become acquainted with organizational structures and cultures. These are all very important motivations to seek out professional experience prior to graduation; however, there are other reasons I’ve alluded to above.
The career landscape has drastically changed. For better or worse, the current economic environment, globalization, and increased talent competition has changed the career equation significantly. These new realities have altered the definition of what it means to have a “career advantage” to compete for high-valued jobs and opportunities. Internships provide college graduates the better opportunity to be successful in an increasingly competitive global workforce. An internship can also maneuver students forward using the gained experienced as a springboard to succeed in a prospective career.
And while a college degree is still a vital component for career success, it is now only part of the equation. The reality of the forthcoming work environment will require college students to possess hands-on experience prior to graduation. The challenge for future graduates is to expand their learning, develop their skills, and incorporate practical experience through an internship. This additional part of the career equation is the answer for success in a more competitive world.