Lawson: Classroom education isn’t enough to get a job out of college

Angelica Lawson

Something everyone has heard about during college is how vital it is to be hirable after college, being attractive to employers and building your résumé. It is driven into everyone’s mind from day one of their higher education experience that you have to posses skills that are marketable to future employers.

As graduation season approaches, there are more and more conversations about job postings and who’s hiring. Have you ever noticed what the preferred experience level is?

Many entry-level jobs request or require years of experience in order to be considered for the job. How are recent college graduates supposed to have years of job experience for something they’ve spent the last several years studying to do? They’ve been in school getting an education; why should employers be able to expect new post-grad students to have years of knowledge related to this specific field?

These situations drive the question plaguing students, “How can I gain experience if I am being turned away from jobs for not having enough experience?”

Plain and simple, it is frustrating. An entry-level job is created for people who are in the pursuit of experience and are just starting out. Requiring experience beyond the scope of being a students seems unfair in a way because it makes it seem like being a student is not enough anymore.

Employers and experts alike do not deny the existence of this bias. They explain the need for more experienced employees as a generational fact, but our generation — Generation Y, millennials — are “syllabused.”

Syllabused — “syllabus abused” — is a newly coined term that means students are told what they are going to do and how they are going to learn to apply those concepts. Constantly being told what you have to do and having a timeline of dates set for you is limiting in the building of independent decision-making and reasoning skills.

A study by the Council for Aid to Education in which 32,000 students were surveyed found that 40 percent of college seniors fail to graduate with the complex reasoning skills needed to be successful in the workplace.

How can you combat being syllabused? If you are unable to gain professional experience you have to volunteer your time.

Volunteering is a great way to gain experience without having to make a major commitment. You can volunteer when you have time in your schedule, and understand that there is no risk of being “fired” if you cannot be there every day.

Having volunteer experience on your résumé proves that you take initiative and are able to make career building decisions.

Make sure you have internship experiences. Go above the required and strive to have an internship each year. Internships provide great opportunities to gain the skills and experience employers look for without having to compromise during the school year.

Students ultimately have to be willing to fill the skills gap between what they are being taught in class and what employers are looking for in potential employees until there is a clearer communication between what is being taught in the classroom and what is being desired by employers.

This is not to say that the skills and hands-on learning experiences you get in the classroom are worthless; there’s just a need for more. Employers want employees they don’t have to train. Going into a job interview situation and having any form of experience is going to set you ahead.

The need for a strong résumé that conveys how well you are able to make decisions, get experience, know how to reason within complex situations and your ability work well in group settings is more important than ever. The competition in the job market is high, and you have to be able to prove that you are worth their time before you even say hello.

The amount of stress students feel in their final semesters is mind blowing. First, you’re graduating; second, you have student loan payments due in six months; third, you need to get a job. There is not much else you can do except power through, get what experience you can and have an amazing résumé that expresses you as an individual and highlights the qualities that people are looking for.

Those directing higher education need to figure out ways to educate without letting a syllabus control what and how students learn to truly produce job market-ready graduates with the ability to reason for themselves. But until then, it falls on the shoulders of students to search outside of the classroom to become viable in the search for a career.