Graduation season is upon us and many college graduates are relentlessly sending out monotonous cover letters to any and every employer out there -- everyone hoping to land their first “real job.”
But what exactly is a first “real job?” Is it an internship? Is it working as a barista to pay the bills? Is it your first entry-level position on your prospective career path?
The concept of a first “real job” can mean a lot of things nowadays, considering the fact that many new grads are starting out by applying to internships.
And that's probably because you need more than just a college education to get your first "real job”.
A survey conducted by Marketplace and The Chronicle for Higher Education revealed that employers who hire recent graduates prefer on-the-job experience to academic credentials. Marketplace's Amy Scott recently attended an event sponsored by the Student Intern Network to get an insight into the minds of unpaid interns. There, she spoke with its founder, Zachary Huhn, who said, "over 60 percent of employers say that graduates are not prepared for the workforce when they graduate."
Is that true?
Take me, for example. I am an intern at Marketplace today, and when I graduated in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in political science, my big resume bullet points included: two unpaid internships, one in Los Angeles and one in D.C., experience abroad -- living in Germany, to be exact -- and some work experience as a lifeguard.
I felt I was ahead of the game. I felt I was ready for my first career-starting job.
But was I? After applying online to various entry-level positions, I quickly realized I didn't have the qualifications hiring managers believed I needed to secure a full-time position.
Most jobs I applied to required at least one or two years of experience, as opposed to my six months' worth. So I sought out another internship after graduation, and now I am working on my fourth, as a digital intern here at Marketplace. The one-year anniversary of my graduation looms ahead.
How will internship expectations pan out for the class of 2013 graduates, like myself, who have been getting on-the-job experience in order to get their first "real jobs"? We’re beginning a series of reports asking people: What did it take to get your first “real job”? And what exactly is a “real job” anyway?
As I tried to answer these questions for myself, I realized it's a bigger story. So I went to someone with expertise on the internship process: ProPublica's Project Intern intern, Casey McDermott.
“I don’t think it indicates something wrong with the hiring process. I would hope that hiring managers would be able to look at a student holistically, instead of just looking at the lines on a person's resume," says Casey McDermott. McDermott just got her first "real job" as a reporter for the New Hampshire newspaper, the Concord Monitor.
Prior to getting this latest job, McDermott traveled across the country with ProPublica, taking a closer look at the human impact of internships.
"The project we did was focused on highlighting student voices: How can we spotlight students’ stories who have been interns and how has that either helped them or hurt them or changed their view on the work force?" says McDermott.
In contrast to the survey, however, Casey attributes her success to more than just her internship experiences.
"I think it was a combination of what I learned and what I was able to communicate about my learning experiences in my internships during the application process," she says. "But it was also my experience in college. Working at my college newspaper the Daily Collegian at Penn State was also instrumental in getting me employment."
Lucky for current graduating seniors, the National Association of Colleges and Employers' Job Outlook 2014 Spring Update survey is reporting that employers plan to hire 8.6 percent more class of 2014 graduates than they hired from the Class of 2013.
How will this vary among industries? Will this benefit the computer science major more than the liberal arts major?