How Can College Students Stand Out to Employers? Work


Anti-debt guru Dave Ramsey once offered this advice to young college graduates: "If you come into my office and say 'I have three degrees and $7 million in student loans and I haven't worked a day in my life' -- I'm not interested!"

Plenty of employers share Ramsey's mindset these days. As the labor pool grows increasingly crowded with freshly minted graduates, employers have their pick of young talent -- and it appears that they are picking the ones who have already proven themselves in the workplace.

Real-Life Experience Is a Resume Booster

Andrea Ballard, director of human resources at Peterson Sullivan LLP, a Seattle-based accounting firm with roughly 100 employees, says she "would rather see someone who worked 25 hours per week and put themselves through school with a 3.5 GPA, rather than a candidate with zero work experience and a 4.0."

They don't even need to have relevant work experience. "I love hiring wait staff and baristas!" says Ballard. "I often find candidates don't sell their work experience enough. They seem to think being a barista at Starbucks isn't worth bragging about. However, I know that if they held a steady job during college that they know how to communicate with supervisors, take direction, deal with the public and potentially difficult people, get along with co-workers, work as part of a team, show up to work on time, stand on their feet for long periods, and handle a high-stress, fast-paced environment."

"Few extracurricular activities beat working while going to school," says Bill Lins, a Certified Personnel Consultant with

Christine Bolzan, a former vice president of recruiting at JPMorgan who now runs Graduate Career Coaching, advises students who worked during college to highlight that experience in the second paragraph of their cover letters. "The work experience and ethic displayed by someone who has been employed for 20-plus hours a week while maintaining a full academic load is valued tremendously across the board," she says.

Could Working Help a GPA?

Many parents fear that their child will be distracted from their education if they are juggling a job and classes. But some studies show that the opposite is true.

A 1993 report entitled College Student Employment published in the Journal of Student Financial Aid, found that students who worked 11 to 20 hours per week had a higher average GPA (2.75) than students who didn't work at all (2.69). Even students who worked more than 41 hours per week had the same average GPA than students who didn't work at all.

While it may seem cruel to make your child work and attend classes at the same time, it could actually benefit them in the long run. Not only could it help boost their GPA and their job prospects, but it could also reduce the amount of debt that they are saddled with upon graduation.