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The Most Valuable Asset for a College Grad Is?

Updated on May 20, 2014

This article is really for any college graduate at any time, although, the information may help those who have graduated within the past five or less years. Like most students, they tend to think the GPA and any honors bestowed upon them are the most important assets when looking for a job. Or, maybe what classes they took in their major. While all to play a role, a recent study provided shocking results about what employers really care about.

A couple of universities pooled their resources for the study to find out what jobs are there for their grads and what mattered to employers. Between January and August, 2012, the university researchers sent out 9500 fictitious resumes of supposed graduates to over 2000 online job openings across the USA, on both coasts and in the middle. The "fake" college grads applied for banking, finance, insurance, management, and sales. As you can tell, more focused disciplines, like medical, engineering, computer technology, were not used. But the lessons learned from the study would be something to be considered.

The study sent four resumes to each job. Each resume claimed the person had graduated in 2010 and since then has held only one job. In half of the resumes sent, the bulk were business majors, the other half were English, psych, history, or biology majors. One fourth of the resumes sent indicated that these grads had worked at an internship in the same field as the job they were applying for.

After all of the responses from employers returned, the study showed some amazing data. Five out six applicants never got a response and only 17% were invited to an interview. I know, right away your thinking the odds are bad. The researchers found out that employers did not care much about their GPA or even their major. One would think that a business major might have a better chance in getting a management job than a candidate who majored in biology. Not so. Being an honor student meant little. What did matter?

Internships, either during their last year or after graduation in a field similar to the job they are applying for. The study showed that these job seekers had a 14% better chance of getting an interview. This was true even if the GPA was just average. When an average GPA with internship experience competed with a stellar GPA but no internship, the average grad got the interview. Often, an internship can lead to real employment with the company.

Many grads end up in the unemployed or under-employed status, working a some job just to pay rent and get food, while searching for their job they majored in at school. Fairly typical for many, however, the study showed that prospective employers are biased against those applicants if the period is extended. It is like a person who is unemployed for over six months, there is a built-in suspicious stigma about the person, like, something is wrong (when there is not in reality). For grads, the only thing that may help them get out of this vicious whirlpool is an internship, even if it was unpaid in their major. If it is not within their field or has nothing to do with the job they are going for, it won't help at all.

To employers, having an internship on your resume shows you are interested in the field and job applying for and you have some basic knowledge, and were able to do it. The only other thing they really care about is you got your degree. Whether you were average or a honor student means nothing.

Grads always have his unrealistic expectation about after they get a degree. They tend to forget that they are competing with many others of all ages that may have real experience in the job both are seeking. Like almost everyone knows, in many jobs, experience will get you the job and education will not. Employers hate to train. They just want someone to hit the floor running or minimal training. In other jobs, the reverse is true.

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