Why Working During College Can Empower Your Future Career

Your Skills, Resume and Networking Will Help Overcome Workplace Bias

Working during college can help your future career by learning skills, resume building and networking. (Getty Images)

Unpopular opinion: working during college is appealing because it’s empowering to start building your career early.

We’re often told that our time in college is for education. After all, we can work when we get our degrees. That’s the whole point, right? However, working is interconnected with education and can play a key part in growing personally and professionally during college.

The opportunity to start your career early is especially beneficial to women, non-binary people, people of color, and others who are often overlooked in the hiring process. Working full-time is empowering as a way to help you build your resume, make connections, and boost your confidence to set you up for success in the future.

Early Entry to the Workforce Expands Your Skills

Women commonly face pay gaps and discrimination in the workplace. As of 2022, women make an average of 82 cents to a man’s dollar and these disparities are even larger for women of color. This can be disheartening for college graduates entering the workforce.

Working during college can combat this effect by empowering young women and others who may struggle to be taken seriously in the workforce. Mercedes Molloy is the founder of Safe Squad, an app that aims to reduce cases of sexual assault on college campuses. Molloy attends the New School in New York City full-time as a political science major. She continues to act as CEO of her app, where her responsibilities range from Zoom meetings to traveling for events. She acknowledges how her app helped her get into the tech space and expand her knowledge.

“Coding in general we know is very male-dominated. It’s hard for women and non-binary people to break into the industry because of certain pervasive stereotypes that exist.” Molloy explains that as she got involved with the tech world, she learned important skills applicable not only to the tech field but to life. “For me, I learned how to create, I learned how to plan, and I learned coding and analytical skills for sure.”

Meanwhile, Miura Rempis, a Master's student studying remotely at American University and full-time legal secretary for the State of Tennessee, has learned useful skills that apply to her public policy degree. “This is where I’m starting. [This job] is a necessary step, in my opinion, because it gives me an opportunity to learn the ropes of the legal field and the interpersonal communication side of working in local government.”

As of 2022, women make an average of $0.82 to a man's dollar.
As of 2022, women make an average of $0.82 to a man's dollar.

Build Your Resume

Working during college is not always about learning skills directly connected to your degree. Even jobs that are unrelated to a student’s degree can be instrumental in building fundamental job skills, which are important to employers. Skills like these can be included in resumes, yet a Monster survey reported that 63% of college graduates are concerned their resume falls short of representing their skills and strengths.

Rempis reiterates how working full-time can reduce this anxiety. “Any kind of experience that you can list on a resume or that you can say you have is going to be beneficial.”

Make Connections and Find Mentors

Aside from building your resume and skill set, working full-time during college can also help with making connections. “[My app] has allowed me to be in spaces that I wouldn’t necessarily have been in before as a woman, a [Mexican American], and a young person in college,” Molloy states. “It’s validating and a way to be taken seriously.”

Networking is an underrated but important part of working during college. Oftentimes, college jobs and internships have the potential to result in jobs post-graduation, either directly with the business or as a result of connections made through the experience. For young women, the opportunity for networking is a great way to prepare for getting a dream job after college.

Boost Confidence and Feel Inspired

Ultimately, working full-time inspires confidence, especially for young women, non-binary people, and other populations underrepresented in the workforce. Women are more likely than men to commit to a job before graduating college, oftentimes for less money than men. This indicates apprehensiveness about the future and a lack of confidence among women graduates. Working full-time can help young women and non-binary people feel more qualified and confident in their abilities.

As a first-generation college student and a woman in STEM, Molloy recognizes the value of education but emphasizes that leading her app has played an important role in her career. “You’re told that the weight of your future career solely relies on a piece of paper,” Molloy states, referring to a college degree. “While that is a part of it, I’ve found that in order to further my future career, having my own business allows me to show tangible skills. It’s a product versus just having a paper.”

Hailey Dickinson (she/her) is a creator passionate about using writing and digital content to build community, make connections, and ignite positive social change. She is a Communications Major with a social media emphasis at the University of Minnesota and will graduate in December 2023.

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