Experience necessary: Here’s why

By Meg Cook
Opinion Contributor

Two months ago, I started a job in a local restaurant. They knew I had no previous experience in that environment, so I went to my first shift expecting a full training. It was a Saturday lunch rush during an annual sidewalk sale. Suffice to say, I only saw the end of the line at the beginning and end of my shift.  Before this, I had only a brief orientation on scheduling policies and tip pick up. I had nothing to prepare me for this.

“Are you kidding me?” I thought to myself. No previous experience, no knowledge of procedure going in, and I was supposed to do this job?

Absolutely.

After two weeks, I had the routine down. I hustled, asked questions, and smiled a lot. I had more in- depth training learning on the fly, observing the job being done, and listening than I had ever experienced before. The whole purpose of getting an education is to prepare you for a job–it’s one of the reasons I’m here. Turns out, I was wrong.

I was never one to participate in class my freshman year: no questions about lectures or readings, no insights to share beyond the right answers. My academic experience was lacking depth, and it wasn’t the fault of our superior faculty. Since then, I have had three internships, two jobs, and multiple extracurricular leadership experiences. Mind you, the volume has no impact on the glamour or the intensity of these off-campus experiences. Now, I find myself asking more questions and relating the concepts I’m learning in class to these experiences.  By making the material relatable, it’s easier to retain information and wrap my head around concepts. So I’ve been doing college wrong.

Internships, jobs, volunteer work, anything that gets you outside the classroom and doing something will enhance your success in the classroom. The pitch for unpaid opportunities and internships is that it’ll look better to prospective employers and it’ll help you find a job. However, it’s those exact opportunities that will help you find success in your academics. While I have the utmost respect for the wonderful people in the Griff Center, their timeline for students is a little off. Start now. Embrace the city and find where the need is for fresh minds and eager hands. Explore your passions and interests; if you can find all of that in your given field, then great. Go do it. Go explore it and bring it back to the classroom with you. More experience never hurt.

 

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