On Thursday, University of Iowa student Wylliam Smith wrote an opinion piece on how student jobs do not prepare people for the “real world.” Any job you have in the future, any job, is going to allow you the opportunity to get out of it what you put into it, and student employment is no different. If you view your job as menial, then that is all it will be.
Smith specifically mentioned University of Iowa Housing & Dining in his article; as I’m sure the leaders of that unit would tell you, it may not be the most glamourous job on campus, but it still has the opportunity to be incredibly valuable. If you work as a dining associate, do you not have to communicate with other team members? Collaborate with other associates and supervisors? Solve problems that arise throughout your shift? Show up to work on time and be professional? I would guess that each is an expectation of your job. It is also an expectation of employers who hire new graduates into the “real world.”
According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the real-world wants these transferable skills: Employers Rate Career Readiness Competencies in Terms of Essential Need (2017)
Competency Essential Need Rating 2017
Critical Thinking/Problem Solving — 4.58
Professionalism/Work Ethic — 4.56
Teamwork/Collaboration — 4.43
Oral/Written Communications — 4.43
Based on a 5-point scale where 1=Not essential; 2=Not very essential; 3=Somewhat essential; 4=Essential; 5=Absolutely essential.
These skills are consistently in the top four each year for what employers look for in work-ready graduates. Student jobs can provide these skills if you look to make the most of your experience. There are 100-plus jobs out there at any time on HireaHawk, so if you don’t feel your job is providing you with a meaningful experience, we highly encourage you to look for other opportunities.
The truth is, if you want to sit around and do homework at your job, there are probably some of those jobs out there, but the vast majority will expect you to work and take pride in the important part you play in university operations. See, what many fail to realize is that students’ roles are not just to fill up space but to keep the university operating. Student workers, your job is important. Having a job is incredibly important to the university and your future employer, so to say having a student job is not valuable for the real world is simply false. Employers want graduates who know how to work, no matter what the job. The simple skills matter — a lot.
This topic is a great one, and I’m glad Smith brought it up because it shows how important being proactive with your own learning can be. Student employment can be a big part of that, but what do you get out of that employment? If you are done with your work do you immediately do homework, or are you proactive to gain a responsibility or learn something new? Your mindset is your choice as an employee, and that choice applies to each and every student job here at the University of Iowa. You get out of it what you put in and future employers take notice.
— Josh Frahm is a STEP & Student Employment Coordinator and UI adjunct instructor