This article was originally published on reverb, Drake Cooper’s reflections on advertising, creativity, and trends. Read more.

Bridging the Gap Between College and the Real World

Being a young professional fresh out of college can be tough in today’s world, and many graduates struggle to find jobs related to their degree. This could be due to the lack of jobs available for entry-level professionals, or the lack of basic skill sets.

I faced this issue when applying for jobs after college as well. My set graduation date at Boise State University was May of 2015, and in preparation, I began hunting for career opportunities seven months before I graduated. Everything I researched didn’t quite fall in line with what I wanted to do, required three to five years of experience, or didn’t pay enough, forcing me to get a second job. It seemed that everywhere I looked I couldn’t catch a break.

But instead of giving up or lying on my resume, I decided to do something about it. I acknowledged that while I greatly valued my education, I wasn’t necessarily acquiring the skills that were going to land me that dream job right out of college. I needed an opportunity, a middle ground, somewhere to hone my skills and learn in a real world environment. That’s when I decided to apply for the internship of a lifetime.

Right before Thanksgiving I threw my name into the hat for an internship in the United States Senate, and as luck would have it, I got it. Before I knew it, I was headed to Washington, D.C. to work in the nation’s capital. I spent five months asking questions, learning, and absorbing every bit of real world knowledge that I could, knowing that those skills would directly translate to a permanent occupation back in Boise.

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Stepping outside of my comfort zone and acknowledging that I didn’t have the answer to every question was the key for me to bridge the gap between college and the real world. As college students, we are ‘syllabused’ through school, our hands are held, which makes us miss out on personal growth opportunities. This growth comes from knowing how to prioritize tasks, make decisions, and solve problems in an efficient manner and on your own.

In fact, there have been many studies conducted in recent years such as the “Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success” study, done by Hart Research Associates, pointing out that what students learn, or don’t learn in the college setting, makes them incapable of functioning in today’s job market.

In another example, a test, known as the Collegiate Learning Assessment Plus, was given to freshmen and seniors in 2013-2014 in an attempt to measure advances made during college as it pertains to critical thinking. This test was given to 32,000 students at 169 universities and colleges. What it found was that 40 percent of college seniors leave college lacking complex reasoning skills that are heavily relied upon in today’s workplace. The skills measured ranged from writing and communication to analytical reasoning and critical thinking.

If you’re the parent of a high-schooler filling out college applications, these findings might make you wonder if it’s worth the investment. It is, but with the way today’s fast-paced workplace runs, we have to approach the problem differently. Think of it this way, you wouldn’t attempt flying a plane after just reading books about flying planes, would you? Anybody who wants to soar thousands of feet up in the sky has to take the appropriate courses and log multiple hours of training before they are allowed to become a pilot. The same should be considered for entering today’s workforce.

Employers will tell you that students who go to great lengths dedicating their time outside of the classroom, whether it’s an internship or volunteer opportunity, are more likely to be ready for the workplace. Drake Cooper understands that this change is needed, especially in Idaho. That’s why we offer the largest advertising internship program in the state every year. Hundreds apply, but only the most ambitious get the chance to become paid interns for an entire summer.

When I applied for a position here at Drake Cooper, I was looking for a job that would spark my creativity and passion. I knew that if I weren’t thrilled about what I was doing I would struggle to produce quality work. Interning in the Senate gave me the opportunity to test out what I was good at and see what interested me.

Through experimenting, I was able to narrow down what job I wanted to seek out and who I wanted to work with. What they don’t tell you in college is that when you’re applying for a job, an interview shouldn’t be one sided. With whomever you are interviewing, they should be selling themselves to you as well, it has to be a good fit for both parties. I bought into Drake Cooper’s atmosphere and culture. Everyone here is ambitious and passionate about what they do. It sounds cliché, but when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.

So if you’re a college student reading this and about to graduate, I’ll share with you the best advice I ever received. Right before I went to college, my dad told me that the best skill I could learn in school was the ability to learn. At the time I thought he was crazy, but looking back now, I realize how important that skill is.

Nobody is going to hand you your dream job on a silver platter. Be ambitious, ask questions, and step outside of your comfort zone.

References

Collegiate Learning Assessment National Results. (2014). Retrieved November 1, 2015.

Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success. (2015, January 19). Retrieved  November 1, 2015.

Kuh, G. (2009). What Matters to Student Success. University of British Columbia.

McWhinnie, E. (2013, May 24). College grads: Overqualified and underprepared? Retrieved November 1, 2015.

Selingo, J. (2015, January 26). Why are so many college students failing to gain job skills before graduation? Retrieved November 1, 2015.