Choosing a college major is like trying to pick out the best jelly bean from a whole jar of options. Sometimes the first choice is so overwhelmingly perfect that you go to the store and buy a bag of only that one flavor for four years. However, life isn’t always that sweet. Other times, you might choose the red bean expecting cherry only to be disappointed by a sour raspberry. But what if I told you that something exists to help you pick out the “sour” college majors and select the best one for you? Well, there is, and it might seem too obvious to hold any merit.
Get a part-time job. I’ll admit, it’s not a revolutionary idea but it is an underappreciated and overlooked asset to getting the most out of your college career. In fact, Business Wire tells us that 4 out of 5 college students have a part-time job. However, only 18% of college students pay their own way through school. So, what does that say about having a part-time job? It’s probably not all about the money.
1. Broaden your horizons
Although working part-time doesn’t guarantee you the most exciting or advanced position within a company, playing a small role within a business provides you with an eye into that particular industry. Waiters learn about the restaurant industry, sales associates navigate the retail world, receptionists manage a variety of spaces, nannies understand childcare, call center agents master customer service, and the list goes on. Getting your feet wet in various industries can help indicate if you’ve chosen a major that best suits your aptitudes and career interests, and help lead you toward a different major path.
2. Soften up your skills
I’m not only advocating on your behalf, but on your future employers behalf also. Career Builder surveyed 2,138 hiring managers and human resource professionals from various industries and discovered that 77% of them believe softs skills are just as important as hard skills. Soft skills are those personality aptitudes you build through experiential learning. Strong work-ethic, dependability, strong communication, and being team-oriented made the top of the list for employers. Truth is, companies are having to pay far too much money on developing our soft skills [see infographic below] and they will take more interest in candidates who come in soft skill ready. Developing these soft skills will also reveal aspects of your personality that can help you refocus your career choices. For example, if after working for a daycare you find you have no patience for children, then you may reconsider your education major.
3. Building your network
I believe in the power of conversation. One of my dear friends landed a job at a prestigious marketing research firm here in Cincinnati after a conversation with a neighbor concerning his job search.
The CEO called him a few days later and said, “I heard you’re smart, love numbers and are looking for a job. Let’s talk.”
So when I say networking in a part-time job is valuable, I’m not limiting that to conversations with professionals within your company. The truth is, the more you position yourself as a responsible college student, the stronger your reputation becomes as a growing professional. And you’ll never know how one conversation can change your career path.
4. One thing leads to another
Believe it or not, part-time jobs can become internships or even co-ops. Here at Education at Work, the co-ops and internship opportunities are open almost exclusively to entry-level student agents. I am a living example of this; I became the marketing intern here after having experience in the center for a year. If you choose your part-time job carefully, it could reaffirm your major choice and eliminate your post-graduation job search anxiety. The National Association of Colleges and Employers reported that in 2015 51.7% of internships and 37.8% of co-op’s lead to entry-level full-time job offers. In other words, one thing can lead to another and ultimately reward you with a career you absolutely love.
In high school, it can often seem that choosing to attend college isn’t enough, but that we are expected to know what career choice is best for us, too. Personally, I strongly advocate for an experiential “learn as you go” approach that involves a part-time job like one at Education at Work, plenty of conversations, and the sweetest of jelly beans.
About Laura Forero
Laura Forero is currently a junior at Xavier University studying Public Relations and Advertising. She enjoys reading, writing, and following a good PR crisis unfold in modern day media. Connect with her on LinkedIn.