Jerra Stout is studying communications, with public relations emphasis, at Brigham Young University. Jerra has also earned a business minor and danced with the BYU Cougarette dance team for three years. She currently works as an intern with Vivint Solar.
I’m a senior college student who will be graduating this year. Over the last two semesters I have been constantly nervous and anxious about approaching the scary “life after college” phase. I worry about finding a job; a job that I love and one that pays well. After talking to some professors and academic advisors I got some disappointing news…I most likely will not find a fulfilling, well-paid job right out of college.
I then remembered a statement that PR professional, Chris Thomas, said in a guest lecture in one of my communications classes. He said, “In order to be successful, sometimes you have to work for Cokes.”
Working for Cokes means that as college students, who are beginning to look for internships and jobs, we may have to do work for free—or something as little as a can of soda as pay for a days work. It doesn’t seem fair does it? Well, most people who are successful have had to pay their dues.
Simon Cowell worked in a mailroom for almost nothing at the beginning of his career. Through his dedication he worked his way up to become executive producer with the BMG label. He is now worth $85 million.
Former Goldman Sachs CEO, Sidney Weinberg, started out as a janitor’s assistant. He earned $3 a week by brushing hats and wiping mud from the firm partners’ shoes. Weinberg became a clerk soon after and eventually became a trader that earned his seat on the New York Stock Exchange.
Both of these successful individuals had to earn their way up the ladder by starting out with little to no pay. They even had to do jobs that did not relate to their career. How does sorting mail help you produce records? And how would brushing hats lead you to analyzing finances? That doesn’t make sense.
Well, both of those men did not become successful because of their ability to sort mail or brush hats. They were promoted because they were dedicated, hard-working and made relationships with people in their career field.
It may be difficult to work for nearly nothing when trying to gain experience. Let me rephrase that…it WILL be difficult to work for nearly nothing. But it’s often necessary and proves to be worth it because experience is so crucial to obtaining a good job. Education is important too, of course, but education is just part of a checklist. Employers will look at your resume, check that you got a degree and then they will focus on your experience. Chances are that someone who has more work experience in their career field will get the upper hand when applying for a job.
Let me also mention that gaining experience doesn’t have to be an internship that lasts for a whole semester. Gaining experience can be done in many small ways too. You can volunteer to help with events on campus that relate to your major, or ask local businesses if you can lend an extra hand on a short project, or even doing the meaningless jobs like making copies or cleaning can be the first step towards a career.
Student life is already busy. I know that. As students we have classes, homework, social life and maybe even a part-time job or more. It may seem impossible to add anything else to that schedule. But I can reassure you from my experience that doing anything to gain experience—even working for Cokes—will pay off in the future and lead you to the success you hope for.