Many in academia are of the mindset that you should essentially put your life on hold in order to obtain your degree. It makes sense, most college students live on-campus, they pay a ton of money to take classes, and they have to do a good job because the whole point is to get a degree.
Here’s what they aren’t telling you. When you get out of college and start applying for jobs, you’re going to hear that you don’t have enough experience to get the job. If you’re like most recent graduates, you’re going to hear this over and over again and it is going to drive you insane, because to get experience you have to get a job, but you can’t get a job without experience.
The best thing you can do for yourself, is not put your life on hold while you’re in college. The average college student takes 12 to 16 hours of classes per week. The average worker, works 40 hours per week, so you’ve got quite a bit of time on your hands compared to most adults. Yes, you have to study, but you should avoid the temptation to sleep as much as most college kids sleep, and try to limit how much of your waking hours you spend on time-sucks like Netflix and Youtube.
You should definitely be applying for internships while you are a student. You should be doing this even if it isn’t required for your major and even if it doesn’t pay. Those internships are experience. You should also consider a part-time job in your field, even if it is a low-level position that you wouldn’t want to make into a career. In the so-called “real world” you have to do something called “paying dues.”
You aren’t going to walk into your first job after college and be in management. You have to start lower and taking a part-time job at a company you might actually want to work for that is in your field is a great way to get your foot in the door.
You should also participate in every extra-curricular activity you can find at school that relates to your major. These also provide you with experience that your future employer will appreciate.
Of course, there is also the chance that your future employer will be yourself, and if you are at all entrepreneurial, you should consider starting now on those hopes and dreams. If you have a hobby or a skill that you think you can monetize, start working on it while you’re in school.
You can work for a company and earn a dollar for your company only to keep about 20 cents of it, or you can earn a dollar for yourself and keep all of it. That’s not for everyone, but if you think you’ve got a talent that you can make money off of, there’s no reason to wait until you finish school to start on that project.
The bottom line is, whether you work for someone else, or work for yourself, there are going to be people ahead of you in line who are advancing their careers while you are studying your trade in the isolation of college. You need an education and you need the critical thinking skills that one learns in college, but you don’t have to take classes exclusively. Don’t put your life on hold for something that only occupies at most 25 hours of your week.