Starting on the Career Path Before Graduation: Arming Students with Real-World Knowledge

Internships were originally intended for students in the medical field. Doctors knew medical students needed hands-on experience working with patients before they were qualified to work on their own patients. Today, internships have spread beyond the medical field and become an important part of many jobseekers’ resumes in education, technology, writing, marketing, and more.

A recent graduate of a reputable medical school spent her last few years of school in multiple clinicals — a program similar to an internship that pairs students with mentors in the field — which gave her the opportunity to experience working with different age groups of patients, leadership styles, and company size. Entering the medical program she had a strong idea that she wanted to work with children; a decision that was solidified after working with a wide span of patients, from premature babies to geriatrics. Listening to her share her stories of obstacles and successes in the field is enough proof to know she learned more from her time in the field than she ever could from sitting in a classroom. This new grad has already landed a handful of promising interviews and has amazing references from faculty and mentors who can speak to her abilities.

Today, we see many new graduates entering the the job force without experience or direction. What if we expanded internships across the education system like we did across the fields? What if career experience became part of the K12 curriculum? Imagine if this career-based model were used more commonly with younger students and encouraged through their education. Middle school and high school students could work side-by-side with mentors in fields that interest them. Through gaining real-world experience, they could assess their strengths and weaknesses —  a great first step for teenagers to prepare for a career. Their mentors could become references for college applications and college-level internships. Having an internship during school would become the norm for students and the value of the experience would soon show itself as it opened more doors for them.

The career path cannot start after college graduation. The bricks need to start being laid in grade school with programs like mentorships, internships, volunteering, and service learning. Young students don’t need to decide on a career to start preparing for the world of work. Any work experiences, good or bad, are critical for students searching for their place. What is the price of not preparing students with a career mindset? What is the price of sending underprepared college students into the working world without working knowledge?

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