It’s Common Sense… Graduate with Experience!


At some point, every college student is faced with the existential realization that their time at UNCW will end and they will have to go into “the real world.” One of the most common problems graduates run into is finding a job without experience. It’s a never-ending cycle: you need experience to get a job and you need a job to get experience. Thankfully, there are several things you can do while you are still in college to get the experience you need to snag a job straight out of college.

Get an Internship

Taking an internship is one of the best things I ever did at UNCW. My internships encouraged me to pursue a career in Integrated Marketing Communication. Through my internships, I gained valuable experience and had the chance to learn what skills were in demand and what I should work on before I entered the job market. If you have a chance, try to get multiple internships while you are still a student. Seawork is always full opportunities. I got my first internship during my first semester of college. Since then, I have had two other internships and will graduate this year with over four years of experience in my field.

An internship is a great way to gain experience while connecting with potential employers. According to a 2016 report by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), internship experiences significantly increase a student’s chance of being offered a job after college and receiving a higher starting salary. In addition, 46% of students who participated in an internship received a job offer.

Enroll in an Applied Learning Class

When it comes to experience, you couldn’t have picked a better school. UNCW places a strong emphasis on connecting its students with applied learning opportunities. Applied learning is the chance to take the theories, ideas, and skills one learns in the classroom and apply it to real life situations. Most upper-level communication studies courses place an emphasis on applied learning. For example, our IMC II class is helping UNCW research the impact crises have on its brand image. Experiences like these are great for your resume and provide valuable experience that is sure to impress employers.

Learn Something New

As communication studies majors, we are taught to be lifelong learners. The job market is constantly shifting and employers are always looking for new sets of skills. Learning something new can make you much more marketable in the job market. Instead of turning on Parks and Recreation or The Office, spend some time learning about SEO, Analytics, Facebook Ads, or other skills that are relevant to your field. Aren’t sure what to look for? Searching for jobs online is a great way to learn which skills are in demand and what you should be working on.

Don’t Stress

As a student, the idea of preparing to get a job can sometimes seem overwhelming. You may feel like you’ll never have enough skills or experience to achieve success. My advice is to take things one step at a time. Go on Seawork and apply for an internship, sign up for an upper-level communication studies class, look at WordPress tutorials on your phone between classes, or sign up for a (super inexpensive) Adwords or Analytics certification class at CIE. No matter what you do, there’s a job that can use your skills. Keep on learning and growing. You got this.

Photo from

-K. Layne Smith

22 thoughts on “It’s Common Sense… Graduate with Experience!

  1. Great advice about the importance of internships. An opportunity that you missed is all of the for-credit internships a student can complete. These internships provide 3 credit hours toward you COM 300/400 level additional hours (not the 400 level class) and will fulfill your Explorations Beyond the Classroom requirement. The class portion of the COM 498 Internship in COM Studies helps you connect your coursework to your internship enhancing your learning opportunities.

    To learn more about COM 498 visit our internship page – Or stop by my office, LH 239, to discuss.

    • Thank you so much for this information! honestly i was a little nervous that I was one of the only college kids struggling with next steps after graduation. its so nice to see so many comments from youths in the exact same boat as myself! the resources available at UNCW blew me away and i even went searching other departments potential helpful information on their sites as well. Lots of great internships and chances to form connections are available campus wide. So happy to be a sea hawk!

  2. I can definitely relate to this never ending struggle, especially considering the fact that I do not have a specific career that I want to pursue. One way that I have gained job experience while also being a full time student is by maintaining a job as a Resident Assistant throughout the year and working as an Orientation Leader over the summer. These are jobs that work around your class schedule and prioritize the fact that you are a student before anything else. While they may not provide experience directly related to a lot of majors, they involve a lot of public interaction, which is crucial to communication majors.

  3. Job hunting is one the worst parts of modern American living, but it never hurts to forget that 99% of us have to go through it too. It is reassuring to know that the next person interviewing has had just as miserable of a time looking for a job as you have. So while all the advice stated above is important, it is equally important to keep going through the gauntlet that is “the real world.”

  4. I found this article very interesting. Internships not only get you job experience but also help you learn the skills you will need once you get a job. While your learning, you are also the getting experience that will help you be able to do your job to the fullest. I have not completed an internship yet but I am hoping to complete one next semester. This article was very well written and it communicated many great points about internships.

  5. Very interesting article that relates to the majority of students in college. The concept that you need experience to get a job and you need a job to get experience can be hard to accept for many. .Internships can be the difference maker between you and other applicants for the position. I appreciate how you mentioned learning something new instead of watching episodes on Netflix. The skills/certificates you included can bump your resume to the top of the interviewers tall stack. Not stressing is crucial! There are plenty of resources out there to help with the job search. Take a deep breath and tell yourself everything will be OK!

  6. This article was the breath of fresh air that I have been longing for; I appreciate every piece of advice you gave.

    Sometimes I catch myself, more recently, stressing about the “real world.” Will I be “successful?” Will I make a lot of money? Will I get to the opportunity to travel the world and also have an amazing career? The questions never stop.

    I currently have an internship and I love gaining real world experience. However, I found your advice on the inexpensive classes through CIE to be the most interesting and helpful. Looking at job descriptions during your undergraduate career and preparing yourself to be the person that has the skill sets that they are looking for is vital.

    Again, thanks for the reminder to not stress; it was needed.

  7. Many good points in this article about preparing and hunting for “real-world” jobs. It is key to not take your eye off the ultimate higher education goal–getting a job in your field. This article was a good reminder for me to find an internship. I knew they were important, but now I know I cannot afford to miss the opportunity. I hope to start raking in my career experience through internships next semester. In addition to internships, good advice on applied learning courses! I am still new to UNCW, so it is helpful to know about these courses early, before it is too late to take them. This was a well written, entertaining article with helpful information and needed encouragement.

  8. I enjoyed reading this article, it was super helpful and relatable for students currently studying at university. I 100% agree with what you mention about internships as I know for me personally networking is key to a successful career back home in Australia. It’s now not only about WHAT you know but WHO you know and internships are a very beneficial way to meet people and make good impressions in the industry! It’s also a great opportunity to gain a practical understanding of what you learn in the classroom and to decide what aspects you like and don’t like in the field of communication before applying for a job. Thanks for all the helpful tips and advice, it was well structured and included lots of helpful tips!

  9. LAYNE! I didn’t know you were in IMC II! I’m reading all your blog posts now.

    Also, Just completed my second internship. That means I’m graduating with experience! *happy dance* Super insightful article, though. Nice to know you’ve gotten all sorts of experience. We should grab a coffee some time and catch up. I want to hear about your study abroad!

  10. Great advice! I like your alternatives to internships, as today that seems like that’s all there is. Applied learning is a great way to get experience, though I have trouble saying I did this on an a resume. Perhaps you have an article on this? I know the career center is great for this. I find myself, today, getting into the mentality that I need experience to get an internship, I need an internship to get a job. Applied learning can be great for helping someone get an internship.

  11. This article is filled with fantastic advice that I hope others will also find useful in the future. I could not agree more that finding an internship, especially one you like, can make a huge difference for your life when you start taking your first steps out in “the real world”. Not only does it imply that you have received experience in a certain field, but it also suggests that you spent less time working a job and instead more time learning about a profession/skill making you a more qualified candidate. I’ve already had several of my own internships and am still looking for one more before I get out of college that way I will have the required experience and knowledge to actually help a company progress into the future.

  12. I definitely relate to this article because it’s getting to the point where I need to start prepping for life after college. While I’d rather never leave and be a college student forever, getting an internship would help. I feel like internships can show you hands on what it is you should be doing with your life after you graduate. Getting my first internship in the communication field will really help me figure out what it is thst I want to do with my life when I graduate.

  13. Thank you so much for this article! I am currently struggling with this entire complex. It does seem highly ironic how universities and companies stress the need to have experience for a job and vice versa…but it all boils down to the final point- Experience is a must. While I have not completed an internship yet, I do hope to within the next year. Furthermore, I enjoyed learning more about applied learning as well as certification class opportunities. I’ve recently been frightened by the idea of entering the “real world”, however, your informative and reassuring article have put me back at ease with myself and made me realize that I do have this. I so got this!

  14. Thank you for this! I’ve actually been stressing about this topic for a while now. I recently switched to Communication Studies as my intended major, so my experience in the field is very limited and quite daunting. My goal for this year is to get an internship to expand my knowledge and connections within IMC. The article provided amazing advice on how to get your foot in the door within your major, which is a fear many college students share. The idea of not doing enough but not knowing where to start is a difficult rut that many people, like myself, have fallen into. I’m excited to get my first internship and building my resume so that graduation doesn’t seem so scary!

  15. I find your article very interesting as I am currently struggling to find out where and what I want to be with my communication degree as I excel through college. Its really a relief to hear some of your points on internships, as well as helpful, knowing there is some humor into this article as you relate to the office, which is one of my absolute favorite shows. You made the situation of finding a job and internship alternatives not as terrible as you added on that positive note.

  16. I’m a new student here at UNCW and coming from a school that is relatively similar, I wasn’t that worried. When I finally got here, I couldn’t have dreamed up how different it is from any other college I’ve experienced! I really appreciated your post because reading it gave me insight on how to become more experienced (and thereby more successful) in my time here at UNCW. I had never even heard of SeaWork, so my chances of actually finding an internship were probably slim to none. Thank you so much for the insight!

  17. I found this blog to be great advice. I think it directly addressed the worries most college students college students encounter. You also did a great job sharing resources on ways we can get experience before graduating.

  18. This article really spoke to me as a college student struggling with the idea of what my job is gonna be after college. The idea that every job requires experience is kinda redundant at this point, I cant quite grasp the concept of a business wanting to only hire people who have experience, as some of the best learners/workers are the ones who are taught from scratch. I’m hoping that getting an internship will widen my options for me. I think that my COM degree will give me the opportunity to expand my horizons, and find a job that fits me more than i fit them.

  19. Internships are SO important when getting experience in order to get a job out of college. I actually had an internship that I was able to stick with part-time both this academic year and last year and it is the reason I am studying Integrated Marketing Communication now! It has also given me invaluable experience and knowledge in real estate. That is also extremely important, as we are in a region that will continue to grow and prosper–a key element to that equation is real estate and real estate marketing. Great job on this blog! It’s an excellent compilation of the options that college students can do now to ensure that they will get a job after graduation, instead of waiting until they’ve already graduated and are still on the job search.

  20. I enjoyed reading your article, it was very eye opening. On a personal note, I particularly was attracted to the internship paragraph. Although summer is not for a while, I have been really contemplating whether or not I should get an internship this summer. I have never heard anyone have a negative experience as an intern and it seems as if your internship here at UNCW went smoothly, so that is encouraging. Like you said, a big part of an internship is connecting with potential employers and that is the biggest draw to me as of right now.

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