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Minimum Wage, Maximum Benefit

If you are in life stage: Preparing for Take Off Posted July 11th, 2013
By Kathryn Sollmann

A Wall Street Journal editorial, “Summer Jobs for the Guilty Generation” really gave me pause. It brought me back to my recruiting decade and was a strong reminder that paid jobs are often the most impressive selling point on the resume of a recent college grad.

The editorial focuses on the now popular student “service trips” to far-off countries—funded by parents looking to pad the college applications or resumes of their kids. The author, a former hedge fund manager (who I suspect was never a Peace Corps volunteer), says “Paying [for your child] to volunteer in Guatemala does far less good than working a productive job”.   ID-10042608

Though the author says that he is “all for charity and volunteering”, he also says “the way to improve lives is to get to work”. I’m not going to agree or disagree or get into politics here—I just want to put a slightly different twist on his words by saying that the way to improve your chances of finding a post-college job is to make sure that your resume includes paid work.

Too many kids today are being compromised by a trend toward unpaid work. It’s not only “volun-tourism” (as is coined in the editorial)—it’s also the virtual epidemic of unpaid internships sponsored by companies that can well afford to pay minimum wage.

My point for young women, again, is this: potential employers zero in on the fact that you’ve held a paid job. And though unemployment numbers for young people in the age 18 to 29 demographic are at all-time highs, with tenacity and creativity there are ways to get at least minimum wage for even a few hours a week this summer through employers (at, for example, a small company owned by a family friend) or services you provide on your own (babysitting, landscaping, etc.).

I once was impressed with the resume of a young woman who created a babysitting “service” and schedule for three families—one that generated $10,000 in just three summer months. This impressed me more than some of the “prestigious” unpaid internships that involved little more than answering phones.

So for all young women now in the midst of high-impact volunteer jobs and meaty internships, rest assured you will attract many a recruiter’s eye. But when you’re planning your next summer, don’t be too quick to give all your time away. —KAS

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