News - From Students To In-Demand Employees, Thanks To Experience First

From Students To In-Demand Employees, Thanks To Experience First

by Rachel Heston-Davis

Students presentingIn recent years, employers nationwide have reported searching for qualities beyond grades in college graduates.

Leadership. Problem-solving. Professionalism. These attributes impact job performance and increase employability. But they also suggest experience, something new entrants into the workforce often lack.

Greenville University developed the Experience First program precisely to nurture these employability skills in students. Student applicants accepted into Experience First are placed on teams and partner with real business leaders for work on real business projects.

“Our feedback from the students is that they learn to communicate and work well in a team environment that better prepares them for the workplace,” says VP for University Relations Suzanne Davis, instrumental in launching the Briner School of Business under which the Experience First program was begun.

Results speak for themselves, often in the form of employment offers prior to graduation. For example, a local dairy processing plant offered Experience First participant Lincoln Siebert ’17 a high-level administrative role before graduation day. Other Experience First students have accepted positions such as stadium operations assistant for a minor league baseball team, coordinator at a talent management agency, graphic designer with a surety bonding company and mortgage loan processor with a national bank chain.

When you include Experience First graduates who landed a job after college, the list of industries expands to social media management, education, accounting, nonprofit work, IT support and many more.

What do employers search for in young employees—and how does Experience First nurture those qualities?

Soft Skills

LeaderLeadership frequently makes the employer wish list for new graduates. Students in Experience First assume responsibility to complete a project for their business partners and lead the way on executing plans.

Light bulbProblem-solving appears prominently in many job requirements. Experience First students encounter plenty of setbacks on their real-world projects and learn to work through or around them. Though faculty mentors advise and evaluate their work, faculty don’t swoop in with solutions when a snag arises; they let students handle it.

Team high fiveTeamwork is essential for almost any job in the real world. Experience First teams intentionally include students of different majors and skills, ensuring everyone must contribute. Team members learn to work with each other and with their professional business leaders, in good moments and frustrating moments.

Work ethicWork ethic—sometimes described by employers as drive, passion, grit or rigor—is a quality every boss wishes to see. Here again, Experience First delivers.

“Experience First develops work ethic and perseverance because we teach and train students to fail fast and fail forward…[students] understand that these are high stakes projects that will demand greater attention than many of their typical classes,” says Suzanne Davis.

Young man interviewingGood, Old-Fashioned Professionalism

A report from USA Today suggests a couple more magic bullets that make successful job applicants stand out. Employers claim that professional interview performance and interpersonal connections have greater impact than grades in the hiring process.

Students who complete the Experience First program gain public speaking experience through presenting the outcomes of their projects in a professional setting. They learn professional demeanor through working in a business environment and add well-connected business leaders to their networks.

The projects give students something engaging to talk about when hiring mangers ask them to talk about before and after scenarios, times when they collaborated with others, creative problem solving, managing resources and more.

“Being professional is a given [in the workforce], but it is a huge lesson to be learned,” says Lincoln Siebert. He says the education at Greenville University teaches behavior that “allows you to carry yourself in a much more authoritative and professional way.”

No doubt this crash course in professionalism is one of the reasons the list of Experience First participants finding success in the job market continues to grow. Each year, Experience First accepts 30 student applicants to its semester-long program.


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Satisfied Businesses Turn to GC’s “Experience First” Program Again

Crash Course in Confidence Brought to You By Experience First

When you support scholarships at Greenville University, you help fit ambitious young students for today’s job market. Thank you for giving.

This story was published on June 07, 2018

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