Getting that great job straight out of school is one of your main goals. You know what you want, and you know that studying hard and doing well will help you get there.

But in between all that studying and paper-writing and note-taking, getting some real-world work experience could really give your resume a leg up over the competition when applying for that dream job.

Beyond some much-needed cash in your pocket while you’re in school, there are a variety of benefits to holding down even a part-time job or internship while studying. Employers often look for work or internship experience among newly graduated applicants, and some career-focused experience can help put your resume at the top of the “To Interview” pile. Here are 4 reasons you should consider getting work experience while in school:

It Teaches You Valuable Skills

You can learn something from every job you’ve ever had. That internship with a software company taught you how to balance competing projects and how to get along with that co-worker that treated you like a kid. Your time at the front desk at a law firm helped you stay organized and meet deadlines, and showed you how to deal with people from very different backgrounds than your own. Even that summer in high school you spent as a lifeguard showed you that you need to stay focused or really bad things could happen.

You can take each and every one of these lessons and apply them to your future positions, and employers know that. They realize that “work experience” means more than just the projects you completed or the tasks you did every day. Working helps you develop important soft skills that are necessary in every workplace, such as communication skills, organization and time management, and problem solving.

By getting the initial learning out of the way at another workplace, a future employer can feel confident they’re getting a new hire who may need a little less guidance and oversight than another applicant.

Learn What You Like To Do – And Don’t! – Enjoy

Short-term internships or summer employment is a great way to give your chosen field a test-drive with little risk.

You may learn quickly that you really don’t like the daily responsibilities that come with that job title you’ve been dreaming of, but you saw someone else with duties that you feel you’d happily execute for years. Or, you could reaffirm that you really do want to work in your chosen field, and the experience has made you more excited than ever to get started.

Spending time learning a field in school is vastly different than actually performing a daily job. Finding a position in your field of study for a few months or even a few years can help you decide whether or not you want to work in that industry for the rest of your life, saving you headaches down the road.

Make Connections

When you spend time working or interning, you’ll be working alongside people already working in your chosen field. Chances are, your co-workers and bosses have connections throughout your industry, meaning you could have a huge network of industry professionals when you need a job.

If you do great work as a student, supervisors and co-workers are often more than happy to help you out by giving you a lead on an open position or a reference. These connections could mean the difference between landing that big dream job and getting passed over.

Boost Your Resume

Perhaps the most obvious benefit to working while still in school is the extra bump it gives your resume when the time comes. Many employers will only look at resumes of new grads who have some relevant work experience.

If you’ve got an internship or some work experience in your chosen field, your resume will stand out among the pools of applicants. It will show that you have some real-world experience that you can leverage as part of your employment, and demonstrates that you were able to successfully balance the responsibilities of work with your studies.

Using your time as a student to not only learn as much as you can from your classes, but also gain some valuable work experience shows employers you are ambitious, committed, and willing to work hard for what you want. It can quickly separate you from the pack when applying and increase your chances of getting an offer.

Get Credit for Work Experience at NAU Canada Online

At NAU Canada Online, we recognize that a great deal of valuable learning can take place in the workplace. There’s nothing better for preparing you for the rigors of your chosen field than to test-drive a career while still in school. Because of this, we offer credit for work and life experience that you as a working professional can put toward your degree. Learn how your work experience can become classroom credit today!