Students everywhere always have been taught the importance of maintaining good grades. But when it comes to landing a job, lofty grade-point averages aren’t near the top of the list of things employers are seeking.

According to a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education in 2012, the No. 1 thing employers look for when hiring recent college graduates is internships, followed closely by employment during college.

“For any student that I see, I’ll highly recommend they do an internship if they haven’t already just because it is such an important thing,” said Dean Paulk ’05, internship coordinator in Western Carolina University’s Center for Career and Professional Development. “It’s one of the best and easiest ways to get that experience employers are looking for.”

Internships are a way for students to gain valuable work experience while still in school, which often times can’t be simulated in the classroom. Learning in a work environment also can help students confirm their career goals, Paulk said.

“Internships are great for resumes,” he said. “It shows employers that the students have done hands-on work and not just entry-level work. It gives them that extra kind of edge, or leg up, on students who don’t have internships. And it does show employers that they do have the skills, that they’ve actually been on the job, especially if it is one of those larger name companies, or a well-known company.”

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