Stories about college graduates struggling to find employment are largely overblown. Regardless, almost weekly, these people—most of them master’s students—reach out to me and my company, NewConfig, asking for career advice. “Should I take a class on SAP, big data, Salesforce, or another technology?” or “How do I progress from the ranks of Salesforce newbie, SAP novice, or big data beginner to something more?” Another one I get is, “What degree will make me stand out among job applicants?”

It’s been years since I was in their shoes, but I remember what it was like. I was frantically honing my skills and knowledge while looking toward graduation with a mixture of excitement and dread. I had put so much time and money towards my education: Would it be worth it in the professional sphere? Would my skills translate? Would employers take notice? Would I miss out on the jobs I wanted and be forced into lower-paying, less-fulfilling positions?

So my heart goes out to these students—these Salesforce newbies, SAP novices, and big data beginners—naive as they are. We all start off that way: you have to be a fool before you can become a master. So this post is meant for them, to open their eyes to the world and to recognize two important truths: Employers don’t care about your classes, but they do care about your experience.

Employers Do Not Care About Your Classes

If you are in school, listen up: No one cares what class you took and how many credits you have in a specific technology. The real world couldn’t care less about your GPA. And do you know why?

It’s because every job you apply for, every other applicant has taken the same classes, received the same degree, and listed the same qualifications on their resume. When a graduate student applies for a position at NewConfig, for example, I typically take it for granted that he or she meets the basic, entry-level qualifications—because so has every other applicant I’ve looked at that day. Of course, lacking those academic qualifications make you stick out (in a bad way), but just having those qualifications in the first place doesn’t make you special.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t take these classes or work hard to get good grades. You need the foundation, and a good transcript can give you a marginal lead on your competition. But more important than your training is how you’ve applied it.

Employers Do Care About Your Experience

When every student from a graduating class is applying for the same job, it is a student’s work outside of the classroom that distinguishes him or her from the crowd. It’s what turns Salesforce newbies into developers and administrators, SAP novices into professionals, and big data beginners into experts. Remember, your potential employers aren’t looking to give someone their first big break. They’re looking for someone who will add value to the company. And the only way for you to prove that you can add value is by showing them a track record of doing so.

So after you’ve finished your class on your technology of choice, start using it! And I’m not talking about independent work where you play with the sandbox of the technology. I mean official, employer- or client-driven work. That means getting an internship related to Salesforce, SAP, or big data. Unlike a first job, an internship is designed to teach you. For example, when NewConfig takes interns, we do so with the intent to give them hands-on experience and increase their value in the industry.

Whatever work you can find, take it. Ideally, it will be a paid internship. Realistically, it may be unpaid. It’s the only way to set yourself apart from your classmates who thought a diploma would be qualification enough.

It’s a hard reality to swallow, but one you must accept: No one’s going to want to “take a chance” on you. We don’t need Salesforce newbies, SAP novices, and big data beginners—we don’t need students who are eager to learn. We need professionals who are ready to work.

For more information, contact NewConfig.