Students go to college or university and take various courses to prepare themselves to be fit to work in a particular sector or desired organisation. Businesses often seek more than a university degree; they also require the applicant to have work experience. This means no matter how good your grades are in school, lacking practical work experience may reduce your chances of getting your desired position, especially when there are others who have the grades, as well as practical work experience, applying for the same post.
Having work experience means that you have been able to put what you’ve learned as a student into practice; working with a company or being self-employed can give you the experience you need.
Why Gain Work Experience?
Competition is on the rise in every sector. Every organisation is seeking the best way to beat its competitors. Consequently, companies seek to reduce the cost of production, including the cost of training staff. To successfully do this, many organisations prefer to employ applicants who already have work experience and can add value to the organisation from the first day of employment, with little or no training on the job. Thus, gaining work experience is an important criterion that will boost your chances of getting employed. It also boosts your chances of exploring different careers paths if you so desire.
Getting some experience gives you a good idea of what working in your industry will feel like. This way you can make a clear decision of what you would like to do and find the things you are passionate about. It also helps you to identify your skills and determine your strengths and weaknesses.
Below are some additional benefits of gaining work experience.
- Boost your skills: while in your place of work, you learn more about working as a team, develop communication skills and have commercial awareness.
- Stand out in your job search: the competition on every job is becoming fierce day by day. Having work experience can help you stand out during this job struggle. It gives you an edge over others and makes you look keen to work.
- Become an expert: being exposed to working in a company equips you with the right knowledge of how to handle job applications and interviews. It makes you more confident while facing your employer and prepares you for professional questions.
- Know the industry: you eventually know what the industry looks like rather than just having a theoretical view you may have been taught about in class. You will be able to establish more quickly if that particular industry is the one you want to be in.
- Networking: this is a great way to create a connection with your colleagues. It is a means of meeting professionals who can help you get a permanent job. You could start by joining a student and professional organisation based on your career objectives. There are networking events, conferences and workshops sponsored by various companies. It gives you a chance to interact with new people and gain contacts that can help you get what you need.
Truly, gaining work experience is necessary for anyone looking to eventually apply for a permanent role. But how do can you gain work experience while you are still at college or university? Let’s look at some of the options you can consider.
- Volunteering: There are many non-profit groups seeking people who will volunteer as a worker in their organisation. You will learn how the company works and can gain some new skills. The good thing is, non-profit organisations can accept both graduates and non-graduates, so your qualification (or lack of it) isn’t really an issue. You can look for volunteer positions in fields related to yours or try out different industries. This will give you an idea of how things are done in your area of study. There are volunteer positions in many areas, and this is one of the best ways to gain work experience.
- Freelancing: Freelancing helps you to use your skills and earn some money at the same time. You are not being employed permanently, but you are being given a task to do. Freelancing is a way of practising what you know. There are times you will have to prove you can handle the job before you are employed. It is a way to show that you are capable, and it gives you experience and positive reference or recommendation. You may have to work for free or a minimal fee initially. Freelancing can be as short as a day job, or it could be a long-term job lasting for months. In some cases, if you perform well, it may end up being a permanent/full-time job for you.
- Internship: Another way to gain job experience is to work as an intern. An internship allows you to work in an organisation for a period during the summer holidays, or it could be up to a year, depending on the employer. While it is a compulsory requirement in some institutions, in most cases its students are left to apply for internship positions based on their personal preferences. You can freely sign up for an internship in any organisation of your choice.
- Understudy someone: You can also gain work experience when you understudy someone. Signing up under a mentor or as an assistant to someone can help you learn a lot about management and running a business.
- Start a business: Entrepreneurship is another path to gaining work experience. Starting a business gives you experience in various fields ranging from management, finance, sales, and so much more. Even if your business idea does not end up being the next big thing, you would have gained valuable knowledge that will be useful in your next venture or in your next job.
The good thing about any of the methods above is that you can easily try them out while still studying. You can pick any of the above ways to gain experience and make your CV stand out. Even if you are not getting paid, the knowledge and skills you gain on the job are still valuable assets.