Are you a student struggling to navigate the world of work? The jump between student status and employment can be a big leap for most and that is where the benefit of work experience comes into play.
In this post, we will explore the benefits and opportunities of work experience, the different types of work experience available, and how to find them.
What Is Work Experience?
Work experience is any experience gained through working, volunteering, internships, or placements. It is a great opportunity that allows you to apply your theoretical knowledge to real-world scenarios, build your skills, network, and develop your overall understanding of the working world.
Volunteering, placements, and internships are all valid forms of work experience that offer different benefits and opportunities. For example, volunteering can help you gain experience and skills while giving back to the community, while placements and internships are usually more structured and focused on career development.
Any work experience is valuable as you’ll find that you pick up desirable transferrable skills which can be applied across many work environments.
Why You Should Do Work Experience?
1. Gain Relevant Experience
Work experience allows you to gain relevant experience in your desired industry or career path. It is essential to gain experience in your chosen field to stand out to potential employers and to form an understanding of the working world.
Picking up work alongside studying can be a challenge, however, in the long run, it pays off (quite literally). If you have learned specific skills and knowledge that are relevant to your desired career path before you have graduated, then you are already a more attractive candidate.
2. A Chance to Try Different Things
Gaining work experience allows you to try out different working environments and in turn, allows you to explore different career paths. It is beneficial to gain insight into what you like and don’t like, which can help you make informed decisions about your future career.
What may seem like your ideal job theoretically may turn out to not be the case therefore it is important that you allow yourself to explore before making any serious educational or work commitments.
3. Expand Your Social and Professional Network
You will be surprised by the number of people that you will connect with in any given professional field. Work experience allows you to build a professional network of contacts in your desired industry. Networking is a crucial element in today’s job market and meeting like-minded professionals can open up many opportunities for you in your future endeavours.
4. Opportunity for Personal Development
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Not only will you gain an insight into what is required of you in a professional environment, but you will also gain invaluable life experience. Work experience can help you develop personally by building confidence, independence, and resilience to name a few. You can also gain exposure to different cultures, work environments, and people, which can help broaden your horizons.
5. Gain an Understanding of the Working World
Work experience allows you to gain an understanding of the working world and the different roles and responsibilities within it. Placing yourself in a work environment can reveal what type of worker you are, whether that be leadership, people-oriented, or technical. This can help you make informed decisions about your future career and give you an advantage in the job market.
6. Strengthen Your Personal Statement
There is no denying that writing up a personal statement can be a challenge, especially when you’re stuck on what to write! Work experience can help you write a stronger personal statement when applying to universities or jobs. It allows you the chance to showcase your best skills, experiences, and achievements that you’ve accumulated, making you a more sought-after candidate.
7. Get Ahead of Your Peers
Work experience can give you a competitive advantage over your peers, giving you a head start when it comes to applying for the job that you want! It can demonstrate your passion and commitment to your desired industry, making you stand out to potential employers.
Don’t worry if your work experience is not specialised in your chosen career path, it is still highly valuable as you will have picked up transferrable skills which employers look out for, and it also demonstrates a strong work ethic.
8. Build Transferable Skills
Work experience allows you to build transferable skills that are useful in any industry, such as communication, leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and time management. You can gain these skills in many student-friendly work environments such as retail, food and beverage or hospitality for instance.
It is a common misconception among students that these jobs are not highly regarded for a graduate job however, the skills you’ve accrued will make you a valuable employee from the start and will help you succeed in any career path.
9. Added Motivation for the Future
Gaining work experience can motivate you to work harder and strive for success in your future career. Knowing what you like and dislike in a workplace can help you to set goals and aspirations and you will be able to navigate yourself with a sense of purpose and direction.
How to Find Opportunities
There are several avenues to find work experience opportunities, such as online job boards such as Indeed or Glassdoor, company websites, recruitment agencies, and networking events.
Setting up a Linkedin profile is also highly advisable as many employers seek out candidates through Linkedin. You can also ask family, friends, or teachers for recommendations or volunteer for local organizations.
How Much Should You Do?
It is not necessary to do a specific amount of work experience, so any experience is good if you can show that you have learned something or developed new skills. Some pathways, such as medicine or veterinary, expect more work experience.
It is crucial to prioritize your learning and not stress yourself out trying to find the perfect work experience.