Any career advisor will tell you that getting work experience can really help set you apart from other candidates when applying for jobs. But what do we mean when we talk about ‘work experience’? And what kind of experience do you need to really impress?
It’s often believed that, for work experience to be valuable, you have to intern or volunteer in a professional capacity, ideally in a role that’s aligned to your preferred profession or industry. Not only can positions like these be hard to find, but competition will often also be fierce.
The good news is that, in reality, any work experience is valuable. Whether it’s part-time or full-time, paid or not paid and in your preferred industry or not. Even a few days or a week volunteering for a cause or doing casual work can make a difference.
It’s all in the transferable skills these opportunities allow you to develop. From communication and leadership to self-management and planning, most jobs big and small will help you to grow your proficiency in these areas. Moreover, any time spent working for a company in whatever capacity will help you to get a better understanding of the organisational structure and how businesses commonly operate, meaning you become more commercially aware: another skill that’s valuable across roles and industries.
Last but not least, as you gain work experience, you’re also getting to know more people and broadening your network with potentially useful contacts for the future.
It should be noted that you don’t have to work for an employer to get work experience. You may want to go at it alone, writing a blog, for example, or doing freelance photography or tutoring. Even if you’re doing it as a hobby or offering your services for free, these activities are just as likely to equip you with key transferable skills.
To make your experiences really count, though, you need to know how to articulate them when you apply for jobs. Always reflect on the skills and knowledge a particular experience has helped you to develop and focus on that in your CV and application form and during an interview. So, for example, if you’ve had a summer job working as a cashier, don’t simply list your responsibilities but emphasise the skills you know the employer is looking for and your key achievements in that role.
It’s never too late to get work experience, so start looking for opportunities near you and try to explore different avenues that interest you. Whatever you get stuck into, it’ll show employers that you’re proactive and thinking about your future