Work experience. Never have two words frightened so many students back into bed.
When my course group found out that work experience was not only suggested, but a mandatory requirement to pass our degree, the groans, gasps and looks of horror could have come right out of a production of MacBeth.
However, as with almost everything in life, it’s never as bad as you first think and can even be very enjoyable. On top of that, it’s a fantastic way to gain contacts and even secure the chance to have a job waiting for you when you complete your degree.
‘But how can I see this work experience before me, with the handle ‘tward my hand?’ I hear you groan in despair.
There seems to be an idea that work experience is a strange, mythical creature that can only be found prancing through the forest on the night of the full moon. Upon mention of it, people tend to roll their eyes and shrug their shoulders, as if the whole thing is one big dice roll.
The way I found my work experience at Whiteoaks was by picking up the phone. I called them directly and started a dialogue with the friendly people there. Just saying ‘Hi there, do you offer any type of work experience at all?’ is the quickest way to get a reply. You could send an e-mail, but by calling you’re showing initiative and making sure you’re getting a response immediately. I got a reply very swiftly and it was taken from there.
The benefits of work experience are felt in several areas, and not just as a tick in a box for your degree. You’ve been educated for almost two decades in preparation for the ‘real world’, and in some cases your work experience might be your first real taste of working life.
Not only does it provide you with contacts, experience and an insight into your chosen profession, but most importantly, it also gives you vital confidence in yourself and your own abilities. The realisation that you can move into a new environment and hold your own, makes it that much easier to make the transition the time after that, and after that…
Gaining as much work experience as you can is vital for that first interview. With graduate jobs being so scarce, being able to talk about the previous projects you’ve worked on and the skills you’ve developed is essential to giving yourself the best chance of securing that all important first job.
Work experience isn’t the tragedy it’s made out to be. Being proactive and taking the initiative helps you to get your foot in the door, while the time you spend there readily prepares you for the beginning of your career. All the experience is invaluable, preparing you for new people, new places and new challenges.