STUDENT LIFE / DEC. 30, 2013
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Graduates: How to get the Work Experience You Need

Graduates who have left university in recent years have been a bit disheartened to find the fairytales that their parents and career guidance counselor told them of “walking into a top job” were not true. Having a degree has not automatically made them more employable than their friends who do not have third level qualifications, despite what many have been told. In fact many people who took up service area jobs before the banks crashed are now in managerial positions. Many graduates now feel that a degree has lost its value as individuals struggle to find positions suited to their abilities. Recruiters are asking for credible experience in the industry they don’t really seem to care if you got a first in your Master’s thesis.

Graduates are caught in something of a catch 22. They are still being told how valuable their degrees are but they are unable to get work because they lack experience. However, no one is actually willing to give them the chance to get the experience. It seems completely unfair but alas, what are we to do, life is not always fair or logical for graduates. However, if you want to try and break out of this catch 22 then there are a few things you can do.

Gain Work Experience

If at all possible, you need to get some kind of work experience, even if it is working in a bar or call center while you are a student or as a summer job. Anything you can do which shows that you are a motivated individual with the knowledge of how to behave in a professional workplace will benefit you greatly.

Recruiters hate people who have never worked a day in their lives because it is impossible to judge how they will fair in a real work environment. Recruiters are often too concerned to put grads forward for jobs if they don’t have any experience at all.

If you can’t manage to land yourself paid work experience, then you will probably have to become an unpaid intern. While these internships can be valuable work experience and very specific to you’re desired career, indeed, for some jobs such as accountancy they are a requirement; they can be closer to slave labour so be careful which company you opt to work for!  Some finance, media and fashion companies have a very bad reputation at the moment with interns!

In the UK and Ireland there are a lot of government funded paid internships and worldwide there are attempts to try to reduce the number of unpaid internships that are out there to take advantage of willing undergrads. In Ireland, there is a great project is called JobBridge, so if you manage to gain access to one of these paid internships, you can gain the valuable experience you need.

Opt in as a Volunteer

I know for so many people volunteering can seem like the worst thing in the world, however, you can get something out of it too. First, it can be a great way to get some work experience depending on where you volunteer. If you volunteer in a charity shop for example you can gain experience in ‘retail’ or in ‘admin’. Secondly, many recruiters love seeing volunteering on a CV, in fact some for some roles it can mean the difference between getting the job and not! So if you can’t get any work experience then just volunteer somewhere, it might even make you feel better about yourself while doing your career prospects a favour.   

University Career Services

Be sure to make use of university career services. They are usually very helpful when writing a professional CV and cover letter. They also organize regular career fairs where graduate employers come to recruit potential employees for graduate programs. These kind of services can be invaluable. Or they can be useless, but why not give them a go. It is better to try and fail than not try at all.

Hopefully if you follow this advice then perhaps you might avoid the catch 22 of having no work experience but an excellent degree.  There is nothing more disheartening than being turned away from interviews because of a lack of experience which you are unable to get. In today’s market, any work experience is good experience, so get out there!

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