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Why you should chase work experience

By Eliza 03 Oct 2019
Image of woman on construction site.

Today I’m going to share with you the importance of work experience.

Now, a lot of you reading this are probably just about to graduate from your degrees (yay!!) and start looking for jobs (boooooo!). I know, I know, you can see the finish line just over the horizon and all you’re thinking about is your six-month trip to America that will be starting as soon as your last exam ends.

But, just before you dive too deep into your thoughts of free time, ask yourself this; if I walked into an engineering firm, or a nurse’s station, or tried to start my own business right now … would I have any idea what to do?

The answer is probably 'nope. Not a clue.'

Actually, your answer would probably be something like “I know the theory behind it, so how much harder can actually doing it, be?” While I understand your line of thinking, in my experience the doing is a lot harder than the knowing and that’s where work experience comes in. It’s the bridge between knowing how to do things and actually getting your hands dirty.

Now don’t get me wrong, I understand and respect the fact that you’ve spent the last three to five years working hard and pulling all-nighters to get your degree, and now you have all of the theory under your belt. However, theory can only get you so far.

For example, let’s say you’re studying nursing and midwifery. Now, it’s one thing to look at a textbook and sit in a lecture room listening to someone talk you through your role during childbirth. However, once you get into a birthing suite with a screaming woman, a fainting partner and you’re up to your elbows in goodness-knows-what fluids…it’s a different story.

And for those of you who have just started studying, or are about to, this practical experience is a fantastic way for you to discover if the degree you’re studying is really something you want to pursue for the rest of your career. It’s a chance to see behind the scenes of your industry and find out if the reality matches what you’ve always imagined.

Now in a lot of degrees, this experience is included as part of your studies (not specifically the child-birth one but you see my point). You are either sent into a classroom, or a hospital, or a radio studio as part of your learning, often multiple times over the course of your degree. But to set yourself apart from all the other graduates entering the workforce, can you really ever have enough experience?

That’s why I (and I’m sure many other graduates) recommend going out of your way to gain additional placements and expose yourself to as much hands-on learning as possible. Not only does work experience give you the chance to practice turning the knowing into the doing, but it’s an opportunity to diversify your skills and be exposed to the challenges of your industry before you hit the ground as a fully-fledged graduate. Not to mention it plants the networking seed for when you’re looking for a graduate role.

Now I fully admit that securing work experience can be a challenge, which is why it’s ideal to start as early in your studies as possible. Send your applications to a range of organisations, not just your top two or three dream destinations. See every organisation, big or small, as a chance to learn and make yourself a more experienced professional.

You’ve worked hard to complete your degree and learn the theory behind your dream career, so why not go that next step further and take the initiative to get as much experience as possible putting that theory into practice.

For great advice on securing a placement, check out Daria’s inspiring blog, then get set to make the most of your work experience with these handy tips!

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