"There is no substitute for experience. Although this may be a cliche, this saying rings true, since there is no better way of finding out whether a graduate job is right for you, than gaining a real taste of the working life."
There is no substitute for experience. Although this may be a clichÃ©, this saying rings true, since there is no better way of finding out whether a graduate job is right for you, than gaining a real taste of the working life. Still, experience does not only relate to work, as there are other broader experiences that can help to shape your career path.
Recently, some well known recruiters have been interviewed and they generally agree that experience is one of the most important things that they look for in candidates. The reason that recruiters focus so much on experience, is that they want students to show that they are well-rounded and have been "actively involved" in different activities. Other recruiters have noted that gaining experience shows "commitment to the industry" and that students have conducted considerable planning and research in order to secure work experience in a particular sector.
So, what exactly do recruiters look for in terms of experience? One major part is indeed experience of the industry. Although recently it has been difficult to secure internships, things may be changing. For example, there have been campaigns that are urging large companies to pay better wages to interns, so hopefully this should make it easier to support your lifestyle while you are working. Still, volunteering is another way of gaining good experience. This could take the form of projects or courses that are related to your field, or even some work that really has a positive impact on your local community.
One crucial point is that employers look for transferable skills, so previous experience in the industry is not a pre-requisite, although of course it is useful. The experience needs to show that you have shown responsibility, demonstrated teamwork and also some organisational skills. These are the wider skills that are used in companies on a daily basis and so explaining how you have developed these skills will impress interviewers. Actually, sometimes the way that you describe activities on your application form is more important than the activities themselves, since it is important to highlight the key skills that you have gained.
Overall, it will not be much of a surprise for you to learn that employers find experience highly desirable. Still, the key is to understand the importance of what experience signifies to companies. Employers rely on experience to see whether you will have the ability to tackle working life on a daily basis, so it is important to focus on this early on during your university life.
Do you think experience trumps other skills and qualifications? Have your say on this month's poll on the front page!