A common catch 22 that young people face today is that you need experience to get a job and a job to get experience.
It is a situation in which most graduates find themselves, as they have focused so strongly on their academics that they haven’t completed any work experience and so don’t possess any of the soft skills required for a grad job.
There are ways to get out of this situation, but the easiest would be to pre-empt this problem and start gaining work experience when it is less competitive.
I have always seen this process as building your own ladder. Your education is the side base, but the rungs are your work experience. You’re always going to have a few talented individuals who can jump the wall, or have enough upper body strength to just use the side base...but I’d always like the security of a ladder myself!
Five possible ways to get your five rungs:
The first work experience I ever did was at the age of 16. I was really torn between studying maths at A level (which I was good at) and art (which I loved...but I wasn’t very talented) . I went to the school for advice and they told me to look into jobs that I could get after studying maths, to see whether I loved the end goal. I asked them whether they knew of anyone that had gone to my school and gone on to study finance and they put me in contact with someone who was running his own private equity firm in London! I contacted him and he offered a week of shadowing. This was unpaid work experience that is still on my CV today!
- Family contacts
There is nothing wrong with nepotism! If you know someone who has a career in the field that you are interested in, get in contact with them and ask them for advice! They already know you and so are more likely to be interested in helping you.
- Don’t be a snob!
It might be that you have set your sights on being a banker, lawyer, journalist or doctor but these professions are particularly hard to get experience in. Therefore, make a first step by becoming a fruit picker, shop assistant or beautician. You develop so many skills in these professions which gives you a competitive advantage when applying for future internships (and you never know, you might love the work more than you realise and might never leave!). My grad job is with PwC, but I have worked as a waitress in three different establishments and even as a cash girl in a nightclub.
There are so many ways that you can go about doing this and all of them are valid. Whether you help in a soup kitchen on Christmas Day, or save up to travel to a third world country and build a school, the skills you learn and the personality traits you demonstrate are all desirable to an employer.
- Be in it to win it!
Many companies now offer work experience opportunities that you can apply for online. Below is a very short list of places to start for students under 18:
Despite all of this, we know that the first rung is the hardest to put in place. Therefore, we would like to give our students, and anyone else who is interested, a helping hand by running CV and cover letter workshops. These will be an hour long and take place in our studio in the heart of Market Harborough. Simply email us for details or to book a place :)