It seems that these days, almost every job requirement is that you have at least 5 years’ experience of working, even though you are applying for an entry level job after graduating from university. This is enough to cause a panic and a feeling of discouragement amongst many of us.
What they do not tell you about this 5-year experience is that it can be gained long before you are officially a job seeker and panicking about how to make a living. For many of us, high school, college and university takes up almost all our time and it is difficult to imagine having the time to fit in a job as well as maintaining acceptable grades.
Fortunately, there is more than one way to gain this experience while you are still in school so that when you have completed your education, you can have that extra edge in the job market.
The most classic and famous way to gain experience in the work field is to start with a part-time job. Part-time work is a form of employment that requires less hours (typically less than 30 hours worked per week) than a full-time job. This is seen as a great way to put classroom learning into practice while also earning a little bit more pocket money.
Part-time work offers an opportunity for one to learn essential tools that are used in almost every field of work. It trains you to understand the work field, while not taking away the focus from your education and studies. Because it is still an official position, many part-time jobs will require the same level of responsibility as a full-time position and based on your performance, and so many part-time positions prove to be great references and recommendations for future employment.
Working in such a position grants you the unique opportunity to understand professional work environments and what to expect from them. It also allows you to explore different career options especially if you are not sure what kind of career you would like to pursue.
Not every place has part-time opportunities but the opposite can be said for volunteering. Although it does not hold the same benefits as a part-time position, such as money in your pocket and consistent hours, volunteering does have just as many benefits to it.
Volunteering is generally the act of an individual or group providing services for no financial gain. Volunteering is widely appreciated by all forms of institutions from schools to organisations to even big corporate companies. It is said to be the biggest revealer of personality trait in a person outside their educational or professional experience. In more simpler terms, it shows who you are as a person!
It exemplifies how you choose to engage with your environment and community. It shows that you are an active member of said community and do not just take, but also give back. Volunteering shows that you are not just aware of your own goals and objectives, you are capable of going after them as well, which helps you stand out as an individual.
Another benefit of volunteer work is that you start the process of networking. The age range is diverse and so you will find people your own age, but also people who are already in the professional working field. You are engaging with like-minded people and working towards a goal by using your tools and resources to reach out to other groups or individuals.
Very similar to volunteering, internships offer a great opportunity to develop your workplace skills and engage in an environment with like-minded people. An internship is a period of work experience that is offered by an organization for a limited period of time. Like volunteering, it is not for financial gain, but more formal than volunteering, an internship provides a very realistic experience of what you would expect in the workplace.
Internships tend to be required during one’s college (undergraduate) career as a first step towards entering the work field, but it is never too early to seek one out before that. With a bit more responsibility required than a volunteering (and sometimes a part-time) position, internships are seen an ideal example of your ability to work in a professional capacity.
Even more than that, you are able to work in your desired field, and gain an informal mentorship in the process. With this being said, many internships do lead to an opportunity to work for said company in a full-time capacity!
Speaking of mentorship, if you are familiar with what career you would like to pursue, an apprenticeship is the ideal way to start honing your skills through a mentorship from an industry professional. What makes an apprenticeship different from other experiences is that it is a program that puts you under a mentorship with on-the-job training to learn your trade from a skilled professional.
Although it is often an unpaid position, some apprenticeships do offer a wage that progresses to an official position in the company. With this being said, the demands of an apprenticeship are very similar to that of a full-time position and so it is expected that one is already familiar with the trade, highly competent, and a fast learner, so that there is less time spent “holding your hand” and more time focused on you contributing to work performance.
More popular than ever, for those of you who have already acquired or recognised your skill-set, freelancing might be an opportunity that speaks to you. Freelancing is a term commonly used for a person who is self-employed, offering their services to groups or individuals that require them, while providing oneself with an income. It gives you the ability to practice and hone your skills at your own pace, while building a profile for yourself. This is unique way to showcase your independence and diligence as an individual, and allows for prospective employers to see your work and potential first-hand.
Freelancing does require self-management and a general understanding of most departmental skills such as marketing, financing, etc, but this is part of the experience and is all the better to show in your profile that you build up.
These are but a few of the options that can help you kickstart your work experience and get your foot in the door. They are all great ways to start honing your skills and expand your experiences. Even more, they offer opportunities to start exploring what you might be interested in, or even starting pursuing your career. Either way, you are able to take what you learn in class into the real world and learn even more than you thought you could.
To apply for such positions, it is recommended that you visit the interested parties’ websites or even establishments to ask for contact details. If you are contacting via email always provide your resume and cover letter with valid contact details. Do not forget to follow up after a week or so; this shows your determination and also keeps you on their radar. If you are going in person, always carry your resume and cover letter in a clean envelope addressed to the Human Resources, or relevant party. Even if you are not planning on applying immediately, it is always best to be prepared.
For more information on ways to start engaging in the work field, follow the Tuesday editions of the Times of Swaziland newspaper . Also do not hesitate to explore the MTN Educare page on how to be more active in your community while utilising educational resources. For more career advice, keep your eyes ons our media links for upcoming articles. All links and sources are down below.
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Article by Nsika DM