Does work experience really make a difference in the long run?

Doing summer jobs used to be a given. Any summer job, from silly to serious ones, was considered normal and educational.

But no more. A survey done in 2018 about early careers found that just half of school and college students had undertaken work experience whilst at school. So the lack of having or pursuing summer jobs is not a pandemic phenomenon, but had started well before. The question is if the summer work experience is something more kids should be doing, or is it a – in reality – a bit of a waste of time?

A waste of time it is not.

Work experience – almost regardless of the type of job - is one of the most helpful ways to set you up for later life. Any experience will be useful in ways you may not see now; but doing some schlepping and ungrateful and maybe unappreciated work allows you to learn and understand things outside your own, daily, experiences and bubble.

But often the idea of devoting a week or a month of your summer holidays to undertake (usually unpaid) work that often involves a lot of photocopying and idling at desks is, well, underwhelming. You may hang out at glamourous companies and be ignored or work your butt off if you opted for a more hand-on experience, neither of which sounds like it can beat hanging out and having fun during the summer months. Nevertheless, looking ahead knowing that future employers will consider work experience and you doing it as a sign of commitment and discipline, might motivate you.

Future jobs

Future employers absolutely seek out work experience on candidates’ CVs, and often it will be the deciding factor between two similarly talented potential future employees. Work experience proves not only that you are driven and have devoted your free time to work, but also that you have experience in an office/ shop/ café or whatever it may be, making you more qualified for any future job. On top of this, the odd summer jobs give you the chance to sample various types of work and see if you think it could be the right route for you.

Where to find an internship

How to find work experience though is the more difficult feat- the most important thing to remember when looking for an internship is that you don’t have to get work experience with your dream company or somewhere that seems ‘cool’. Any work experience is good. To help you get started, talk to your school or university’s career advisor or department, if you can. Alternatively, googling companies and going to their careers’ pages is another way to go.

Websites that are geared at helping young people find placements include, for example, MilkRound and The Intern Group. Finally, and perhaps surprisingly, social media can also help those in the market for work experience. Most, if not all, companies will have Twitter and Instagram accounts, and any start-up will be pining for good interns. Some companies will be impressed by speculative applications, and as far as I’m concerned, it is always worth a shot! Initiative goes a long way and start-ups may reward you for your entrepreneurial and direct approach to them via social media. It is starting a direct conversation and can lead to many an unexpected opportunity.

So, is sacrificing a part of your summer for work experience worth it? Does it make a difference later when you are job-hunting? You bet.

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