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Experience – what’s good experience?

by Rob Cross on March 24th, 2010

Ticket to the Table – A degree is not enough!

A stark reality for many Graduates leaving University is that your degree, whilst something you should be proud of, is still just a ticket to the table. It is the piece of paper that enables you to have a different conversation with organisations. But on its own however, it will not guarantee you a job!

If you degree is just a ticket to the table, you must therefore seek to differentiate yourself from your peers!

How do you differentiate yourself from your peers?

If all the other applicants have the same (or similar) degree to you, you have to differentiate yourself by getting the ‘Right’ Experience!

What is the ‘Right’ Experience?

For me there are two types of ‘Right’ Experience:

1. The Right Industry:

Some jobs will require a certain type of industry specific experience. If this is the case, this is what you’ll need to get, which I know is easier said than done. However, the right industry experience does not always mean getting that experience in that exact industry. What I mean by this, is that many employers when looking for industry experience are really looking for confidence that you know the industry and more importantly the vocation you’re applying for. For example, you can still prove that you understand and apply your marketing expertise if you’re working in a department store. You can do this by proving that by applying your marketing expertise you’ve helped increase sales and customer satisfaction. This approach is what we call ‘transferable experience’, because your proving that you can transfer your expertise from one area into another.

I should say however, that some technical disciplines will need specific experience. This is really a way of them sifting through the very many applications they get. However, don’t be put off by this. My best advice here is really get creative in how you will get this experience e.g. placements, volunteering, shadowing, research etc…

2. Right Attitude:

The right attitude is something that recruiters always look for, but those looking for a job find it hard prove. For me, as a recruiter of Graduates, the right attitude is as follows:

  1. You prove that you have drive and ambition – you get involved in activities outside of study and working part time. This could be anything from clubs and societies through to volunteering.
  2. You prove that you can achieve real results – it’s one thing to say that you’re involved in different committees etc, but what are you delivering through them? I always look for proof of what people have achieved rather than just their participation. E.g. increased the membership of a club by 500% in 6 months, makes me take notice.
  3. You prove that you fit their team – this is by far the most difficult thing to prove, but what all employers are looking for is someone who fits their team. What runs through my head is; Would I like to work with this person? They way you prove this is through the description of who you are, your achievements and your interests. Whilst all of the other experience is great, if we see you as someone that we wouldn’t want on our team – you’ve got no chance!!

A Last Word…

The key to getting the right experience is to be creative and strategic. You have to be thinking like an employer – that is, what are they really looking for in their future employees? By doing this you can then start to be more creative in the full range of things you activities you get involved in, and you can be more strategic in making sure that those activities give you the ‘Right’ Experience!

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