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The Importance of Experience

Posted by | July 3, 2015 | Advice, Career

Via LinkedInWhat’s in your job search toolbox?

Any job search is a competition. The question comes up as to what does it take to win that competition? Too many young job seekers today believe that the job search competition can be won solely with a good education and high marks. There’s no doubt that a quality education can make a positive impact; however, the reality is that your education is only one part of the equation. And, yes, in scientific and highly technical fields, high achievement in academics can be a major edge; however, for the purposes of this article we will focus on more general employment targets requiring less “technically defined” skills. And, that’s a very significant portion of the job market.

Landing that right job today is a competition that requires a pretty full toolbox to win. That toolbox should not rely strictly on one tool. Your toolbox needs to have a collection of skills and strengths that are of interest to the Recruiter / Employer. Included in your toolbox should be a marketable collection of education, knowledge (not acquired through academics), skills, interpersonal skills, and experience. And, when I say experience here, I mean “work” experience.

Is experience really that important?

Yes, “proven work experience” is important. VERY important. An individual’s proven work experience can provide the employer with a wealth of information as to whether the new hire will be an asset to the workplace, the team, and the continued growth and success of the company.

Too many people today are embracing the idea that one should “focus” on their studies so that they can ensure high marks on their final transcripts. An admirable goal; however, the reality in the business world is that employers look first to experience and proven work skills than to education. A 2013 Randstad Workmonitor survey reported that 84% of employers regarded experience as being more important than education. And many would agree that that opinion remains valid two years later.

Too many people look at part time and early work experiences as “revenue generators” rather than “career foundations”. In reality, every job that you have from the time that you begin working offers you the incalculable opportunity to develop work experience, references, and a network. The money that you earn is simply a by product of the experience that you are getting.

And, that experience does not even have to be “paid” work experience. If you have volunteered time and service to a credible, reputable organization who can provide you with a positive reference then you are on your way to success.

So, how do I get experience?

The simple answer? Work!

Because proven work experience is so important in demonstrating your ability to work effectively as part of a team, or independently to successful results; you should begin accumulating that work experience as early in your career development process as possible. This will also help you to develop “balance” in your learning and work process, and help you to learn and develop time management skills.

High school students are often required to perform “Community Service Hours”. Make sure that those hours are completed and have relevance. Not signed off on by a family member for taking out the garbage, or mowing your grandparent’s lawn.

Work part time, even if it’s only for a handful of hours per week. Small numbers add up to big numbers. But even in small numbers, you are gaining work experience and the chance of receiving a positive reference!

Having difficulty finding part time or full time work? Volunteer. Many “paid” jobs have been the result of productive, valuable, and appreciated volunteer work.

But I haven’t got time to work!

“I haven’t got time…” is the most common excuse for not working while going to school. Unfortunately, it’s just that – an excuse. When I’m told that someone ‘…doesn’t have time…’ my first question is always, “…do you watch TV, or play video games, or listen to music for even one hour a day?” The answer is almost always yes.

I’m not going to judge how you use your current spare time; however, I will tell you that the idea that ‘…I haven’t got time…’ is not about a lack of time. It’s about time management. Every single human being has exactly the same amount of time in every hour, day, week, month, and year.

So, it’s not about having time. It’s about how you choose to use your time. Granted, effective time management is not always an easy thing; however, managing your time to allow for work experience is always a good use of that time.

There’s more to your work than experience!

Having “proven work experience” provides a very valuable tool in your career planning toolbox. It means something. It proves something. And, employers look for it!

Work experience also has another benefit. Your past work experience is very likely to fuel your network! When you have made a positive contribution to a company and an employer, the employer is very likely to appreciate that.

As such, the employer will be much more interested in helping you move toward your long term goals. That might be through positive references, referral to other employment, or even professional development and advancement within your current company.

However it plays out, you will create both short and long term value for yourself through the experience that you obtain through work.

Stephen G. Largy is the President and Senior Consultant at tqSkills. tqSkills are training and advisory specialists in Disabilities in the Workplace, Workplace Accommodation, Creating Inclusive Workplaces, and Employability.

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