10 Reasons Why You Need Work Experience Before You Graduate

July 21, 2016
By Robelen Bajar

So you’ve made it through your studies and celebrated with one heck of a graduation party. Now it’s time to apply for an adult job with all that experience you have … oh wait.

Getting relevant work experience in your industry is one of the most important things you can do while you’re still studying, but more often than not it takes a back seat to classes, homework and having a social life. Here are 10 reasons why you should get on the work experience bandwagon now while you can. Trust us, you’ll thank us for it later, because with work experience, graduates jobs may open up more easily.

1. Dive in sooner rather than later

A career is something that will be a part of most of your adult life — shifting and changing with you as you adapt and learn. If you’re waiting until after you finish studying to get experience, graduate jobs may leave you behind the curve. Plus there’s a whole bunch of other great things that come with work experience (see points 2–10), and the more time you have exposing yourself to relevant experiences, the more time you have to absorb it all!

Dive in sooner rather than later

2. Get hands on knowledge in your industry

A no-brainer really. Getting work experience gives you a chance to put your theory into practice in real-world situations. Being able to transition from lecture room to workplace may require different skills, emotional demands and applications of your knowledge. Plus, it ensures all the things you’re learning are relevant and current within the workforce you’ll soon be joining.

Casual employment helps students to gain insights into changing workplaces and industries and it develops their employability skills while they are studying.
Innes Willox, Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group
— Innes Willox, Chief Executive, Australian Industry Group

3. Learn where your strengths are

Thinking you know what you’re good at, and actually being good at it are, unfortunately, two different things (cough, Australian Idol auditions, cough). Sometimes you need another perspective on your work, or sometimes it’s just getting the chance to put theory into practice that can highlight where your true strengths lie. Once you find out what they are, you can further develop these skills and use them to your advantage in your professional life. Adulting-1, Studenting-0.

Learn where your strengths are

4. Grow the skills you can’t learn in a course

Some things you just can’t learn in a classroom setting. Like, how to not be an awkward turtle at social gatherings, how to not spend all your money on payday, and how to argue your way out of that MYKI fine. Getting outside your lecture theatre or classroom gives you an opportunity to develop these ‘soft skills’. You may have even picked some up through previous work experience already. Check out our article here to see if you have skills you didn’t realise you had.

Grow the skills you can’t learn in a course

5. Show your determination

Passion is a hard thing to demonstrate, but is a key factor when it comes to setting yourself apart from the crowd, especially when applying for a job. You may have a chance to demonstrate your passion once you’re in front of an interviewer, but having work experience in your industry is a great way to show it on paper and get your foot in the door.

While our medical degrees provide us with ample clinical experience in a range of fields through our hospital rotations, it is becoming increasingly important, especially with post-graduate training programs, to demonstrate a vested interest in particular fields relevant to the training programs.
— Sebastian Kirby, Medical Student, University of Melbourne

6. Build out your networks

The concept of networking can take some getting used to, but having a group of people to tap into while you’re studying and afterwards can be extremely helpful in landing your first role. A classmate, a colleague or a friend of a friend may well be the contact that ends up suggesting you as a candidate for a job.

Build out your networks

7. Learn what you don’t like

Learning about something is very different to actually doing something, and can sometimes gloss over the not-so-nice things about reality. Ever heard the phrase ‘easier said than done’? Getting real-world work experience while you’re still studying gives you an opportunity to find the things you absolutely cannot bring yourself to do. This way, you can veer away from your no-go zones in future and instead focus on the things you truly love.

As an undergraduate, very little is known of the real world and Paddl provides this opportunity for undergraduates to explore new horizons and develop their passion for the future.
— Annette Owttrim, General Manager — Health Solutions, Aspen Medical

8. Give yourself the best chance of future success

You know when you put off an assignment until the night before and then you have to rush through it and it ends up being quite average? Now imagine the same thing happening with something really important. Say, like, getting a job. If you pick up experience, graduate jobs are more likely to come your way as you transition to the real world. Just like that assignment, starting early ensures you give yourself the best chance of success.

Give yourself the best chance of future success

9. Grow your professional skills portfolio

Clashing with a manager can’t be dealt with the same way as fighting with your parents. Tantrums are not respected in the workplace, and are probably not tolerated at many places either. Instead, you’ll need a bit of tact and grace. Exposing yourself to various kinds of work experience can give you the time and opportunity to develop these professional skills. Those shifts you did as a telemarketer or a retail assistant? Perfect chances to brush up on holding your tongue and being polite.

I think it’s great to have experience in a few other fields outside your immediate studies also, because you never know when you might need to borrow skills from another field to use in your industry.
— John Otieno, Nursing Student, Holmesglen

10. Find role models

The best part of getting work experience in your industry? Finding like-minded people who are talented, knowledgeable and all-around awesome. Connecting with others who are passionate about the same things you are can accelerate your learning in niche areas, and can be mentors that you’ll hold onto for life. They’re often a little further ahead in the game than you are and so will have a world of knowledge and advice to pass on… if you let them!

Find role models

Ready to find course-relevant opportunities that will help you prepare for your future? Head over to Paddl to connect with Employers in your field now.