Building a career isn’t just about studying a degree at university, it’s also about choosing something that interests you and that suits your skill set. It’s important to gain some professional experience during your studies, not only to show future employers that you are serious about working, but also for you to gauge what different career paths and companies might suit you.
This week’s post is intended to give you some ideas of how to gain work experience in different ways to make your CV stand out and give you the edge when applying for jobs.
Now that you’ve decided what you want to study and you’re working hard towards your qualification, it’s a good idea to start thinking about the kind of career you would like to pursue and the type of company you would like to work for. This is not a quick and easy decision and it’s one you should think about carefully and do as much research as you can to make an informed decision. Gaining work experience in an internship or learnership programme is a great way to find out more about different industries, companies and career paths. There are numerous websites with information about the different internships available in South Africa and it’s worth dedicating time to finding out what’s out there.
However, internships aren’t the only way to gain experience. Here are a few other ways to use your time productively and gain experience for your own professional development and to make your CV stand out to potential employers.
Write a blog
You’re already spending lots of time in front of the computer so why not take a break from all the academic writing and dedicate some time to writing about a topic that interests you. It’s an easy, quick and cheap way to build your profile and explore the things you’re passionate about. It’s also a great way to market yourself to potential employers because it allows them to get familiar with you and your skills. So, whether it’s maths or fashion or sport or nature you’re interested in, try writing short, regular posts and find a free blogging site that will allow you to easily upload, publicise and keep track of your very own posts.
Putting in hard work at university is key to your success but you can also get a little bit of help from peers and professionals that share your career interests. This is a great way to learn more about your dream job and give you a foot in the door to employment opportunities while also building a network of people in your chosen field. Find out from your faculty what networking events they organise and put yourself out there – it can be daunting at first but it’s great experience! You can even scroll around LinkedIn to find important people who are worth connecting with and asking them for advice or even an informal meeting.
Volunteering your time has a number of benefits and is a good option if you don’t manage to land that internship you were hoping for. It’s a great way for you to do some meaningful work that speaks to your passion while also gaining valuable experience that you can put on your CV. There are so many NGOs and charities out there doing fantastic work to address a variety of social needs and you are bound to find something that will be fulfilling and interesting. It’s a good idea to volunteer your time towards something that you care about but that also aligns with your professional interests so you can build experience at the same time.
Start your own project
Starting your own project may sound like a lot of work but it’s as simple as finding something you are interested in and starting small. If you’re an artist, why not start your own graphic novel? If maths is your thing, start some independent research on a topic that interests you. You can even start a small outreach programme or small business. It simply takes a bit of time and energy and confidence. Starting your own project shows employers that you are self-sufficient, hard-working and keen to make things happen. And who knows, it may even become your dream job.
Gaining experience is important to your short- and long-term career aspirations. And the great thing is, it doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. It’s amazing what you can achieve with some time, energy and belief. Good luck!