For many, completing your high school or college degree can be an overwhelming and tedious process. It is common to become focused solely on exceeding academically, and the importance of experience is forgotten.
Prioritizing academia over practical experience can lead to you having an incredibly hard time qualifying for a desirable position in your field once you graduate. It is important to balance your degree with your job history in order to have both the academic and real-world experience that is sought after by hiring managers. This is something Griffin Kapelus is familiar with, he has started gaining valuable professional experience before the completion of his degree at the University of Vermont.
Here are the top ways to gain beneficial experience in your chosen field before you finish your degree:
Many companies offer internship programs for college students. This is a common way to gain some valuable experience in a part-time setting, while still working on your degree. The company will typically work with your class schedule and may even offer college credit for completing their program. On top of the work experience and possible college credit, some companies may even pay you for your time.
Once you’ve finished your program, you will be able to add this experience to your resume, as well as create points of contact and references in your chosen field.
Finding ways to do volunteer work that is relevant to your field is also another great way to gain experience and knowledge. This also helps to enhance your resume and show potential employers that you are dedicated to your professional development. Foregoing monetary compensation shows a level of commitment that is difficult to quantify otherwise.
For Griffin Kapelus, volunteer work has had several surprising benefits. Griffin developed an interest in socially important issues before he began volunteering at West Side Campaign Against Hunger, a food pantry in New York City. As he expanded his hours, he was deeply impacted by his interactions with people who had been food insecure for years, as well as with those who were affected by the COVID-19 financial collapse.
Griffin chose to continue his volunteer work after he relocated to Burlington, VT to begin in-person classes at the University of Vermont. There he is involved with an organization called Feeding Chittenden.
Volunteer work can be a great entry point into crowded or popular industries while exposing volunteers to the direct benefits of their chosen line of work. As you move up the ladder in a non-profit, it is common to become removed from the recipients of goodwill and individual effort; volunteer work lays the foundation for recognizing the importance of your work.
Although volunteer work functions may seem trivial, they are often the most important frontline functions in an organization and can influence your personal social responsibility for the rest of your life.
Entry Level Positions
It can be difficult to break into your field without first obtaining some sort of job experience, especially in high-demand fields like fashion, marketing, and finance (to name a few). Therefore, you might want to consider entry-level positions that are relevant to your field. This will help to get your foot in the door and create references that can help you get to the next level.
For example, if you are studying to work in the medical field, you might want to consider finding employment with a medical answering service. This can help you familiarize yourself with important concepts, practices, and terminology.
After his first paid job in social work at a local homeless shelter in Burlington, VT, Griffin Kapelus had the opportunity to be exposed to a more nuanced perspective of social issues than he could get as a volunteer, or learn about in a classroom setting.
There are several tried-and-true ways you can start gaining valuable work experience before you have officially obtained your degree. Doing so will help to give you an advantage when searching for your first full-time position.
You will also be able to craft a more effective resume and provide references that can verify your work ethic and skill set. During job interviews, you will bring the benefit of hands-on experience that can’t be learned in a classroom.