# 23 The Importance of Work Experience
There was a time when you left school with O Levels (later GCSEs) and found a job or got yourself on one of those YTS schemes (paid apprenticeships). And then ‘Universities for all’ came along and suddenly there were generations of 21 year olds that couldn’t function as responsible adults in the work place. There’s no doubt the standard of employable 20 something’s has really gone down the pan.
I blame the notion that it’s all about the degree, spending several years studying for something that gives you grades but no life skills. University is all very well but it’s a very insular way to spend your early twenties and very few come out work ‘savvy’. Now of course, employers have had enough of taking on employees with plenty of grades but little else to offer in the short term.
And so work experience is once again starting to take the place of the ‘old fashioned’ degree education as the primary concern. No longer are they just looking at the grades but they are looking at CVs for evidence of experience in industry – not only for relevant experience but also for ‘real life’ experience – a demonstration of customer skills, time keeping and work ethics.
And whilst Universities do stress the importance of getting work experience during term breaks, many students aren’t taking up the opportunity and are leaving Uni ill equiped without any realisation just how hard it is out there. If you don’t bother to turn up on time for work because you had a hang over or wanted an extra hour in bed, you are going to lose your job – it’s a simple as that. Unfortunately many courses do not enforce strict attendance which is leading to all sorts of problems.
‘Graduates are losing out to interns when applying for jobs…’ The Huffington Post reported ‘highlighting the dominance of work experience as a key tool in securing employment.’
The benefit of doing a few weeks work experience here and there is that it isn’t going to affect your time or income half as much as it will for an intern. If you can bank up enough experience to land you a job when you leave education you may be able to avoid months and months of working for nothing. It may seem harsh but being an intern is no joke – many of them work for nothing but experience, references and a name on their CV.
Now you may be thinking ‘what on earth does she know?’ but I do. As a mature student who worked for many years, I know how hard it is to keep up with the demands of full time work. I’ve done everything from being a nursery teacher, to a runner in a television company and a PA in one of the biggest financial services companies in the world. Much of it is hard work. You will get pushed around, imposed upon and most of them will expect that you earn every penny of your earnings.
If you can get a taste of this whilst you’re at University, to give you some idea what goes on, on the other side,