Globalisation has increased competition in all sectors of society today, this includes education. The implication of this is that grades are not the sole stand out factor for university, or job applications anymore. Institutions are looking for much more in their ideal candidate.
Work experience is beneficial and necessary as a much needed reality check and learning curve for every individual. It allows one to gain first hand experience of their desired profession and provides good quality insight into whether or not it is the correct path for them to pursue. Taking myself as an example, in year 10 I was 110% sure I wanted to be a paediatrician because I wanted to save children. Though after shadowing the work of some of the best paediatrics at Great Ormond Street I realised I probably didn’t have the stomach for such a task (I fainted after seeing an open wound). Amusement aside, I learned that I had perhaps bitten off more than I could chew, but I knew that my goal to help people was a solid aim I could build upon.
Experience is no longer as easy to come by today as it was a few years ago. Though one should not let themselves be defeated by such a prospect, because there is another change that has complimented lack of experience opportunities; extracurricular activities. The amount of clubs and societies available to students today is jaw-dropping. There is something for every interest one may have, big or small. It is your uniqueness as a person that makes you stand out from all the rest. The fact that you may be studying Physics, Chemistry & Biology like another 10,000 students makes you just another science majoring brainiac. It’s your passion for canoeing, tennis, baking, drawing, playing the violin that truly makes you stand out among the rest. Being serious about success shouldn’t prevent you from building upon your hobbies and vague interests in the slightest, as they can actually serve to clarify the ambition you hope to seek.
Taking myself again as an example; my teachers always knew I loved to talk, and as a punishment for correcting the grammar of my English teacher I was made captain of the debating team. Giving up my lunch hour to organise teams for the amateur debating competitions seemed like an inconvenience at first, but actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. After progressing onto several Model United Nations conferences and being able to obtain 3 consecutive ‘Best Delegation’ awards, I realised I actually had a real way with words. So what did I now want to become at age 16? A barrister of course. I wanted to merge my aim of helping others with upholding the rule of Law. It seemed like a noble enough cause, but an Ernest Young, Pinsent Mason and 3 Raymond Buildings later, I really didn’t think I could stay true to my own personal morals and principles as a barrister. Nevertheless the amount of competition I had to fight through to gain internships at such prestigious Law firms taught me a lot about application skills, interview techniques and just general professional etiquette – all things that would have gone amiss had I just relied on education to mould me into an all-rounder.
If you’re wondering what I ended up working towards- and am still pursuing; Political change. I’m in my final year reading International Politics & Economics at King’s College London – a degree discipline I reached after much reading and various internships in Parliament, City Hall and the Islington Council. As well as continuous delegations at various Model United Nations conferences and being a college councillor, I realised the recurring theme was the political aspect of each additional experience. My journey is just one of many, shaped by various experiences that had I not had I may actually be studying Medicine or something similar of the sort currently. This would not have proved true to myself and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without all of my work experiences and extracurricular activities.
Gaining a breadth of experience allows you to build as a character through your encounters with various professionals from different sectors. Besides building yourself as a person, it opens your eyes to what you want you want to do – be it in the short term or the long term. Not only does it add colour to your CV, but it provides you with a portfolio of life lessons that you’ll never forget. The way such intensive experiences have shaped your understanding of working in general will remain with you, even if it is just subconsciously. Therefore by actively seeking both paid and unpaid internships/work experiences, you automatically put yourself at an advantage by complementing good grades with an all-rounder characteristic. This will undoubtedly stand out in an application pool and give you a rhetorical clout during interviews.
Farida Ahmed – Final year, King’s College London