When I graduated from my undergrad degree in 2009 I was very much that terrified graduate who didn’t know what she wanted to do with her life. That’s why I applied to do a Masters degree next, in order to come up with ‘a plan’. When I graduated again in 2011 I still didn’t know, but was very lucky to find a job working from home doing something I was good at. This gave me the experience I needed to secure my place here at Step, which I love.
But how did I go from that terrified graduate with no ‘real’ experience to a successful young professional? Really, it’s all about thinking about what you have done and how it is relevant. Granted, I had never really worked in an office, but I have worked in retail since I was 16. As such, I am not work shy, and I have on more than one occasion been given the responsibility of key holder and supervisor.
I also spent four summers during university jetting off to work at camp in America. While this does not seem like it would stand out as ‘relevant work experience’ to a potential employer, when I stopped to think further those summers were vital for a number of reasons. Most obviously, I had fun, but more significantly, these summers helped me to develop and build character. I learnt to work with a diverse range of people from a variety of cultural backgrounds, I learnt to be adaptable to a range of situations (primarily thunderstorms and weather, but still, I had to use initiative), and I gained the confidence to stand on my own two feet.
So, looking at my experience, I can suggest that it is worth creating a list of the skills and buzzwords you want to portray, and then go back and think of an example. So, to take just a few from my experience and CV
“Leadership” – I effectively worked through the ranks at summer camp from the boating director to assistant camp director by my fourth summer. This gave me management experience as I directly managed a team of 30 staff, as well as overseeing camp in the absence of the camp director.
“Public Speaking” – I have experience and confidence giving presentations to a range of audience sizes from my role before Step. I was adaptable , as I had to cater these presentations depending on whether I was talking with one person, or a room with 150+.
And for those of you who don’t think you have ‘relevant’ experience, anything can be highlighted on your CV in this way:
“Determined” – I worked two jobs alongside, and in order to facilitate, studying for my Master’s degree. This also gave me the ability to work under pressure and manage my time effectively.
Now, when I look back to that younger me who didn’t know what she wanted to do, I realise in many ways, I still am her as I don’t think anyone can ever really know where they’ll be in 10 years. And to me, that is OK. For me, half the fun is in the journey, and seeing where I end up, and along the way I know I am continuously gaining invaluable skills and experiences to help.