We get it. Studying feels like a full-time job (when you’re not, you know, skipping all your 8am lectures, downing cheap tequila at student night and studying for all your exams the night before). It’s no secret that completing a degree can keep you busy AF, and when you do have some extra time, the logical thing to do is take up a part-time job – perhaps as a research assistant on campus or a waiter at your local craft beer and burger joint (we see you, Cape Town). When you’re studying, your mind isn’t always on what you’ll be doing when you’re finished.
This is a mistake. You should be thinking about it. Any work experience you get now will be more valuable down the line than you could ever know. Here’s why:
1 You’re probably going to have to do it anyway. Do you know why people keep saying, ‘It’s so hard to find a job out there?’ It’s because IT IS SO HARD TO FIND A JOB OUT THERE. They are not lying – the real world is rough, and it doesn’t have a student night to make you feel better. The fact is, before you have a job, you’ll most likely have to be an intern. This is fine … if you’re willing to earn somewhere between R0 and R4 000 for your first six months of employment. But when you’re done studying, you’re probably in the headspace where you want to be earning serious cash. Get in on internships now, while you’re a student. You’ll be so glad that stage of your life is over when varsity is too.
2 It will help you decide if you’ve made the right decision. We all think we know what we want to do after high school, but your general ledger in high-school accounting does not equate to being an actual accountant. Chances are you have absolutely no idea what your job is going to entail. Some work experience while you’re studying is the perfect way to know if you’ve made the right decision or if you’re just wasting a lot of time. Rather realise you want to drop out of your degree now instead of dropping out of the first year at a new job because it isn’t what you thought it would be.
3 When you finish varsity, companies will already have you on their radar. You know the saying ‘Hustle until you no longer need to introduce yourself’? Congratulations. You’ve already reached that point with potential future employees, and you haven’t even graduated yet. Boom!
4 When you apply for jobs, your CV will stand out. The average straight-out-of-varsity CV is a piece of paper with course results. It’s great that you got 80% for third-year English, but the problem is that your employer doesn’t actually care. The best CVs show tangible results, not varsity marks. Imagine how impressive your CV would look in comparison to the rest: here’s a recent graduate who also got 80% for English but has already written feature articles for major publications, profiled celebrities and had work experience at two respected companies. You win.
5 Many job descriptions are something along the lines of, ‘This junior position requires you to have 12 years of experience and a gold medal in the industry.’ Okay, it’s not that bad but you’d be amazed at how many junior positions require at least a year or two of experience. It’s that age-old conundrum of ‘You need to have experience to get experience.’ Except it’s not a conundrum because all you have to do is build up that time through interning, shadowing or apprenticing. By the time you have to apply for jobs, you’ll practically be more experienced than the person hiring you.
6 It’s not as hard as you think. Varsity is a damn busy time – this is a fact. But you can juggle it with work experience. Seriously. Even if you can’t manage to go into the office a couple of hours a week, there are loads of long holidays where you would’ve just been lying around anyway. Take two months of your three-month holiday to immerse yourself in your chosen industry and impress your potential future boss. You can time it so perfectly that it won’t affect your studies at all – pinky promise.