Too much experience, potentially the most damaging thing to your career?

An essential part of any job description nowadays is that daunting part of the form, “work experience”. It seems bizarre for every employer to ask for previous experience as how do you get that initial experience without having had previous experience…

The answer is simple, get involved with anything! “work experience” isn’t about whether or not you’ve had a traditional “job” and where it was, it’s about what you’ve done with your time that allows you to demonstrate certain skills that will prove beneficial in the position you’re applying for. As a university student, I have had access to countless societies, sporting groups and even job opportunities; hence, I recommend to any student out there to join a society even if you don’t think it’s for you because a) you will gain skills and develop your existing skills and b) you may even end up liking it!

So surround yourself with new experiences, volunteer at events or within the local community… Don’t be afraid to talk to people and ask for responsibilities, take on tasks and make them your own for the benefit of all… That way you can build and build upon your personal development.

However, and it’s a big however… While it’s all good and well taking things on and getting involved with everything happening around you, it’s important to remember what you’re aiming for and to focus on the essential things you need to achieve them. I’m going to take my own, personal example to demonstrate this… As a first year student aware of the whole “first year grades don’t count for your degree” (footnote: that is total rubbish as employers DO care about that) I got myself involved left, right and centre with student societies, courses responsibilities, my students’ union and media. I personally thrive when running around doing a million things with lots of responsibility and getting things done without taking no as an answer, therefore it made sense for me to take on all these stressful jobs and positions. However, come exam time and coursework submission, I was stranded… Having attended lectures, I never really sat and listened to, or more importantly questioned, what I was being told; so when it came to coursework and exams I flopped, I now find myself on a first year predicted grade of 2:2 which is not what I wanted from my degree and is therefore preventing me from gaining the positions I worked so hard on gaining the “work experience” for.

This year has seen me made some difficult choices, I’ve stepped down from a position I felt right for me and was looking forward to making my own and delivering my best. When appointed as Assistant Editor for the student newspaper at university my mind flowed with ideas and ambitions of how I’d take the paper forward both in print and online. I was paired up with the most dynamic and strong hearted partner and we were a guaranteed success. Unfortunately though I couldn’t deliver the time and dedication the position required and I ended up letting down the people who depended on me.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that I’m gutted I had to give up this amazing, important opportunity that would absolutely shine on my CV under “work experience” but since I gave up the responsibility I am now on track for a first class degree and I’ve built on my skills through smaller positions such as working for the students’ union in other ways and remaining part of societies.

Some times it’s important to say “no” to taking on too much and focusing on what’s important. I worked hard to get in to a top university to gain a top class degree and I’m not going to throw that away for anything. Giving yourself time for you is also important, I thought doing a million things for different people would bring the best out in me but I’ve now found that stopping and looking and what’s important is key to obtaining what you truly desire. Do I regret leaving that position? Definitely. Am I glad I’m back on track for a first class degree? Oh yes!



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One response to “Too much experience, potentially the most damaging thing to your career?”

  1. Jon Powell says :

    Nice article and some points well made.

    Employers are looking for capabilities and evidence that the potential employee has skills. Don’t answer their questions with “well I would…” or “I might consider…” instead incorporate things you HAVE done. That includes times you have dealt with difficult people on a student society committee or the time you took charge of a failing group based activity.

    But yes you shouldn’t neglect your degree, Lancaster is a top UK University and degrees are earned by hard work.

    Being a student like life is about balance. Finding that balance is an art and a skill. And that is something that all good employers (or VC’s, Angels, funders) look for.

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