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A graduate’s guide to gaining work experience

02 February 2015, 13:10

Nairobi - Many graduates find themselves at an impasse when they begin the job search: they can’t get a job because employers want experience, and without a job, they can’t get the experience. Conundrum!

Is this you?

You could keep plugging away, sending CVs in the hope that someone will hire your inexperienced self and give you a shot. Or you could get pro-active!

We provide a few ideas to help you break free of this endless cycle…

You will need to find a way to gain work experience. Being open minded and offering your skills elsewhere is the best way to start. You will need to show potential employers that you’re committed to your career, you’re passionate about pursuing it, and that you’re willing to gain the experience, free of charge, and devote your time to gaining on-the-job experience.  

Here we provide guidelines to help you gain the experience you need to get that top job.

Talk to your school careers adviser, your parents, your peers. They can help you come up with ideas, give you information about the work experience programs and perhaps suggest companies in need of temporary employees. Someone might even be able offer you an unpaid trainee placement or internship somewhere!

Your church, clubs, sports teams and any other community groups you are involved in may also have useful contacts or placements. Ask them if they can help you get in touch with someone in your chosen job or industry. Be willing to adapt. Your work experience need not be in your exact chosen profession at first, although the closer it is to your end goal the better.

Also read: Graduates ask govt to create job opportunities

Once you have a contact at an organisation you would like to work for, contact that individual by email or phone, tell them that you are looking to gain work experience (unpaid if necessary!) and ask to meet with them to discuss any available options.

Be prepared to tell them why you are interested in their company, and what you hope to gain from your work experience placement. Offer to show them your CV, detailing your area of study. If they agree to chat with you, treat the meeting like an interview.

You will need to be prepared to answer any questions they may have, present a clean and tidy image and be on time. Be unambiguous about what you can offer – you will have to sell yourself and your skills, and make clear how they will benefit from having you on board for a while. Also decide on the duration of your placement – anything from one month to six months will help you bulk up your CV and gain that much needed experience.

Talk to the employer in detail about what will be expected of you. Areas you need to cover include your working hours, what kind of tasks you might do and any specific learnings you’d like to gain from the placement. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially as this shows the employer you are interested.

If the interview goes well and you have been offered the chance to gain some work experience, treat the placement as you would a real job. This position will provide you with a reference for years to come, as well as a base from which to launch your career.

Good luck!

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