Ben Wise and Ron Lam are the co-founders of SpringTern, a service that helps students and recent graduates get real world work experience by completing part-time volunteer projects for small businesses or non-profit organizations.
For students and recent grads, finding your first job can be a challenge. Without much work experience the reality is that you are going to be seen as a risk to most recruiters and they want to minimize the risk of new employees as much as possible.
Not surprisingly, looking at your experience is one of the best ways for recruiters to assess that risk, which can be viewed along a “Hierarchy of Experience.”
At the bottom of that hierarchy is your education. Your educational achievement shows a few things:
- Are you smart?
- Do you have the ability to learn new ideas?
- Are you intellectually curious?
Be sure to highlight your top marks and the courses you took that are most relevant to the role.
The next step up the hierarchy is transferable skills. This is where your extra-curricular activities shine through. Don’t just highlight what you did, but the skills that it demonstrated and the results you achieved as well. Watch out for questions that start with Give me an example of a time when…
The top of the hierarchy is directly relevant experience. If you can demonstrate that you have successfully done the work that they are hiring for, this will make you seem like the lowest-risk option. Watch for questions like, “How much experience do you have doing…”
Employers want to know you can already do what they need
It is with this in mind that we founded SpringTern to help connect students with opportunities to get real world work experience by completing part-time volunteer projects for small businesses or non-profit organizations. If you know what career you would like to pursue, you can find a project that gets you extremely relevant experience, setting you apart from other candidates. Want to get into marketing? Help an organization set up their Facebook page. Want to get into PR? Write press releases for a small business. Whatever you want to get into, you can look for projects that are ideally suited to your needs.
Which level of the hierarchy experience is the most important?
The importance of different levels will vary throughout your career, but as a student or recent grad they are probably all given equal weight. Be sure to get a variety of experience to show that you are capable of doing the job and you are an interesting, well-rounded person. Pursue as many different types of experiences and tap into as many resources as possible to round out your resumé and job applications.