Why Work Experience Is Really Important For Young People

01/08/2016 17:17 | Updated 01 August 2016

'What work experience do you have?'- A typical interview question which baffles all university, college and school graduates in their first proper job interview.

Applying for your first job is always nerve-racking. The rush of blood you get when you shake the hand of the interviewer, the adrenaline when you sit down and there is an awkward silence until the interviewer breaks the ice. As soon as you start to get a conversation flowing, you start to calm down and feel at ease. All of a sudden the interviewer starts firing questions at you. Your heart starts pumping quickly and all of a sudden you are talking sharply and confidently to sell yourself. Throughout this ordeal, you are twitching uncontrollably in the seat only for the interviewer to ask you a question that makes your heart cease beating. 'What work experience do you have?'. You will either reply confidently with previous jobs or go off on a tangent about experiences you have faced at university, college or school. As you walk off and say goodbye to the interviewer you will walk out to see other faces sitting assured outside, possibly people older and more experienced than you.

Having gained experience earlier on in employment would have evidently made you prepared for the challenges at work as you will have shown you have gained key skills. Therefore, for a profession you may have chosen to work in for the next forty-five years or whenever the retirement age is set in the future, your starting job will be your destiny throughout your prolific career. It is important to get an idea of what the job is like before you commit your higher education or career to that employment area. By getting work experience earlier on, it ultimately helps you make up your mind on whether the particular job or sector you are working in is right or not and this vital because you can make adjustments to your education choices in accordance to this. Therefore, it is better to know before university than during your second year. As a sixteen-year-old, I have already started to look for work experience and found out that it is completely different from a job.

Work experience consists of being given training, showing what that particular job role involves and crucially developing key skills that are relevant to the job role. A job is a form of permanent employment. They both allow one to gain experience but these days it's important to consider what you actually want to do. Working permanently is committing as set number of hours per week and being paid in exchange whereas work experience differs. This is because work experience is short term employment and often doesn't involve the person getting paid.

So what's the fuss about?

It depends where you want to work. For example, if you are pursuing a career in finance then working for a FTSE 100 bank sounds like an ideal place to start and is the right step to take into the world of work. They won't give you a job if you don't have any prior training so your best bet will be getting work experience there. Even that is difficult these days. Picking up the phone or visiting the branch to pitch yourself for them to say 'Sorry, we don't have any placements available.' This isn't just banks, it's a range of employment areas who cannot facilitate work opportunities for young people. So one wonders what they must do now to gain experience. Work experience at a medium sized business which is in the same employment area sounds like a great idea, however, these days the employees don't have 'time' to help train us young, energetic people, who will inevitably help them with their workload. In addition, they will need to take out their 'valuable' time to go through the recruitment process if someone applies for a job yet it will be that person who will help them with their work and subsequently improve productivity in the business. It's a case of the short term sheer cost of the recruitment process which turns a blind eye to the long term benefit of gaining an employee and maximising the revenue of the business.

Alternatively, if you're young and want to start saving money, a job will be perfect to get some income. You will still be gaining valuable experience however businesses are reluctant to add to their expenditure and pay extra wages when they already have sufficient employees. Furthermore, after visiting several job sites and walking around the city centre, the jobs that are being offered to us young people may not be to the calibre we had expected or if at all relevant to a potential career we are pursuing. A job is meant to manifest a livelihood, a personal commitment but the experience gained from it- even just the application phase- is valuable. The application process will consist of filling out forms, curriculum vitae and a cover letter and tailoring them to the chosen job role. This experience will help in the future when applying for other jobs that are of interest and want to start a career in.

The Government should ensure that businesses do more for us because even if we don't have the adequate training required, we can always learn new things like we normally do seven hours a day at school. The former employment minister Priti Patel believes that we should 'step away from the selfie sticks and put down Snapchat and do some work experience.' Not everyone wants to work when they are sixteen but for those who do, more needs to be done.

So when the interviewer asks 'What work experience do you have?' this should make you smile not shudder.