Do We Really Need Experience to Succeed After Graduation?

With the job market becoming more competitive, with fewer jobs for graduates than before, many employers often demand good work experience over qualifications - even for their graduate training schemes.

I recently spoke with two employers from prominent City companies. As I prepare to enter my third year at LCA Business School, I've started thinking about serious employement and wanted to get their opinions on whether or not solid experience in my chosen field is really essential for a graduate training scheme. Their views could not have been more different and I was so interested in what they had to say I thought I would blog about it so everyone else can give me their thoughts...

WITH the job market becoming more competitive, with fewer jobs for graduates than before, many employers often demand good work experience over qualifications - even for their graduate training schemes.

Here, employers from two of London's biggest companies share their views on whether experience is the most essential qualification a graduate can have:

Yes, experience counts for more: Milan Patel, King & King Chartered Accountants, Auditors and Tax Advisors.

"As a partner at King & King Chartered Accountants, Auditors and Tax Advisors I am convinced that experience in your chosen field is the most essential way to grow and carve out a successful career.

"A lot of universities today actively encourage their students to go out and gain good solid work experience from a company in the sector they wish to go into once they graduate. In my opinion, it is imperative that they do this.

"At King & King, I have worked with a number of accountancy, tax and business students over the years from LCA Business School in London. If they impress us, which they often do, they will be offered a permanent full-time job with the company when they graduate.

"If you don't get out there and get a decent internship, how will you get a foot in the door?

"Experience is essential in my eyes, especially when it comes to recent graduates. You have to show that you have knowledge of your field that has not just been gained from reading books. In this market, experience is key.

"If two graduates were to come for an interview with me, with identical qualifications, both extremely capable of doing the job and both showed the same level of commitment to the position - but only one had the experience of doing an internship - I would always choose the one who had done the internship.

"Even in our graduate training schemes we want people who already have a bit of experience in the sector.

"Having a good internship under your belt means you already know what area of the job your interest lies in - you know what you're good at, and you know the areas where you're not so strong. You'll know what professional qualifications you want to sit and you'll have a good idea of exactly where you want to be in five or ten years' time.

"If you come in blind, straight from university with only the books you have read as knowledge, you won't have this head-start. Experience is essential - go out there and get it while you're still studying."

No, experience is not the be-all-and-end-all for graduates: John Wilson, Empowered Systems Ltd.

"I have been the company director and CEO of Empowered Systems Ltd since it was founded 10 years ago - when it comes to new recruits I know exactly what I am looking for and experience is not it.

"We supply tier one clients, including HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Chartered Bank and many insurance companies with risk solutions - but I don't care about the experience you've already got. All I ask of my new recruits - particularly graduates and even school leavers - is that they are fiercely bright, focused to detail and intensely ambitious.

"I want people with a burning desire to learn - that's one of the reasons why I hire students, graduates and school leavers - because it means I get to train them up from scratch my way and keep them here long-term.

"Two of my employees are students at LCA Business School - they work part-time during the week and full-time during the holidays but I consider them permanent members of staff, who signed a three-year contract when they started and will continue to work for the company when they graduate.

"When they started, neither of them had any experience whatsoever of working in risk solutions nor being business analysts. I am not of the opinion that experience is the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to graduates getting jobs.

"I prefer it if someone comes to me without any experience as it means I am starting with a blank canvas and can train them to our exact way of working - we don't like preconceived ideas of how things work here. They just need to be bright and ambitious.

"An immense amount of time and effort goes in to training our business analysts and I aim to get them fully productive within six months. During their first three years with us, they will get professional accreditation from industry bodies in areas including insurance and project management - as well as any university degree they are currently studying for.

"I encourage all of my new employees to undertake this as it is essential in the long-run - more essential than experience in the beginning - and we pay for it as we're committed our workers and their futures.

"Within six months to a year of them being with the company, we will look at the areas in which their capabilities and interests are developing, and encourage them to pursue those paths, particularly for their professional qualifications.

"Coming in with no preconceived ideas of what area you want to specialise in is good - because it means you're not shutting your brain down to other options. Don't be intimidated by people telling you an internship is essential - it's not always the way."


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