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Experience, experience, where art thou experience?

Having been studying for four and a half years now (almost done!), the word “experience” has been hammered into my head many times until I lost count and grew tired of hearing it. The importance of it was not understood until around the middle of my undergraduate degree, which I always think was considered late. Once I realized grades do not matter without experience, frantic searches for work and proof of credibility that I can put in my CV were what transpired.

The concept of experience was not fully grasped until the end of undergraduate. Questions I asked myself were: “What is experience actually? Can we only consider formal jobs as experience? Is something only called experience and considered worthwhile if it can be put into your CV?” After what I have heard and seen, the answer is no. Almost any activity can be included as experience, even if you cannot put them all into your CV. Helping around at an SPCA event, being part of a club, attending university events, even a mere chat with people at the events. If I have to define “experience”, I would say that it describes life stories and activities from which you learn something. I have heard this line: “Any experience is good experience”, and it is the reason why I think failures are included as experience too.

There were times when I thought I should not do this activity or attend that event simply because I will not be able to put them in my CV. I was searching for experience with the wrong purpose. In selecting what I wanted to do in the efforts of building my career, I filtered out a lot of stuff that did not look credible enough to be put into a CV, stuff that I considered “too simple”. I now see that the purpose of experience is for you to learn, and therefore, selecting activities or roles should be driven by what you actually want to learn. Sure, you want experience that will  bring you to achieve your dream job, but you can’t get big or important roles that easily and quickly. You start with simple and small roles, and little by little you work your way up. Something as straightforward as volunteering can lead to a more significant role. “Been there, done that” is what people are looking for in you.

As I mentioned before, not all experience can be put into your CV, for example, you can’t put “have attended xyz business workshops/events” or “started up a business and failed but I’ve learnt a lot from that you know”. So, besides learning and networking, what good do experiences such as these bring you? How do you make use of them? Life stories to tell! I always find it awkward and difficult to talk to people at networking events, as in, what do you talk about with these people? That’s where your experience, or life story, comes in. This is your chance to low-key promote yourself and what you can offer to potential employers/collaborators. How great is it to be able to tell people how far you’ve come?

I would like to conclude with one more point I want to share. When opportunities present themselves in front of you, do not think too much or weigh the pros and cons excessively. To quote Shia LaBeouf: “Just do it!” Be aware that opportunities don’t just fall into your lap all the time, often you have to search and chase them. With that, I wish you all a happy end of Semester One for 2016.