School leavers preparing for tertiary study next year should also start looking for part-time work or volunteer opportunities to boost their employment prospects after graduation.
Lucy Dinnison-Mitchell, a consultant with recruitment firm Hender Consulting, says the benefits of gaining work experience are well documented but many people still fail to heed the advice.
“It [working while studying] sounds quite simple but often you find that the time during your uni degree goes by so quickly and you get to the end and realise you haven’t done much more than study for the past four years,” Dinnison-Mitchell says.
“But when you get to the end of your education, your qualification might not be enough [to secure employment].
“Employers want people who show initiative and can be proactive in getting experience outside the school environment.”
But it is not too late for those part-way through their studies to also gain work experience, as even having a little experience is better than nothing, she says.
“Ideally, you should look for work experience that’s as relevant as possible to what you are studying – if you’re studying to be a teacher you could look for tutoring opportunities or if you’re studying nursing look at [working] in an aged care facility,” Dinnison-Mitchell says. “But it could be as simple as [volunteering] in a sporting team to show you are doing something outside of your studies and that you can work in a team environment.
“Even working in retail and hospitality, if it’s not related to what you are studying, can demonstrate that you have customer service skills and skills in consumer complaint resolution – those sorts of communication skills that employers look for.”
Dinnison-Mitchell advises students to take advantage of their tertiary provider’s links to employers and industry and find out about vocational and graduate programmes on offer.
“Appropriate qualifications will naturally give you a competitive edge to get whatever career you are going for but all these [work and volunteer] experiences build up your employability skills, which is what employers are looking for,” she says.
“They want to see that you can use your initiative and that you are proactive.
“They want to see a sense of community mindfulness – that you have an awareness of what’s happening outside your usual uni life, which can be quite sheltered.”