Gaining career experience while still in university

by Mar 24, 2021

While in university, it’s often difficult to find the time or opportunity to build up your job skills. After you graduate, your resume may look a little stark until you land your first adult job. If you go into college with a plan, however, it is possible to learn workforce skills without ever having worked full-time. You just need to take advantage of the various opportunities around you, many of them unique to the uni experience.


Become a Brand Ambassador

Young people are known for being technologically connected, so if you have already built-up a following on Instagram, Twitter or TikTok, then you might be perfectly poised to join the ambassador program of a company whose product you use. For example, if you regularly drink a particular energy drink or wear a certain brand of clothing, reach out to the marketing department of that company to see if you might get some perks for touting their product online. This only works if you already believe in what they are selling and can show evidence of previous posts mentioning the product. You may get nothing more than some free clothing for your efforts, but by creating a marketing tool, you are gaining valuable business and presentation experience.


Join a Research Project

If your professor asks for help conducting a research project about a topic that you’re interested in, volunteer your time. Not only will you build a relationship with your teacher (who can write you valuable personal letters of recommendation in the future), but you are also learning collaborative research skills. Even if the project is not directly related to your major, being part of a big project shows that you are interested in teamwork and willing to learn new and interesting things.


Join a Club

There are so many opportunities to join clubs in university that it can be overwhelming. You may have to go to a few meetings to see where you really belong, but once you find a place, commit to it. That means get involved and stay involved. Run for office or take on a leadership position. It doesn’t really matter which organisation you join. For example, you don’t have to be the president of the student government to gain leadership experience. You can volunteer as social chair or direct the bake sale of any club. If you’re interested in the arts, sign up to direct a student-produced play or offer to curate a student art exhibit. The point is that you are learning how to lead, organise and handle money – all useful skills in the adult world.


Volunteer in the Community

If you’re not finding a club to fit your interests, look for community volunteer opportunities. The best place to start is with an organisation like the United Way or a religious group. There, you can get connected with a beach clean-up effort or a particular school that needs tutors. One of the best parts about these types of volunteer work is, in addition to personal fulfilment, they are great places to network with adults who already have jobs. It’s possible that guy you’re building a house with through Habitat for Humanity is in just the line of work you’re interested in after you graduate.


Find an Internship

Many universities offer credit if you complete an internship with a local company. Whether or not you get paid for the work, you’ll meet people in your area of interest which may lead to a job after you graduate. Even if the company you intern for can’t offer you paid work, you have made a connection in your chosen career field which could come in handy at some later date. It also gives you the opportunity to see how that particular business is run, and you can speak to that experience in your first job interviews.


Getting a job without experience may be difficult, but if you have a plan, you can gain experience without having a job. That extra time you spent on something other than partying or playing video games may slide you right above the competition.


Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Mikkie Mills

Mikkie Mills

Freelance Writer

Mikkie is a freelance writer from Chicago. She is also a mother of two who loves sharing her ideas on interior design, budgeting hacks and workplace tips. When she’s not writing, she’s chasing the little ones around or can be found rock climbing at the local climbing gym.