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Leveraging Experience
January 25, 2017

leveraging experience
In a couple of weeks, I will reach the 5-month mark at my current job 🎉. I’ve noticed how I leveraged my previous work and extracurricular experiences into my current line of work. Even though I’m not working as IT, Professor’s Assistant, or Administrator, the skills I gained from those positions help me do my job today. I can see why many people stress the importance of finding work experience and/or getting involved in extracurricular activities. Doing this won’t guarantee every job offer after graduation but it will increase the chances of getting one. At the same time, it’ll put you ahead of the game. Even if you’re doing something completely irrelevant to what you ultimately want to pursue, the skills you gain are valuable.

As an example, I worked as a professor’s assistant for a full school year. Even though I don’t plan on being an educator, I improved my communication skills, learned how to draft a proper email, and continued polishing my critical thinking skills. I easily carried on these skills to my current job.

I currently work as a cyber security consultant and recently picked up IT auditing. I’m no longer fixing computers, creating queries, tutoring peers, grading papers, or performing administrative tasks. I’m performing security assessments, application walkthroughs, social engineering/web security/vulnerability testing, control testing per regulations, and researching these days. I enjoy what I do and try to leverage as many skills into my current role as much as possible. Some basic skills include:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Organization
  • Coordination
  • Communication
  • Critical Thinking
  • Interpretation
  • Detail Orientation
  • Cooperation
  • Proper Etiquette
  • etc…

Additionally, having some work experience allowed me to say that I already have 2.5 years of experience (at this point) and have a better chance at avoiding completely entry-level positions/pay. Don’t get me wrong- it’s good to dedicate all of your time to studying (you better get perfect grades). It’s also good to invest in your future a bit and squeeze in some experience whether it’s a job or extracurricular to get ahead. My department chair always said half of the things you learn comes from inside the classroom and the other half comes from outside the classroom.

Balancing between school, work/EC’s, and other responsibilities can be easy for some and hard for others. You have to see what’s right for you. When I was at school, I would usually work 12 hours per week and kept up with my classes the rest of the time. During my last term, I found more time to work 20 hours per week. My boyfriend could power through 20 hours per week (without needing to build up the way I did), was pretty involved with EC’s, let Nancy squeeze in a lot of girlfriend time, and still did everything he needed for school. Now, he’s a legit industrial engineer doing some cool engineering work ⚙️.

You have to find your balance. The best thing to do is to try and adjust as needed.

If you’re getting paid for that work experience, the extra money makes a difference. I would eat an uni bowl like a rock star without having to worry about breaking the bank. Legitimately working to earn that paycheck feels good too 💸💸💸.

As a disclaimer, I’m not trying to put down anyone who pursues a different route. I respect the decisions that people make as long as it doesn’t harm others in the process. I am just sharing my experience and observation in this blog post.

15 Responses

  1. Becca ☆ January 26, 2017 at 10:23 am

    Like you mentioned at the end of the post, everyone has their own unique situations, but I think if you can, everyone should try to get at least one internship during college. I had three (plus a couple other part time jobs in between) which gave me almost 4 years of prior experience, and I still had a difficult time finding a job. So I can’t imagine trying to find a job without any work experience, let alone relevant work experience.

    Plus, you learn so much from those jobs! I definitely feel like I learned more in my previous positions than in most of my classes that I apply to my job today. Internships generally pay well too so that’s always a bonus. I always paid down at least my interest on my loans each month and then of course had more spending money. Loved reading about how your previous jobs prepared you for your current one! It kind of makes me want to write a post about my experiences… 🙂

  2. Elisa ☆ January 27, 2017 at 6:18 am

    i think you’re good at being jack of all trades. it’s so lucky when someone can do so many things at once, like have multiple skills that give them more possibilities instead of getting stuck in only one or two fields. i wish i’m like that…hm, i’m not sure if i am or not but i don’t think i am. sometimes i wanna be a specialist but other times i feel like i SHOULD be a jack of all trades but i know that people have limitations and some people are specialists while others are jack of all trades. a friend of mine told me that she identified herself as “multidisciplinary designer” where she can do illustration and graphics design and also interface design (but she’s not amazing in branding or editorial graphics design and she knows) and i think that’s really cool? i wouldn’t dare to address myself as a multidisciplinary designer though even though i can do web, user interface and editorial design. i think that label will put a pressure on me even more and i don’t wanna stop being passionate with something because i’m the kind of person who, once something becomes a pressure or a mandatory routine, i’ll definitely hate doing it and it won’t give me the enthusiasm of doing the work…if that makes sense.

    i think the best advice will be to remind everyone that it’s okay to do things with their own pace and that if someone doesn’t want to join 1003839420 extracurricular activities at once or be a jack of all trades then it’s alright. i know what you mean with this post though, that we all need a backup plan so we can survive in this world but i feel like telling someone to be more critical in terms of thinking and do things their pace would be better as opposed to saying “you MUST learn this and that so you can have backups!” because this is how my dad sees things and it’s how my parents have been building pressure on me. believe me when i say that this isn’t always the best way to lead people because peer pressure can always lead to the goddamn joyous depression. i’ve felt it firsthand.

  3. Kya ☆ January 28, 2017 at 2:16 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience. It’s good to have the perspective of someone who has been there and can see the benefits of having that extra experience. It seems like there is much more required of students and anyone entering the workforce. You have to have an education and the experience. You have to tick all the boxes or it’s onto the next person (and there is a lot of people ready to apply).

    In years to come, it will probably be a requirement to be involved in an internship. I think that some classes and universities already do this. If you’re lucky enough, I believe that some universities/colleges can connect you to potential workplaces. It just depends on where you are located, the direction you are headed and what you are looking for. If you want to get to the top of your career and make the big bucks, you have to work very hard. It would be worth it in the end. 😀

    Personally, I am on a kind of slow journey into studying and career opportunities. It took me a while to get where I am, so I just have to find that balance and do my best. 🙂

  4. Tara ☆ January 28, 2017 at 3:16 am

    I’ll be honest in that I have mad respect to those who do both school and work at the same time. That’s what I did, and I know from first-hand experience that it’s really difficult balancing the two! There were times when I didn’t do a good job of balancing the two, and I usually ended up sacrificing sleep and free time to ensure I did my work and obtain good grades in school . . .

    But anyway, doing both is tricky, but I feel that doing both also makes you well-rounded individual. I see now that anyone can have the knowledge to do a job, but it’s the other skillset that you obtain from real-life experience that will make you be a better employer. Things like how do you handle unexpected situations? How do you handle a difficult customer/employer/co-worker? How can you be more flexible with your job? How can you plan out your various projects and figure out your priorities? Sure, you can study to learn the skills to make you a better writer, programmer, et cetera, but there are other skills you can only learn through real life experiences — through work, extra curricular, and any other similar situations.

    If I were an employer, I’d definitely see you as someone who has the education and the experience to be a good employee. You’ve learnt a lot in the past couple of years, and it shows through your excellent work ethics 🙂 Keep it up and never stop learning and improving yourself!

  5. Chynna ☆ January 29, 2017 at 1:39 am

    Congratulations on getting to the 5-month mark! I can’t believe it’s been 5 months, already – time flies by so quickly. In job interviews I always draw on the experience I learnt in previous jobs to answer the questions they have and I am so thankful that I have that experience. It’s really good that you’re able to put your skills to good use.

    Education is amazing, great, so fucking useful but at the same time you need experience, as well, because it makes you look super saiyan in an employer’s eyes. You’re school smart, but you’re also smart enough to hold a job and juggle your studies at the same time. I know if I were a employer I would look at those factors. Plus, you learn a lot more things on the job than sitting at a desk in class.

  6. Pauline ☆ January 29, 2017 at 5:37 am

    I absolutely <3 this post, Nancy! Being on my placement or "work experience" year right now I couldn't agree more on how important experience. Working in HE and getting two sides of the spectrum i.e. as staff and as a student has really given me an insight on the differences between "the real world" and "student life" haha. So those younger years below me to get as much experience as possible, it will definitely help you in the long run!

    So far in my Uni life, I've done a two (including this long-term one I'm doing now) "professional" experiences and on top of that other experiences that I believe has definitely shaped me as a person (e.g. retail, ambassador roles, volunteering opps totalling up to around 12-ish hours of work a week along with studying.)

    "half of the things you learn comes from inside the classroom and the other half comes from outside the classroom." – the best way to explain it!!

    Congrats on 5 months! I remember when you first started, you, Tara and I both started a new job/placement at a similar time. I actually hit 6 months this month! xD

  7. Laurie ☆ January 29, 2017 at 2:10 pm

    Any experience can help you get a job! You’re in a computer related field and I think it might be easier to get a job there especially since you majored in that in college.
    I majored in Psychology so it was harder for me to find a job of course!

    I agree with you, Nancy about doing internships and working in college! I had an internship in college and had a job but they had nothing to do with the job I’m at now. They still helped me learn about myself and how to work with others though.

    I think any experience you do helps you improve your life. The point of life to me is experience things and always keep learning and growing!

  8. Cat ☆ January 29, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    I’m glad your past experiences have helped you in your current job! I think the most important thing I learned from interning during college was being in another code base and working with others. Almost every project at school was to code from scratch, and I only had to worry about my own code. It’s such a different experience to go into an existing code base that many other developers are touching at the same time.

    I only worked during one summer though, so I was always amazed at people who worked and went to school at the same time. Kudos to you for being able to balance that! Definite time management skills there!

  9. Kerry ☆ January 30, 2017 at 12:31 pm

    It’s great that you’ve been able to put your skills to use in a number of areas. I went through a stage of not being able to find any job, because I just didn’t have the required experience. I was in full time education until the age of 21 and never had a ‘proper’ job in that time.

    Unfortunately, that meant that I just couldn’t find a job. No one would accept that the reason I didn’t have the experience was because of being in education. I needed experience to get a job, but I needed to get a job in order to gain experience. It was a vicious circle that I couldn’t seem to get out of. Luckily, after finding a couple of badly paid temporary jobs, I found one where I was able to work my way up in the company and gain a lot of skills and knowledge. I’m just thankful that they took a chance on me.

  10. Cassidy ☆ January 30, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    This definitely helped put away any doubt that I was having about my current situation. I have two jobs, one as a tutor for my school’s I.T. department and while its kind of unrelated to what I plan on doing with my degree, it’s really helped to hone some of the skills that I’ll be using when I do get my career. Knowing that your work as professor’s assistant gave you experience for your career is very reassuring.

  11. Amy ☆ January 31, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    I definitely agree that experience matters. I looked at so many job advertisements after graduating and most of them were after someone with 2-3 years experience. It’s a little disheartening when you’ve worked hard just to get the degree, but that’s how it is.

    I had to do a 6 week work placement as part of my degree, and I really enjoyed it. I definitely gained a lot of valuable skills, and it made me so much more confident when applying for jobs.

    Glad to hear the job is going well! You deserve it after all the hard work you’ve put in!

  12. Rezina ☆ February 1, 2017 at 11:33 am

    I agree that work experience is really important but sometimes this is really hard to do if you live in a low-income household. A lot of times an entry level job, these days, asks for relevant experience. Especially if you’re working a specific field that calls for specific skill sets. For me personally, it’s hard making time for an internship or a job to get that relevant experience just because I have to work to pay the bills and help my family on top of that :/ It would be great if I could just do everything and not have to worry about money and time at all, haha. I’ve just been trying to squeeze everything in and even though I’m more tired than I usually would be, I don’t regret doing those extra volunteering hours or internship.

    So yeah, I definitely agree that work experience, any work experience, makes a huge difference! I loved reading your post in particular because you sound so knowledgeable about your own work experiences. And all that hard work definitely pays off in the end!

  13. Thao ☆ February 1, 2017 at 8:59 pm

    I totally agree that work experience is valuable to have. I wish I had industry experience during college since my work was either unpaid undergraduate research or tutoring, so when I started my current job, I felt so overwhelmed by the difference between industry and academia. And experience in any field, even outside your major, can be insightful. And it’s a great way to find out what you like and don’t like.

  14. Holly ☆ February 2, 2017 at 5:23 am

    Transferable skills are so important to have. Sometimes I think we don’t realise just how many useful skills we have that we can put on our CV and use to sell ourselves to employers.

    So many people moan that they can get entry-level jobs because they require X number of years experience which seems impossible when you are fresh out of university. I managed to say I had 7 years of coding experience when I applied for my job, even though I’d only just left university.

    I was lucky that I had a really flexible job when I was at university that not only paid me well but also provided me with lots of experience to put on my CV. And as I literally only worked a couple of hours a week it didn’t have an impact on my studies.

  15. Georgie ☆ February 6, 2017 at 4:24 pm

    I have definitely learned a lot on the job. A lot that I have taken and used to help me look for other opportunities, and also used in future jobs. I think it’s important to realise that even though you may not use everything you learn at school, you might use some of it. It’s good to stay open minded. You can gain experience anywhere, and learn from it, even if you may not make a career out of it.

    I think you have learned a lot in the past few years, you’re still in the early stages of your career but doing so well! 😄

    Money can be a good motivator. I worked remotely in Perth recently and I didn’t worry too much about spending money on food and even travelling there – I got a lot out of the presentation I did, and I learned a bit about the challenges and perks of working remotely. 🙂

    It’s definitely good to have that balance and not put too much on your plate. Having fewer things to do but gaining as much as you can from them can be more worthwhile than trying to do absolutely everything 😄

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