Saturday, 3 May 2014

Experience VS The Degree

It’s that time when everyone is going crazy with revision and exams, spending days in the library trying to relearn everything you’ve forgotten over the course of the academic year - definitely a stressful time for most students. So what happens when work experience, volunteering, a summer job and an internship are added to the mix? It’s almost inevitable to make life seem a little out of control. Piling employment pressures on top of academic stress becomes almost unmanageable. So what should we actually prioritise –our degree, which let’s face it, we pay a lot for, or trying to better ourselves through gaining as much employment experience as we can? OR trying to get the ‘right’ balance between the two?

Many people say that in grand scheme of things, degrees are not the be all and end all, and although they are still credible, this alone in the employment world isn't always enough. But surely this doesn’t mean trying to wing three years of study, whilst focusing more heavily on things beyond our degree? Degrees show dedication to a subject with evidence of this when you graduate. So although it’s definitely important to get experience of the world beyond a degree, it’s never too late to do so. There is time after study or perhaps during the summer of your degree if you manage to secure something, but I suppose there is never time to go back and change your exam marks. So should degrees take precedence?

This debate has been going on for a while, with newspapers like The Guardian and a recent article from The Independent discussing the battle between experience and academic study. It appears that nowadays, because larger quantities of people attend university, setting yourself aside from the majority is a necessity. Work experience/volunteering/jobs alongside study are becoming equally, if not MORE important than the degree itself.
The Guardian article mentioned that only 1 in 4 employers were actually interested in the class of the degree and even fewer were bothered about the reputation of the university attended. Perhaps this does have something to do with the fact that far more people go to university today than say 10 years ago. This suggests that the gaining of real-life work experience as part of your degree course is crucial to getting anywhere after graduating or can certainly give you the upper-hand when coming up against someone else in a job interview that perhaps hasn’t had any relevant work experience.
This is what The Guardian suggested employers rated most highly (in decreasing order).

Relevant work experience
Good work ethic/attitude 
Degree subject studied 
Ability to be a team player 
Mature attitude 
Class of degree
Easy-going, cheerful attitude
Reputation of university attended 
Ambitious and career-minded
Natural leadership”

BUT I still think that the class of degree you get is important, and putting a stronger focus on your studies is definitely a must. So I’m on the side of trying to get a good balance between the two. Summer seems a brilliant opportunity for students to try and get experience – although this is often easier said than done. Turning to your university for possible internship opportunities, handing out CV’s or contacting relevant companies that you are interested in with an email to ask if there is any chance of having a chat with them about what they do, can sometimes open up chances that you are not aware of. Or if you feel like you’re not ready to step out into the world of work beyond university quite yet, campuses are full of opportunities over the course of the academic year and the summer, from internships to contributing to your university’s newspaper or joining societies – they all show a willingness to improve personal skills, because at the end of the day, university is a time to increase personal attributes as well as get the best degree possible.

It’s important to make sure that you take time out for yourself too, because trying to balance experience and study can be tricky especially during exam season. It’s about being realistic with your own time and knowing what your limits are. Neglecting your degree to gain all the experience you can is not a good idea because of the time, money and personal effort you should be investing into your degree in order to having a successful and rewarding career. It’s important to find university activities that fit around the peaks and troughs of the academic lifestyle so that you will not up jeopardising your work by handing it in late. It’s about striking the right balance between good grades and activities beyond a degree that will likely set you up to approach your chosen career in the future.





Becca :)



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