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What is considered work experience?

My Career
My Career

I have a scenario for you, one that I am pretty sure you have experienced yourself. You’re scrolling through the job listings and you find an ad that speaks to you, not speaks, sings … Okay, not sings, SCREAMS. You start scrolling through and it just keeps getting better, then you find the words that shatter your dreams:

‘Looking for recent graduates with two to three years of full time job experience at a CEO level’ - Job Ad proverb

Unfortunately, these crazy requirements are unlikely to change, so it is important to jump on that train as soon as you have the opportunity to. There are no shortcuts to the top #StartedFromTheBottomNowWereHere. Employers prefer people who have experience; they will hire someone with as little as three to six months’ work experience over someone who has no work experience. 

So, what exactly is work experience?

Work experience consists of the skills and practice you gain while you work. It includes any duties or tasks that increase your understanding of the day-to-day activities and behaviour in the workplace. Work experience helps you to develop your marketable skills, for example, interacting with your colleagues and manager, being a good ol’ employee and becoming that #boss that you know you can be.

Is all work experience valuable? #DoItForTheGains

Any experience or involvement in the workplace is valuable. For example, you might not think packing groceries at a store is important when applying for a sales manager position. However, as a packer, you build experience dealing with customers and giving good customer service that can be considered valuable experience for a sales manager. Exposure to the operations of any workplace can be considered work experience. It can be a few hours a week or a few days a month.

Do only fulltime jobs count as work experience?

No. You can build work experience through different employment opportunities, for example, part-time work, volunteering, an internship, an apprenticeship, a learnership, or casual or commissioned work. All of these opportunities will give you valuable work experience. Even work that you receive no pay for is experience that shows employers your commitment and motivation.

Why is work experience so important?

Here are a few reasons why work experience is hella important:

  • You get a real idea of what to expect in the workplace, what to do and what not to do.
  • You improve your marketable skills, such as your communication skills, ie talking to people and asking questions, the ability to work on your own and with a team, dealing with conflict and stress, and how to manage your time.
  • You develop confidence. You feel more comfortable and confident in your skills and abilities.
  • You develop good work behaviour (work ethic), such as being on time and having the right attitude.
  • Work experience helps you discover your interests; you may discover a role or interest you never knew existed.
  • It will increase your chances of getting a job because employers can trust that you know how the workplace operates, can behave or act accordingly and are committed.
  • The more experience you build, the greater your chances of getting a better-paying job.

You are never too young or too old to start building work experience. You can start by volunteering, job shadowing or even ice-cream scooping until you find the perfect opportunity for you. 

‘Work, work, work, work, work, work’ – Rihanna

Stay informed! Visit the SA Department of Health's website for COVID-19 updates: