How to Gain Work Experience as a Student

Photo: Crafting Community

As a fresh graduate, it’s easy to place all your trust in your academic transcript when entering the job market.

It happened to me and everyone that I knew.

It was not until I found out that every job listing required at least three years of experience.

I remember one frustrated young lady remarking: “Where is ‘experience’ sold so that I can go and buy some for myself?”

Like me, she had thought that her degree alone would guarantee her a place in the job market.

And just like me, she was fooled.

And later floored.

You may be a student right now, good for you. Because you have time to work on this demon called experience. You have time to prepare for your after-school life. And it starts now.

Finding yourself

Several months back, after my graduation, I met a zealous young man. He introduced himself to me and told me that he was a freshman taking Business studies at University.

As an evening program student, he was asking me if I knew any place he could find part-time employment to earn him a buck and also buy him some time until evening when his classes start.

Out of experience, I asked him what his passion was. “Art and graphic design”, he said. “Is that what you want to do after University?” I asked. His answer was a big “yes”.

I then sat this young man down and told him how he had the opportunity of honing his skills in art and design for free but because we all treat most our student life as a joke, he was willing to sacrifice that for sitting in someone’s boutique to sell black and white striped leggings.

How to Gain Really Three-year Experience Before Taking on any Job!

Find an Internship Placement Soon enough

It doesn’t matter how long your course is, you shouldn’t waste time doing stuff for the sake of it. I told my friend that he could join a design agency as an intern regardless of whether he is paid or not.

At the end of the three years, he will have developed a portfolio and a clientele to go solo. I also told my friend to start by making a list of all design and advertising agencies in town, and then select the ones which suited his preference. At the end of the three years, he will be swimming with the sharks.

Utilise free Online Resources


I don’t know why the internet has not been named a ‘Wonder of the World’ yet. It surely fits the bill. There are tons of free online causes and tutorials which you could take advantage of. Websites like Codecademy, Tutplus, Fizzle, MakeUseOf, Wikihow among others offer tutorials that you could take use.

In addition, check out blogs for actionable tips on how to hone your skills. Such websites as Smashing Magazine (Programming and Design), Goins, Writer (Writing), SmartPassiveIncome (Earning passive income), The Sparkline (Small Business and entreneuship) etc. come in handy.

I know guys who became full blown writers and programmers (some have created software) from taking free online courses; check out a few examples here.

Do some Voluntary Work

I know someone who volunteered for Scripture Union as a student and later got a job with that very organization.

You may not get the job, but you will surely have some experience to fill the black spaces on your CV. Go for it. It may not pay up in the morning, but you will surely smile in the evening.

Capitalize on Class Projects


Science students always have class projects to work on, but a few take them seriously. The real question is: “Do you know the opportunities available to you if you tried to make that project work in real life?”

What if I told you that Google, Yahoo, Imgur, Squarespace, Dropbox, and many others started as class projects, would you be inspired?

Create an Online Portfolio

The internet age is the age of possibilities. Today, owning a website is cheaper than lunch!  Why not create a personal webpage to showcase not just your work but your experience as well? Gone are the days when you needed to mail your portfolio and have someone on the other side receive it after weeks.

In this age of Instant Messaging, you just send a link to your portfolio via SMS or Whatsapp. When you have a portfolio, you are motivated to build it, so you will work toward that. Unlike someone who lacks one, they don’t care because, well, they don’t have one.

Hop into Some Classes you didn’t Register For

Sometimes you have to be sneaky.

Going back to the example of my friend above who loves art and design but is locked up in a boring ‘Business Essentials’ class, why can’t he find time to go to Art and Design college Department and sit in an ‘Art History’ or ‘Design Essentials’ class? He wouldn’t be the first. Smart kids have done it sure worked for them.

In the end, you will realize than there is more to molding Mahatma Gandhi’s sculpture than playing around with clay in your hands. While theory is the skeleton, practice is the flesh to cover the bones.

Over to You…

Now to you the student in school, the time for waiting is in the past. If you didn’t wait then, you missed your chance, get to work now. Even fresh graduates, why sit on your father’s sofa mourning the scourge of unemployment when you could gain some experience on along the way?

The time is now. I say, go for it!

What did I leave out? Do you have any experiences about this? How did you go about it? How about questions on the topic? I would love to hear from you. Leave your comments below.



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