How does one gain work experience if their lack of experience prevents them from getting a job where they will gain experience?
In today’s job market, experience is key to obtaining employment and lacking work experience is a common concern for every college graduate. Employers highly value work experience that is directly related to position for which they are hiring and will often screen out candidates that do not have the work history that will help them to dive into their new position straightaway. So, how does a graduate gain the experience needed to stand out to employers? The answer is to develop their work skills by volunteering, by working as an intern, or through what the Takoda Institute refers to as a Service Learning Experience or SLE.
The Takoda Institute requires that most of its students complete an SLE which is a three credit, 90-hour course that gets students out of the classroom and into a professional setting. Students are able to apply the skills and knowledge they learn in the classroom in their Service Learning Experience. Takoda’s Career Services team works closely with students through the entire SLE process by assisting them with searching for and securing their SLE; helping them prepare their résumés, cover letters, and applications; and offering guidance throughout the SLE.
Steph Hobot, Takoda’s Career Services Coordinator, believes that SLEs are a valuable addition to a graduate’s résumé, so it is important to start the process early. Meg Gravelle, Takoda’s Career Services Lead, advises that students pursuing their SLE should “reflect on the skills you want to use.” Students should focus on the path they want their career to go and use that as a guideline for searching for their Service Learning Experience. Once a location has been secured, it is vital to make a great impression and learn as much as possible. Students who do this successfully will inevitably gain the experience needed to land a job.
SLEs are also a good opportunity to begin building a professional network and gather professional references. Students are encouraged to get to know their colleagues and attend networking or training events while completing their program.
“It’s important to teach people how to market themselves in their career,” said Gravelle. “Sometimes, references can lead to a job.”
Amber White Bear, a three time graduate from Takoda, completed three separate SLEs. She was able to develop a number of skills by working on a variety of projects for her SLE hosts– she created a database for a radio station to track contestant winners; she captured audience data for a production company by studying web analytics; and she set-up and conducted events and shows to promote a local musician.
“I did so much in my SLEs; being able to use my skills from all of my programs definitely helped prepare me for the real world,” White Bear said. “My advice for people starting their SLE is to take it seriously and treat it like a real job, because the experience you gain is real.”