How to Gain Work Experience While Studying in College
BY KATE LARSON
Working while studying is a time honoured student tradition. By balancing work and studies, not only will you prepare yourself to enter the industry you’ve picked to learn about, but you will also pick up crucial skills such as time management and delegation.
Whether you’re studying to become a field engineer or an events planner, there’s no doubt your career will benefit if you start working early. Working while studying puts you a step ahead of everyone else in class and allows you to make the most of your limited time at college. Here are some of the best ways to gain experience while you’re still studying:
Freelance or Part-Time
Online forums or platforms can help you connect to employers willing to take you on as a freelancer. Field Engineer, for example, connects large multinational companies with voice and VMWare engineers across the world. Platforms like this can help you gain experience on the field while you study.
Perhaps the easiest way to gain work experience is to simply start working on campus. Job boards are your best friend if you want to seek employment on campus. Also, try to reach out to people in your faculty and see if they have projects they need some help with. It doesn’t matter how much you get paid for these roles as long as you get the experience you need.
Assisting your professor on a research project is, perhaps, the most prestigious way to gain industry experience. Associating your name with a research paper and a reputed professor is a great way to gain a foothold in your chosen industry. Gaining access to these research teams, however, can be tricky. Research assistant positions are rarely advertised on college job boards. You may have to look for research teams yourself and ask the professor if they need any help. Professors usually have limited funds for their research, so you may have to convince them you’re worth bringing on board.
If you’re not in need of cash, unpaid volunteer work could be the fastest and most reliable way to gain industry experience. Look for volunteer opportunities that are recurrent, easy to do, and closely associated to your major.
Working with a big company could put you on the path to a great career within that organization. Organizations like Year-in-industry (Yini) provide students opportunities to join big firms and take an active role in an ongoing project for a year. Look into your state’s internship program to see what’s available for your industry.
Independent projects aren’t for everyone because they take a lot more effort and initiative than internships and volunteering. However, if you have the drive to start and see a project to the end and believe you have the entrepreneurial gene in you, this may be the best way to gain experience doing something you love. Your future employer will be thrilled to know you’re capable of working independently and deliver results on your own.
Regardless of what you’re studying, spending some time doing work within your industry is a great way to get ahead of the competition and build a stronger career than everyone else in your class.
Kate Larson is a college student and aspiring blogger, who has a strong interest in the environment and personal well-being. She enjoys travelling and reading, as well as writing novels.