What evidence is there to suggest that work experience is beneficial to your future career? In today’s world, having a university degree is not a guarantee for obtaining a university-level job to graduates anymore. An increased number of young people go to universities and the resulting elevated competition makes the students want to differentiate themselves from the crowd (Ascough, cited in White 2011). One way, which enables student’s CV to stand out, is by having work experience. This term is quite broad and could mean having a part-time job, doing a summer internship or a whole year in industry.
However, the most evidence seems to be provided for the benefits of doing an internship, so that is what will be mostly discussed in this essay. Furthermore, the evidence for the significance and benefits of work experience is going to be examined from the viewpoint of the three main stakeholders: students, universities, and employers. Firstly, it is important to consider the impact and benefits of work experience to students.
Work experience provides a great opportunity to develop valuable employability skills and makes the students stand out from crowd in the job application process.
As noted by Graduate Yorkshire project manager Ascough (cited in White 2011) there is a great competition in obtaining a graduate-level job and work experience can improve the chances of being recognized from a big pool of applicants. Hence, students with work experience are in favor because the employers acknowledge their CVs and it is more likely that they will get invited for an interview.
A recent report by High Fliers Research Ltd. (2013) found that employers view work experience as one of the ways by which students can exhibit their competencies and skills.
Moreover, work experience is specifically of a high value to students because they can develop various employability skills. For example, Gualt, Redington, and Schlager (2000) did a study in which they investigated the effects of internships on career skill development and success, on the business alumni from a northeastern U. S. university. The non-intern graduates were asked to what extent did the university help them to develop certain career skills. The intern students were asked the same thing but with a subsequent question about the internship contribution to those skills as well (Gualt et al. 2000).
Gualt et al.(2000) found that the intern students thought that the internship prepared them more in 5 out of 13 evaluated career skills, such as in job interviewing, creative thinking, etc. This shows that work experience has positive contributions to the development of students’ career skills. On the other hand, it can also mean that the work experience has only “provided a more novel, timely, and contextually rich exposure to these career skills,” (Gualt et al. 2000, pp. 49). This would imply that the internship itself does not necessarily teach students the career skills but only improves students’ skills learned from the university.
Either way, it can be deduced that internships are beneficial for the students’ careers as they enhance their career skills. However, the evidence provided in the experiment of Gualt et al. (2000) can be hardly generalized as the experiment was only carried out on business alumni from a northeastern U. S. university and therefore may not apply to the students worldwide. That is why there should be done more research in the other parts of the world. It can still be concluded that there is some evidence of the positive efficacy of work experience for students as it enhances their career skills and makes them recognizable by the employers.
Interestingly, the university views on the effectiveness of work experience are not quite unanimous and not all universities see the benefits of work experience. As stated by Etheridge (1987, cited in Gualt et al. 2000) some universities undervalue work experience and think that internships are belittling their status of delivering high quality education. This might be because they are worried of people viewing them as insufficient career preparation providers. However, the evidence for this conservative view of universities on work experience is more than 25 years old, and thus can be classified as outdated.
Nevertheless, it should not be condemned that university alone can prepare the students for their future career. For example, taking part in various activities, such as in student’s union, can teach the students valuable skills as well (Spellman, cited in White 2011). Unfortunately, the university degree does not seem to be enough though, because more than half of the top recruiters have said that graduates with no work experience have very small chances of getting job offers (High Fliers Research Ltd. 2013). Therefore, universities should not underestimate the importance of work experience to the students’ future careers.
In addition, universities can benefit from work experience programs too. Tighter connections with businesses enhance the chances that the companies will decide to fund various university projects, such as research and development activities (Gualt et al. 2000). Conclusively, universities should understand that work experience is “bridging the gap between career expectations developed in the classroom and the reality of employment in the real world,” (Gualt et al. 2000, pp. 52). Consequently, businesses and university should work together to provide a well-rounded preparation for the students’ careers.
Lastly, when the employer view on work experience is considered, there is plenty of evidence, which suggests that employers prefer to hire students with work experience. For example in 2010, 110 out of 130 interns placed to businesses by the Graduates Yorkshire, have gained full-time employment afterwards (Ascough, cited in White 2011). Even though this evidence is gained from just one region in the United Kingdom, it still shows that a high percentage of interns are successful in obtaining a job. Employers are especially keen to recruit interns that have worked for their company before.
The evidence can be found in Hewlett Packard, when in one year they recruited employees, out of which 70% were their previous interns (Watson 1995, cited in Gualt et al. 2000). Similarly, in the report by High Fliers Research Ltd. (2013), employers admitted that about 33% of their graduate positions are going to be taken by their former interns. The question then is why do employers prefer to recruit their previous interns rather than the other applicants? The main reason might be that employers know the qualities and competencies of their own interns better than of the other applicants.
Thus, by filling up positions with those interns, employers can save some money in the recruitment process (Gualt et al. 2000). This is because employers are confident to recruit their previous interns. Therefore, they save some money by having a ready workforce rather than just trainees. Even though these are only a few pieces of evidence, it can be concluded that employers certainly favor graduates with work experience over the graduates with no experience. In conclusion, there is quite a lot of evidence, which supports the claim that work experience is beneficial to the students’ careers.
Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge the limitations of the evidence presented in this essay. Most of the research has only been done in United Kingdom and United States, so the conclusions presented may not apply to students worldwide. Moreover, the benefits of work experience may vary across different subject fields as most of the evidence is about the business students. Because of these and several other limitations, more research needs to be done about the benefits of work experience. The conclusions of this essay are therefore not meant to be generalized or proving anything.
However, they can help us understand at least some benefits of the work experience to students. It was found that in the past, some universities viewed work experience as a threat to their status (Etheridge 1987, cited in Gualt et al. 2000). However, now universities are realizing its benefits to their students and themselves, as businesses might turn into their potential funders. Furthermore, work experience helps students to develop their career skills and enables them to stand out from the crowd during the recruitment process (Gualt et al. 2000).
This claim is supported by evidence of employers preferring to recruit graduates with previous work experience (High Fliers Research Ltd. 2013). It is even more beneficial to the students if they undertake an internship in the company for which they want to work later on. High Fliers Research Ltd. (2013) also noted that a big fraction of positions are being filled with graduates who were previously interns for that company. In the future, this increasing trend of companies employing their own interns might lead to a very few available positions for the non-intern students.
This would mean that internships would become some sort of gateway to the companies and non-intern applicants might not even be considered. If this is the case, work experience will no longer be a benefit but a necessity.
Gualt, J. et. al. 2000. Undergraduate business internships and career success: Are they related? Journal of Marketing Education. 22 (1), pp. 45 – 53. [Online]. [Accessed 4 October 2013]. Available from: http://0-search. proquest. com. wam. leeds. ac. uk/docview/204412303/140D955369671B2649E/8? accountid=14664 High Fliers Research Ltd. 2013. The Graduate Market in 2013.