Work experience is a topic that mostly dominates youth development conversations. Most of the job opportunities available on the job market require prior work experience. Young graduates in Malawi, fresh from college or university, are most likely to lack such experience. No wonder they are in awe as to how they would get into top companies or any organisation, without the minimum number of years of work experience required.
This is not the end of the world, however. Thereare several ways that young people can get work experience while they are still students. It will just require you to be strategic. As a student, you can get work experience through internships, volunteer experience, hustle, or even self-initiatives.
There are organisations that offer both paid and unpaid internships. Every country has those organisations. You must search for them and apply.Utilise your networks (online and offline). The truth of the matter is that most of these opportunities are never advertised. You therefore need to take an initiative to have access to these opportunities.
As you apply for these opportunities. Remember that your goal is to learn. If you have this principle at the back of your mind, you will learn. If your drive is to make a million bucks from these internships, then you are in for a big suprise.
You must be humble enough to know and accept the knowledge and skills gaps that you have. You must also be humble enough to ask right kind of questions to the right people in the organization where you are working.
Don’t waste time proving that you have the best wardrobe, car, phone etc. It is useless.
Internships are not the only way to get experience; thereare volunteer activities that you also can take. Every country has organisations that are looking for volunteers to help in many ways. As a student, such organisation are an opportunity for you to help and also gain working experience. When looking for volunteer groups don’t look for the big organizations only. Broaden your search, and you will find other organisations that you thought never existed. Again, some voluntary organisations pay and some don’t, and you need to be aware of that.
The advantage with volunteering with a small organization is that you gain more skills, and your impact can be felt. However, in a bigger organization, sometimes, your contribution is like a drop in the ocean.
Capitalise on the clubs and societies that the student's community has at your college/university. It can be the students union or faith-based communities or clubs.Joining and serving in students lead clubs provides an opportunity for you to learn a lot of things that might be useful in the future. You will learn how to work in teams, organising events, fundraising, public speaking, etc. These skills are very important for you.
Finally, be a good student, and make a very good impression on your university and your lecturers. The university and your lecturers have projects that require people. The projects range from data collection, analysis to drafting of papers. Most of the times, the university or lecturers provide these opportunities to students who have demonstrated excellence in their studies, and also have good character.
If you try to experiment with some of these ideas, you will find that, by the end of your four years, you have a cumulative work experience. In some cases, you will have a job waiting for you before you graduate. If you are an entrepreneur, then, you will have accumulated enough lessons and capital to expand your venture into the industry.
Chimwemwe is a changemaker and writer who specializes in international development, media, and communications. Chimwemwe has established two youth movements, Maphunziro265 and Youth to Youth Empowerment as Co-Founder and CEO and Founding National Coordinator respectively. Chimwemwe received a 2015/2016 Chevening Award to pursue a Master's Degree in Development Studies at the University of Sussex. He did his Bachelor’s Degree in Media for Development at Chancellor College. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @chimwemwepaul | Podcast: Standout with Chimwemwe John Paul Manyozo | Website: www.chimwemwemanyozo.com
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