Most students have come into our offices talking about what’s covered in their modules at college/university. They’ve come in, sat down and spoke reasonably passionate about what they want to do within the roles they’re applying for. Though there’s no depth knowledge when questioned, no portfolio or diversity in what they say and no opinion about how that role should be done.
Here’s a few tips as to things you can do to get this experience to enhance the theory behind your degree in the real world:
- Do your own projects, set your own goals. This is a basic one but something that a lot of students don’t do. You need to set out what you want to learn by the end of the year and break it down into deadlines for when you’re going to learn it. Follow that plan as a base before any of the other things in the post and stick to it.
- Approach local companies involved in your area of desired service. It’s something that most students are afraid to do but it’s potentially a big opportunity to learn a lot about the role you want to work within later on. Observing the way people communicate, joining in on office banter and simply becoming comfortable in an office environment lends a big help towards how easy it will be to hire you. Most importantly here: work for free. Company’s don’t want to pay, but they will throw you the odd project if you work for free to gain you extremely valuable experience. If there’s an extra desk in the corner, why the heck not let you sit there and learn?
- Search out online teams There are plenty of online teams for areas like 3D, illustration, Flash and others that are dedicated to learning as a group and growing as a talent. I find myself lucky to have found myself within a team like Pixel2life early on and it gave me an extremely good base of talents to move on forwards from after I left.
- Approach local charities/business. Focus on people that wouldn’t be able to afford the services you provide if they wanted to. (But of course would find it of benefit to have those services in the first place). You offering to give them your services for free in aid of some experience and a reference may just get you another project in your portfolio/CV come interview day.
- Read a lot of blogs. It sounds basic, but you need to get yourself an RSS feed reader and add an RSS feed from every site you can find of reasonable quality into it. Read the articles that come through and study the latest trends and issues in your field. It makes you a more valuable candidate and cements your role within the team should you get a job.
What’s most important here is for you not to sit and take your college or university course as gospel. Yes there are people who get jobs straight out of their course with little help and there are courses that obviously don’t need this post. But you only increase your chance by getting up and doing something outside of your usual routine. It doesn’t have to be a full-time 40 hour workweek for free, do it a couple nights a week. Even a few hours a week is going to improve upon what you’re doing already.
If you’re a student yourself and have any comments about how you’ve prepared yourself for the outside world upon leaving your course or if you have any more advice for the students out there, feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear it.