As I’m writing this I’m listening to yet another Spotify playlist that I’d made to help inspire me to write some recent blogs and articles. I, much like many of my friends and colleagues, am largely influenced by music, and other areas of the creative industries. As a shiny new graduate I’ve gained experience outside my university course, however I’m frequently discussing with my fellow graduates the stigma that we feel is created by companies when it comes to the ever-scary term ‘relevant experience.’
I’m regularly being asked if the experience I’ve gained through university counts as ‘legitimate’ experience. I have two answers to this, the first: how can you use the word ‘legitimate,’ isn’t any experience real if you’ve learnt and developed skills? And the second… Yes.
I do not wish to endorse the belief that those who study at university are any better within their chosen profession than those who haven’t followed the same path. Needless to say degrees offer students the chance to learn and develop, but any type of experience offers that, and regardless of a degree classification it’s how the individual applies the skills they’ve learnt that will help to make them stand out. I think students often underestimate how much they’ve learnt whilst at university. If anything, the stress of tackling third year has offered me enough experience to know that I can definitely try my best at anything (cheesy I know, but certainly true).
Throughout the three years that I’ve studied and worked at my university I’ve chosen to build contacts and working relationships within the university – which, compared to others who wish to venture into the creative industry, is not specifically related to working at a radio station or record label. However I’ve still learnt, and understood, what I do and don’t like doing, and I’ve still gained experience through my course.
Within my course I’ve created and established an independent record label, worked at several theatres and community radio stations, created radio documentaries, worked within a thirty-strong team to lead a radio station, worked with recording studios, produced television shows and documentaries. All as part of my course. This counts as experience. It may not have been through a company, but it was through self-learning, and I feel I’m constantly explaining to my friends that they certainly have relevant experience when applying to jobs.
University can be tough, but it’s fun and, at my university, we’ve certainly learnt enough to go out and apply for jobs. I think when graduates apply for jobs they’re often put off by the relevant experience that companies are seeking. I think, as a graduate, we need to have more faith in the experience we have, and realise that what we’ve learnt at university is relevant experience. Though this experience is required to actually gain a degree, we have still been taught by industry professionals, most are still active within the industry, and the fact that we’re marked means we’re constantly receiving feedback that allows us to develop further.
Graduates need to shy away from convincing themselves that companies feel they won’t have enough experience. If we all learn how to articulate why our experience is relevant, then we can showcase our skills and stop convincing ourselves that our undergraduate years have prevented us from gaining any industry experience.