Just before writing my last exam as a translation student, I had an interesting conversation with a fellow classmate. Students, of course, are very likely to be faced with the vicious circle of employment: I can’t get a job because I don’t have enough experience; but I need a job to gain experience. Ways to break this circle have been endlessly debated in the past, and students eventually find strategies that work for them. But how about the actual transition from the classroom to the cubicle? Does this deter employers from hiring someone with zero office experience?
After spending five years in AIESEC, I have a bit of a unique perspective – not quite employer and not exactly a newbie. So I told my friend that he still accumulated transferable skills throughout his summer jobs and university courses. Soft skills, in my opinion, are especially useful as they will determine how you react given short deadlines, difficult teammates and even as a leader. But we still wondered if this was enough to convince employers of his potential. Perhaps if he went with the experience route and joined the Association of Translators and Interpreters in Ontario (ATIO) or pick up some pro bono work, it would give him needed leverage.
Volunteer work, nonetheless, has always been a good way for students to distinguish themselves. It show that they’ve gone above and beyond school work and are self-motivated. In the past, when I had interviewed students for AIESEC membership, I always asked: “Tell me about a stressful situation you encountered, and how you resolved it”. Half of the candidates answered with an example from a group project for a class. They gave me a typical story of how some group members were not pulling their weight and they had to do all the work. Although this could also be a scenario from the workplace, it doesn’t show me anything about their character. Where as, those that mentioned extra-curricular projects demonstrated more trust, because they remained with the organization all the way through.
Motivation is a funny thing; while it might not be exhibited daily in each employee as they fall further and further into a routine, candidates still need to prove their ability to learn new things and adapt to the company’s work environment. In some cases, motivation might even trump experience if the company is looking for someone malleable to fit in their company culture. After all, if work life does deteriorate into a routine, companies don’t want to be pulling teeth to get the work done.
If anything, this time between graduation and signing that job offer is exactly that – a transition. A time to continue learning, a time for humility and most of all, a time for discovery.