Getting that first foot on the ladder

by Liam Horan, Managing Director, Sli Nua Careers

Liam Horan

Liam Horan, BALLINROBE Tel: 094 95 42965

Q: I recently graduated from University with a degree in Computer Software Development and want this this to be my new career. But I’m having difficulty finding a job. It seems every company I apply to wants practical experience. Well, my question is: how do I get that experience unless someone will hire me? Any suggestions would be appreciated. (JC, email).

We put this question to two of our career coaches and here is what they had to say.

MARK MCDONALD DUBLIN NORTH: JC, this is a very common problem faced by many at job application or interview stage.

To begin with, analyse all the modules studied in college and in particular, look at project work which you may have completed. Identify any aspects of your learning which can be used to demonstrate practical experience. Look at code you have written and software which may have been developed during your time in college.

You will be surprised by the range of experience you have built up during college – bit by bit, week by week, that portfolio of work stacks up.

Now is the time to portray the best of it on your CV, on your LinkedIn profile, and in job interviews.

Other options also exist with regard to gaining practical experience. The JobBridge scheme has received some bad press but you can look at it as an option for you to gain real-life experience. Taking an internship for a period of months may provide you with the exposure required in order to have real, practical experience on your CV.

There is also the option of approaching some employers and ask could you spend some time with them in order to gain gain experience. This could be one or two days a week, you may not get paid, but if it ticks the practical experience box then it could be worth an investment of your time.

Are you by chance involved in any sports, community or volunteer groups? If so, could they benefit from your software development skills?

Approaching-an-employerDo they need a website built? Could they do with a database? Is there an option for you to develop a software solution to a problem they may be having? This kind of work can easily transfer to practical experience on your CV.

Addressing the practical experience issue during a job application process can fall victim to the chicken-and-egg scenario. But if you consider some of the suggestions listed above, you may be able to overcome or minimise the problem.

LIAM HORAN, BALLINROBE: I would like to elaborate on two good points raised by Mark above.

If you do decide to go down the JobBridge route, make sure to look for a start with companies who are likely to hire. Assess their capacity for growth, their previous record in bringing interns into full-time positions, and just their general look and feel. Some companies have been proven to exploit JobBridge – you don’t want to end up with one of those.

My other advice would be to remind you that “you are always being watched and assessed.” That few days of unpaid work experience might turn into something much more substantial.

Savvy companies, even small ones, tend to be always on the look-out for fresh talent just in case they need someone down the line. Never waste an opportunity to impress purely because you feel it is “only” a few days.

If you would like to make a booking with any of our career coaches mentioned above, see HERE for CV Preparation and Interview Training.