Work Experience vs Education

In today’s world, when looking for a job whether part-time, full-time or on a contract basis,  there is one consistent aspect of every job application. Experience. Relevant work experience can make or break your application. You can spends thousands to learn in school over 4 years what you learn in one year on the job.

What I am saying is you don’t need a diploma or degree to be successful in your chosen career. However, at some point you may need to take courses to update your skills. In certain fields, a degree may be needed but thats only for the background knowledge. The old saying, “A lot of what you learn in school doesn’t apply to the real world” has some truth in it.  On the other hand, some of what you learn whether its terminology, certain skill sets are transferable skills that can be taken anywhere in your chosen career.

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Let’s look at education for a moment. As mentioned earlier, having an education can be beneficial in the long-run especially in certain industries such as accounting, marketing, human resources, statistics, chemistry etc. However, graduating with a degree doesn’t guarentee a job. Many young people are going to school for 4-5 years (sometimes more), graduating and realize that there are no jobs in their chosen field or have no experience.

What can you do?

Work With What You’ve Got

All job seekers must work with the opportunities that come their way. For new grads, this comes in the form of courses, projects, term papers, clubs, teams, volunteer work and internships. Don’t embellish but focus on humility so that the reader is clear you have much to offer and would be honored to learn from the experts.

Utilize Your LinkedIn Network


Create your LinkedIn account if you don’t have one, and grow your network. Connect with your parents, relatives, neighbors, teachers and coaches. These first-degree connections can now introduce you to their connections.

Talk To Industry Insiders

A good resume will only get you so far. To stand out from the rest of the pack it helps to have connections that will refer you to a job. To build connections, use the informational interview strategy. It will speed up your job search more than any other activity. Use LinkedIn to connect with professionals that do what you want to do and interview them to learn about how they got there.


Volunteer for something that has meaning to you and will allow you to both practice your current skills and learn new ones. Look for a role that will give you the opportunity to work on a team, deal with customer issues, and possibly lead others. Make sure to keep a journal so when it comes time for that job interview you’ll be able to provide specific examples of how you’ll be ready on day one.


One of the top obstacles people have to finding a job is being scattered in the types of jobs they are looking for. That is, they look at too many different career fields, types of positions or locations. Even if you don’t really know what you want to do, just pick and start looking for jobs in that field. But don’t get fixated on one and only one job either.

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So which one is a priority? Relevant work experience or education in your desired field? It depends on the field you are getting into. If your field doesn’t need specialized knowledge then gain the work experience. If your field needs specialized knowledge then have equal parts education and experience. When I first graduated, I had very little experience in my field but I was able to gain some new skills and now I am doing what I love to do.

Here are 4 Ways to gain experience in your field while still at school:


Interning with a company in your career field is a great way to gain hands on experience doing the kind of work you would like to do.Often companies offer a salary or stipend for new graduates who intern with their company. An internship can sometimes lead to a job with that company, or at the very least give you experience and references to add to your resume.


There are many non-profit organizations that have volunteer positions where you can gain work experience.Whether you have a degree in Web Design, or Education, there are ways that organizations can put your skills to good use.Some companies look favorably on volunteer activities, so reach out to organizations that interest you.


Networking is a great way to make professional connections that could lead to a first job. Join student and professional organizations based on your career objectives. Most organizations sponsor networking events, conferences, and workshops. Each interaction you have with people in your career field could foster a new relationship, or contact that can get you an interview for a job you really want.


Sometimes you have to prove that you can do the work before you are hired. Freelancing is a great way to show what you can do. You may have to do your first freelance job for free or low pay, just to gain the experience and positive reference.

After your first time, however, you now have more experience that you can add to your resume.Freelance jobs can be as short as a day or two, to several months. Sometimes a job that starts out as freelance can turn into a full-time position. Employers not only want to see what skills you have, but also how dependable you are as an employee.

The next time you are told that you don’t have enough experience for the job you want, try using one or more of the techniques above to gain more experience and quality references to help get your foot in the door.