What do 1980's girl band Bananarama and work experience have in common? Youd be forgiven for thinking not much because that's exactly what I thought 'til I played their greatest hits album (yes my Easter weekend was pretty uneventful).
In my view Bananarama's top ten single "T'ain't what you do (it's the way that you do it)" sums up what gaining relevant work experience is all about. In other words it needn't just focus on vacation placements and mini-pupillages.
If you've spent time doing casual or part-time work such as pulling pints behind your student union bar, volunteering, travelling or indeed an internship in another sector, this experience will also count. The key is to show law firms and barristers chambers that youve made the most of work experience opportunities.
One way of looking at work experience and indeed extra-curricular activities you've taken part in at university is thinking about the skills you've gained and matching them up with what graduate recruitment teams are after. These will typically include interpersonal skills, organisational skills, commercial awareness, team working skills, the ability to think laterally and solve problems.
There's much more to joining university clubs and societies than winning trophies and getting inebriated with your pals. For instance, helping to organise your university law ball or a charity event will demonstrate many of the skills mentioned above. Playing a sport or musical instrument will show your ability to juggle academic commitments while performing under pressure.
Similarly, working on a supermarket checkout per se might not readily translate into the kinds of skills recruiters are after. So think about a situation during such a job when you might have had to deal with difficult customers and busy colleagues or prioritise tasks. When I was a student I worked in telesales flogging double glazing, which tested my interpersonal skills to the limit.
Meanwhile, an obvious way to gain legal work experience is to participate in pro bono work. An increasing number of universities and post-graduate law schools now have well-established pro bono programmes in place so there's no excuse not to get involved. And if your university isn't involved in pro bono initiatives why not help set one up?
So if you missed out on a vacation placement this summer don't fret as there are plenty of other ways to gain relevant work experience. After all it isn't just about what you do it's the way that you do it. That's what get results. firstname.lastname@example.org