Ex­pe­ri­ence pays off for grad­u­ates –

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UNI­VER­SITY grad­u­ates who have ex­pe­ri­ence in a full-time job are be­ing paid up to $20,000 more a year than those start­ing out on their first job, grad­u­ate sur­veys re­veal.

The re­search, un­der­taken by Grad­u­ate Ca­reers Aus­tralia (GCA), proves em­ploy­ers are will­ing to pay a pre­mium for ex­pe­ri­ence.

The sur­veys found bach­e­lor de­gree grad­u­ates who did not have prior work ex­pe­ri­ence re­ceived a me­dian salary of $1000 less per year, or $45,000, com­pared with grad­u­ates with a work his­tory, even in an un­re­lated field.

In­ex­pe­ri­enced job­seek­ers with post­grad­u­ate diplo­mas or cer­tifi­cates also earn a me­dian salary of $50,000 a year, or $10,000 less than those with ex­pe­ri­ence. Those who have com­pleted a re­search mas­ter’s or PhD pro­gram can ex­pect to earn $4000 less, or $61,000 a year, if they have no prior work ex­pe­ri­ence.

Grad­u­ates from course­work mas­ter’s de­grees, go­ing into their first full-time job in their field of study, earn a me­dian salary of $50,000 a year, or $20,000 less, when com­pared with all post­grad­u­ates who have held down a full-time job.

Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Man­age­ment SA chief ex­ec­u­tive John Stokes says ex­pe­ri­ence nor­mally will over­ride the qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

‘‘It’s a bit of a vi­cious cy­cle. Job­seek­ers have to get that first job in or­der to put some runs on the board,’’ he says. ‘‘Un­for­tu­nately, peo­ple might have qual­i­fi­ca­tions without the ex­pe­ri­ence and it’s un­likely they will move on to the short list (of candidates granted an in­ter­view).’’

Mr Stokes says most em­ploy­ers want the per­fect em­ployee who can hit the ground run­ning.

The UK Learn­ing and Skills Coun­cil also has re­searched the trend, find­ing 90 per cent of em­ploy­ers be­lieve work ex­pe­ri­ence is a key part of any job ap­pli­ca­tion.

Thir­teen per cent of bosses say they would not in­ter­view a can­di­date without it. Uni­ver­sity of Ade­laide ca­reers ser­vice man­ager Su­san Her­vey, how­ever, says other fac­tors are just as im­por­tant.

She points to a sur­vey last year by the Aus­tralian As­so­ci­a­tion of Grad­u­ate Em­ploy­ers that showed em­ploy­ers rated fac­tors such as oral com­mu­ni­ca­tion, teamwork and in­ter­per­sonal skills above rel­e­vant work ex­pe­ri­ence. ‘‘Ex­pe­ri­ence is a bonus and can com­mand small pre­mi­ums on top of a grad­u­ate base salary,’’ she says.

‘‘The GCA sur­vey re­flects the gen­eral in­cli­na­tion of em­ploy­ers to­wards hir­ing those ap­pli­cants with more ex­pe­ri­ence, which oc­curs for most va­can­cies, but not at the ex­pense of ed­u­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

‘‘The daily con­tact be­tween the Uni­ver­sity of Ade­laide’s ca­reers ser­vice and grad­u­ate re­cruiters makes it very clear em­ploy­ers place a high value on ed­u­ca­tional qual­i­fi­ca­tions.’’ GCA re­search man­ager Bruce Guthrie says ex­pe­ri­ence does pay, but adds un­der­tak­ing post­grad­u­ate stud­ies also is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly de­sir­able for em­ploy­ers.

‘‘Rel­e­vant em­ploy­ment ex­pe­ri­ence can still be used to dif­fer­en­ti­ate candidates in the labour mar­ket, even when they have post­grad­u­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tions,’’ he says.

To cover all bases, Mr Stokes en­cour­ages those without ex­pe­ri­ence to un­der­take work place­ments while study­ing. He says work ex­pe­ri­ence should last at least two months to be con­sid­ered worth­while.

‘‘And if they do a re­ally good job (in work ex­pe­ri­ence) there’s the po­ten­tial to get of­fered a (per­ma­nent) job,’’ he says.

Uni­ver­sity of SA Bach­e­lor of Law stu­dent Ryan Dow has been do­ing work ex­pe­ri­ence in the le­gal arena since he was in Year 11 and be­lieves it will stand him in good stead. Mr Dow, who ex­pects to com­plete his de­gree next year, is ap­ply­ing to do work ex­pe­ri­ence as a judge’s as­so­ciate. While study­ing his de­gree, he also has un­der­taken amonth of work ex­pe­ri­ence with a com­mer­cial lawyer and was a paid re­search as­sis­tant with a Monash Uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor, re­search­ing le­gal class ac­tions.

‘‘I would say ne­go­ti­at­ing pay (af­ter grad­u­at­ing and get­ting a job) would be eas­ier with all this ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ he says. ‘‘I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to learn skills vi­tal to prac­tise (law) but they’re not the sort of things you can pick up in a class­room, so that will ben­e­fit me.’’

Law stu­dent Ryan Dow has been do­ing work ex­pe­ri­ence in the le­gal arena since he was in Year 11. Pic­ture: TAIT SCH­MAAL

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