How to have two years of experience straight out of uni

Oxymoron. noun. A figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.

For example: Graduate role available. Minimum of 2 years experience required.

Such a simple sentence that has had students around the world tearing their hair out ever since someone had the gall to write it. It makes no sense right? How can they possibly expect two years experience for an entry-level role?

Now see it from the employers perspective. When advertising a role, you might get 100s if not 1000s of applications. Why not try to find someone with a bit of edge?

Back at genYOU HQ, our team is made up of two *slightly* older people – myself and Nadine. And then there are two young-ER people – Saara and Ana.

We hired both Saara and Ana immediately after they finished their degrees … and both of them landed the job when we were arguably looking for someone with a bit more experience. However, in both cases they presented with experience that was far beyond their graduation date … in fact, if I had explicitly stated “Minimum of 2 years experience required” both of them would have come across as having exactly that and more.

So how did they get the experience whilst still at Uni? How did they convey that experience when applying for jobs and what advice do they have for anyone else looking to beat the 2 years experience conundrum?

Check out their different stories and approaches to explaining their experience below.

Hi, I’m Ana and I believe that you can get experience no matter where you are at, all you need is a vision. This might be a vision of your entire career path or if we stay realistic – this is the vision of how you can grow as a person and enjoy this process at the same time.

Take your vision wherever you go and it will help you keep track of new experiences, lessons and ideas.

Before I continue, I would like to say that all the tips you see are the result of my analysis of what happened to me in the last three years! So if it seems like my life at uni was a thought-out scheme, on the contrary, everything came by surprise and I have a suspicion that it happened because I stuck to my vision the entire time …

Strangely, I never identified with the degree I was studying – a Bachelor of Public Relations. From the beginning, I concentrated on getting authentic experience rather than just a degree. Thus, when I saw volunteering roles advertised on my campus, I applied right away!

Later in my second year, I got a few paid roles which happened directly as a result of my attitude and the knowledge that I had accumulated from my volunteering experiences.

Due to being ambitious and impatient, by the end of my second year I felt like I reached my ceiling and I had done almost everything that was available to me. My good friend – and basically a mentor – told me that if I want to continue my progress I needed to create an opportunity to grow.

I took an opportunity to create something for myself and founded a club three months into my last year at uni. The experience of starting something from ground zero taught me a lot. It was groundbreaking for me because the experiences you get from leadership roles provide a lot of relevant knowledge for the ‘real world’. I instantly started relating to people in the industry because I was facing similar problems and learned how to overcome them.

I got my job through a connection not an interview, which was based on a belief Lisa and Nadine had in me and what I can deliver. I am very thankful for everything I did in addition to my degree because that’s exactly what has led me to my current role!

So what can you take away from my story?

1 // Keeping track of what you do along with your vision helps to plan forward, but also comes very handy during interviews.

2 // Volunteering on campus is very convenient, you meet new friends, you stay focussed on uni and you also build yourself a positive reputation.

3 // Think a few steps ahead, in most cases the initial volunteering position could lead to useful acquaintances, paid roles or opportunities to further build your experience.

4 // If you feel stuck, or it seems like all the doors around you are not opening, create something for yourself! This could be a blog, a side business, a market stall or much more … this will take you to another level where the right doors will be opening on your request!

5 // Don’t be afraid to step up, this will make you look at the world through a different lens – the lens most employers have.

6 // In addition to my blog about making connections, remember to share what you do including the lessons you learn. You never know, maybe the next person you talk to is your future employer!

Hey I’m Saara! I take a firm stance behind the saying “if you want something, go get it.” So how did I land my role at generationYOU? And is it a fairytale story? I’m going to talk you about my experiences in the context of how I used them in my interview with Lisa, for the marketing coordinator position at generationYOU.

Before we get into it, you should know that when I first started studying a Bachelor of Media and Communications at QUT, I wanted to be an investigative journalist. As I progressed through my degree and picked up experience in different roles, I realised it was OK to follow a different career path – because I was still pursuing my passion for story-telling and words …

Okay so here it goes:

In 2014 I was keeping a blog of random stories about festivals, family holidays and opinions about politics (this blog has been unpublished sorry sticky-beaks). This led to me being appointed as the Social Media Manager/Copywriter for an arts/culture magazine based in Brisbane … AKA the Founder read my stories and brought me onboard! I did this for 3 months.

>> As this was my first year of uni, I could explain and prove to Lisa that I was a go-getter from the very beginning! I had proof that I didn’t wait until my final 6 months of uni to get ahead; I was working hard to be the best I could and create opportunities for myself from day one.

In 2015 I said YES to an opportunity that changed my entire career path. Some of you may have read my genYOU story, for those of you who haven’t – my ‘big break’ came when one of the regular customers at the chocolate store I worked at (the MD of a Property Development Company), offered me a part-time job as a Public Relations Coordinator.

This happened after one year of maintaining an unwavering good impression and solid customer service delivery to him (I didn’t know what he did prior to this offer). Case in point? You never know what doors are going to open, no matter where you are or who you’re talking to, so make sure the impression you leave is lasting for the right reasons. I was in this position for 18 months.

>> This position was literally the backbone of my ‘experience’ AKA I had tangible evidence of skills and responsibilities I acquired outside of my degree … I was also able to give Lisa examples of mistakes I made (there were many) and how I dealt with them. You don’t need to have a ‘perfect’ record to get a job, but you do need to have the correct attitude and willingness to learn and grow.

In 2017 I volunteered for an independent arts organisation. I wanted to get more involved in the arts industry in Brisbane because I thought, “hey what a great way to meet new people, whilst broadening my skills in my industry.” I did this for one month. 

>> Do you want to know the reason I took on this role from a career point-of-view? Prior to my graduation in mid-2017, I was doing what you should all be doing – looking at job roles and what employers in your industry are seeking from employees.

In my industry, PR/Marketing/Events positions all tend to be one-on-the-same AKA employers want to see that you’re a ninja/hybrid. My weak spot was my events experience, so I needed to up that ASAP. Cue in the volunteer position. When Lisa asked about my events experience, I was able to talk about the events I managed in my part-time role and those I volunteered at – creating a solid amount of experience as a whole.

In 2017 I also interned during my final semester of uni. I literally sent an e-mail to a small PR company that I had followed for a while and asked if they have an internship position available. Why? Because I wanted to learn new skills in the PR industry! For those of you wondering – I did my WIL through my part-time job, so this was separate.

The Company was PR ‘accounts’ based AKA managing a lot of separate brands rather than just one (which is where my experience was), it was also a start-up, meaning I saw how everything was executed from beginning to end. I interned for 3 months.

>> In my interview with Lisa, I was open with her about my experience at this Company and what I learned from the management style. As I had worked in a range of different companies by now, I was able to give examples to Lisa and explain to her what management styles I performed best under!

I want you to know that I had doubts and fears of not finding a full-time job when I graduated, and of not having the ‘2 years’ experience that a lot of Marketing/PR companies were requesting. So when I applied for the position at generationYOU and met with Lisa for my interview, I was prepared to give it my all.

Here’s what you can do:

1 // Write down all the skills you have learned – in your part-time job; as a sibling; as a school leader; as a volunteer; as a university club member.

2 // Think about the situations you have been placed under in these positions, relate them to skills such as leadership, problem solving, critical thinking, honesty and responsibility.

3 // Take these experiences and skills and sell them to your potential future employer – sell them with confidence and transparency.