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Is taking a year out of university/college to gain a year of experience in industry really necessary?

Obviously gaining industry experience before graduating is great but how important would you rate it? Would it strongly differentiate between two potential candidates? How valued for a graduate job would it be? Even if the experience isn't completely relevant to the job. Are graduates looked down upon if they don't have any direct direct experience in a job environment in the field?

I am mainly asking this from a computer science point of view, but of course other subject opinions would also be appreciated! #computer-science #job #graduate #graduate-recruitment #graduate-programs #industry #student-recruiting

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Eric’s Answer

I agree with Joanne. Internships are a great way to get some industry experience without taking the time off from school. They are very much worth it in terms of making you look good to employers, in addition to helping you learn about what you like in a career.


At Google, at least, experience not relevant to the job (meaning experience not in computer science, if you are interviewing to be a software engineer) would not be interesting, and would not gain you anything unless it really stands out in some way. Don't get a job just for the sake of getting a job.


For what it's worth, I had neither internships nor a "gap year," and got hired by Google. Really what matters most here is ability. I programmed on my own a lot, in my free time, so I had that kind of experience and practice-honed skill which meant I had projects with source code I could list on my resume and I was able to pass the interviews.

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Joanne’s Answer

I would think unless you're brilliant and resourceful like steve jobs (apple) , jeff bezos (amazon) , and/or Larry Page and Sergey Brin (google) , then go ahead, take time off, and make your mark.


If you're like the rest of us :), internships are your answer WHILE you're in school. The first two years of college are boring because they're filled with requirements. Once you start to specialize a little and actually work in the field through internships, you'll get a better sense for your career wishes.

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Ken’s Answer

Hi Geogria!


It is very important to gain career exposure as you are getting your education. Some of the most frustrating times spent when i was doing college recruiting were the times when a graduate, once on the job, found that he/she did not like what he/she had studied. Prevent that from happening by participating in coop, intern, volunteer. and shadowing programs in high school and college. Talk to your school counselor and/or academic adviser to locate any that are appropriate. Selecting a career is like buying a pair of shoes. They may look great, but you need to try them on and wear them for a while to determine fit and comfort. A hiring company will be more comfortable with you if you have participated in some type of career exposure program to make sure that you really know the inside of the job.


Best of luck! Keep me posted. I would like to follow your progress.

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Stuart’s Answer

It looks like you're in the UK, so I'd like to add some UK-specific thoughts. I'm British, grew up in the UK, but am living in the USA currently.


Joanne said "The first two years of college are boring because they're filled with requirements." This is a fairly USA-specific thing, and does not apply to university degrees in the UK in general. US colleges work quite differently to UK universities. If you are reading computer science at a UK university, you are almost certainly focussing solely on computer science for all three or four years - including things of direct relevance like some math(s), but not broader education like English, history etc.


My take is that yes, of course industry experience helps, but no, it's not a deal-breaker, in the UK at least. If you're currently deciding between different UK uni courses, and some of them are 4-year "sandwich courses" (3 study years plus a year in industry, probably either year 2 or 3 of 4), definitely consider those options. But if you have preferences for straight 3-year degree courses elsewhere, for other reasons (e.g. location/cost, quality of teaching, specifics of the course...) then don't ignore those factors. You can still make yourself completely employable without doing that kind of sandwich course.


If you're already at a UK university and considering interrupting your studies by a year, in a way that isn't normal for all people in your course to do - I'd probably advise against this. Maybe it's the right thing to do, but you're probably better off maintaining momentum on the course. As other answers say, summer internships, and/or using your free time for experience with e.g. open-source projects, are good alternatives.


Even if you graduate in the UK with no really stand-out industry experience (no internships, placement year, or substantial CV-worthy free-time projects), that won't mean you can't get a job. It might mean you have to accept slightly lower pay for a year or two - but that's what you'd be getting in a placement year anyway! Definitely don't prioritise industry experience over studying hard and getting a good 2:1 or 1st class degree, and really involving yourself with whatever project work your course involves.

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