NEXT UP ON this.
We all know the dilemma: you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job.
But, if you ask Andrea Anastasi, a graduate of Deakin’s Law school, he’ll tell you it’s never too soon to start looking for opportunities to get your foot in the door.
Each new experience you get will open the door to a better one – and eventually, the opportunity for a better job.
This is true for Andrea, who says the advantages he had over other candidates weren’t necessarily because he was smarter; he simply had more experience.
Andrea completed his third and final internship at law firm, Clayton Utz, in his final year of university, and was ultimately offered a job there. He believes he could not have achieved this without the many other experiential opportunities he took leading up to that final internship.
Having completed three internships and working two jobs in his field throughout his degree, Andrea can speak to the importance of gaining experience in your field.
Interning isn’t only a matter of learning skills related to your future career: it’s an opportunity to make industry connections, learn about organisational culture, and gain confidence in a professional environment. Plus, we can’t disregard the fact that experience looks great on your CV.
Andrea testifies how useful his experiences were when going through job and internship application processes.
‘All those skills [I learnt through these jobs] were helpful for when I wrote my cover letters, which were all very targeted to the work experiences I’d already had,’ he explains.
‘Then at the interviews, I could speak in an informed way of things I had already experienced.’
When you’re trying to impress a potential employer, the ability to speak about your industry will give you a leg-up. It will also help you project confidence – an invaluable trait to have as a graduate.
Short-term and casual jobs and internships are great for testing the waters and gaining skills to put on your CV. But, Andrea says it’s the full-time and longer-term internships that gained him real insights about his industry.
‘I went to work in Italy for two months for a clerkship. I was working there full-time, which helped me assess what I liked (and didn’t like) about legal practice,’ he says.
‘It helped me really learn how to be in a big organisation, and how to deal with a lot of different partners and seniors.
‘That experience really helped me when I had my second clerkship [the following year].’
Andrea explains this is because he’d developed skills that the people he was clerking with hadn’t learned yet.
‘Having had that relevant work, I had that extra step compared to other people that hadn’t,’ he says.
‘You’re stressed during your internships, but you have a certain developed skillset – for example, you can research in this way, or you can express an opinion in that way – because you’ve done in before, so it’s very useful in that sense.
‘I was also used to working with people who had 15 to 20 more years of experience than me.’
'All those skills [I learnt through these jobs] were helpful for when I wrote my cover letters, which were all very targeted to the work experiences I’d already had.'
Deakin Law Graduate
If you come across an opportunity to gain experience in your field – even if it doesn’t quite align with your end goal – take it.
And Andrea explains, the sooner you start, the better.
‘When I was a first year student, I was trying to find jobs, paid internships, and even volunteering positions,’ he says.
Eventually, in what he describes as ‘a huge stroke of luck’, Andrea was offered work as a research assistant for the Dean of Deakin’s Law School.
From this job, Andrea made contact with a barrister who practiced in the area of law he was most interested in, and was offered a second research job with him.
Andrea says he approached all his jobs and internships with a mindset of: ‘Let’s see if I like to work here,’ while also working hard, and letting his personality shine.
While you’re completing your internship, you can demonstrate why that organisation should hire you, he explains.
‘I think what sets you apart in any job is you show who you are. That’s the one way to demonstrate how you’re different,’ he says.
‘I was also coming in early. If the starting time is 9, but my supervisor is coming in at 7:40, I would go in at 7:50 just to show my keenness. I’m not really a morning person, but I showed that I could work hard, no problem.’
The value of knowing your tutors and lecturers at university is extremely high. They’re people who have either worked in their industry professionally, or have many connections to professionals and can be a huge help in creating opportunities for you – if you show them your dedication.
Finding and applying for internships yourself is also a great way to show initiative, but it’s important to persist through rejections.
‘It can be a hit or miss,’ Andrea says. ‘I’ve done a lot of applications and got a lot of rejections. I got way, way, way more rejections than yeses. It was about a 5% success rate,’ he laughs.
Andrea says when you’re applying for an internship, ‘Your aim should be to try to match up yourself with the organisation you’re applying to – the fundamental things.’
He also advises to research the company beyond their job ad or website. Find news stories on the organisation that will give you deeper insights on the company, and use those to align yourself with them.
It might take time, but keep at it. You never know what opportunities are around the corner.
Once you’ve got some experience behind you, here’s how to show it off in a cover letter that will land you a dream job.
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