The Importance of Work Experience

I’m now 22 years old, and I’ve worked in many, many different places. Every summer since I left school at age 16 I’ve had a job, and during my gap year(s) I worked in a few different places too. The main thing I’ve learned from my part time roles in shops/restaurants etc is that it’s not what I want to do forever. When I used to think about this, it would make me feel quite stressed, but now I think that even if the only thing you learn from working somewhere is that it’s not for you, then that’s useful! Our generation is going to be working for a heck of a long time, and before you completely commit to a career, no matter what that career is, it’s important that you enjoy it. Obviously, people change careers all the time and that’s not a bad thing, but if you’re very ambitious, moving around can sometimes halt your ability to ‘climb the ladder’ within a job, which slows things down. For some people this is no biggie, but it’s definitely worth considering.

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I started a nursing degree at King’s College London a few years back. I dropped out after my first placement, which lasted 6 weeks, but within half an hour of stepping onto the ward I knew that this was not the degree/career that I wanted. Before starting, I used to volunteer in an elderly care home where I’d chat to residents, as well as helping to feed those who couldn’t quite manage themselves, as well as other simple tasks. I really enjoyed the caring side of the role, which I think is what led me to make the leap to study nursing. As well as this experience, I also spent a week on a ward in my local hospital. To be honest, none of the staff were keen to show me anything and for most of the placement, I ended up sat behind the desk feeling useless and lost. Perhaps if I’d have seen some actual nursing, I would’ve realised that it was absolutely not for me.

If I said I hated everything about my time on the ward, it would be an understatement. I hated that the nurses were responsible for so many patients, meaning things often got missed/patients didn’t receive care they should have. I hated that there were so many things to be juggling all at once, meaning that you couldn’t focus on just one thing and do that properly. I hated the poo, the sick, the smelly diabetic feet. The thing I hated most was the fact that my role as a nursing student was very restrictive, I like to think I’m fairly intelligent and I’m definitely curious, and I wanted to know what was wrong with the patients and how we could fix them. But as a nurse, these things are not in your job description. I decided that my heart was in a more academic role, and traumatised by my experience of health care, I decided to study Biology at University starting the next academic year.

I think nurses do an incredible and admirable job, just like many other people in many different positions and organisations, but that is not to say that it is for me. This is why I cannot stress to you enough how important it is to go out there and get as much work experience as you can. If I’d have got some actual, decent work experience, I never would have started my degree in nursing. It hasn’t been too much of a disaster but I did essentially waste a year, and a chunk of money that needn’t have been wasted.

My work experience in dentistry has confirmed that it is definitely what I want to do. I have researched and researched dentistry as a career (not that I’m totally paranoid about making another wrong decision…) and now feel that I am as well informed as I can be about the profession. I feel confident that I have made the right choice, and believe that this is almost entirely down to experiencing dentistry first hand. My work experience so far includes:

  • 5 days with an orthodontist
  • 1 day with an oral surgeon
  • 1 day with a special care dentist
  • 1 day with an oral health educator
  • 12 days with various general dental practitioners
  • 6 week internship with a local dental practice

I’m not really sure how my experience compares with other applicants because I avoid TSR like the plague and am therefore in no position to say how much you should have. What I do know is that most dental school ask for a minimum of 2 weeks, and the more you have, the better placed you’ll be to make an informed choice about your career. Please don’t repeat my mistakes!

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