We look at why work experience is more important than ever for students and graduates, with advice on where to find out more
Apart from making you stand out to prospective employers, work experience has many other benefits. You can gain valuable insights about the type of organisation you want to work with and get a feel for the career sector you want to work in.
Work experience isn’t just for students starting their career while doing distance learning, it’s a consideration for people thinking about changing their career. If you are a mature student who is studying for a career change to work in a different sector, this can be the voluntary or non-profit sectors; others might be the financial, legal, public facing sectors and several more in your country.
Some of our students do voluntary work alongside their studies, others include work experience as part of their postgraduate research. In the financial sector, Rahul Chokshi completed a brief internship with KPMG before being offered his dream job and Svetlana Grishaeva volunteered at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
So why is work experience important to prospective employers? The answer can vary from country to country – research indicates graduate jobs with Britain’s top employers are expected to reach a 10 year high this year so landing a role is getting more competitive here.
One third of this year’s entry level positions with companies will be taken by students who have already completed work placements and internships.
One third of this year’s entry level positions with companies will be taken by students who have already completed work placements and internships. Clearly having work experience will give you an advantage and more opportunities to land your role.
To start off your research we’ll take a look at some options and prospects further down to get you going. First up is The Careers Group, University of London. It is well established, with over 10 years in helping graduates develop professionally, and they have several useful resources to get you on the path to furthering your career.
Objectives to develop from work experience
Below are some pointers employers may look for in placing prospective graduates and internships and also what companies might want when recruiting you. Key is if you can communicate well that will help you establish positive work relationships and you can gain other valuable soft or transferrable skills to add to your CV, resume or applications for roles.
- Self-management – includes a range of experience from managing time to evidence of being able to improve your performance, being flexible, plus being able to adapt to situations.
- Team working – how do you fit in with others. Can also include co-operation, collaboration on projects or tasks, negotiating with people and interaction with colleagues.
- Solving problems – broadly this is how to identify issues, devise solutions and then the outcomes, results and benefits which you can present as work achievements.
- Communication – interacting effectively with people. This also includes your literacy aptitude - can you produce clear written work and express yourself with confident oral literacy. Also includes listening perceptively, understanding questions and developing your questioning skills. Being able to present your point without coming across as aggressive will enhance dialogue and negotiation.
- IT and software skills – ensure you have the minimum required skills and knowledge of the most commonly used programmes. Consider what is appropriate to your sector.
- Leadership skills – these are valued by employers, particularly if you can lead by example and can adapt to different situations.
- Are you flexible – can you show you can step outside your comfort zone and try something different?
- Cultivate a positive upbeat attitude – this will create a good impression to prospective employers or on your application for volunteer work.
More about internships and working in the non-profit sectors
- The Careers Group website – also has information about internships, lists jobs and internships for graduates.
- British Council – see prospects to work and train abroad.
- Indian Internship – an online resource for internship work based in India.
- For volunteer opportunities and internships in the USA see Idealist (all about the non-profit sector).