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Getting Credible Work Experience

14 March 2020

by Karina Oluwo

( Words)

​The Student Job Hunter's Dilemma

It’s the classic job hunter’s dilemma – jobs require experience, but how do you get the experience if nobody will give you a job? It’s particularly an issue for young graduates, especially those who haven’t managed to get work experience during their degree. If you’re hurtling towards your finals with a CV which looks fairly empty, what can you do to get some proper work experience under your belt?

Anything is Better Than Nothing

Many students have part-time jobs to fund their studies. Even if your part-time work is entirely unrelated to the field you wish to go into, you can make it sound relevant. Been working on the till at the supermarket? That’s helped you develop customer service and teamworking skills, and shown you can be trusted with large sums of money. A bar job might have taught you to deal with tricky people and resolve conflicts. Skills such as time management, meeting deadlines and managing your own workload are common to all positions.

Volunteering or Shadowing

Everyone’s heard of internships, where a student goes into a company for a month or more to learn the basics. Unfortunately, internships are like gold dust. Many organisations look for volunteers for specific projects or events. Although you won’t be paid in a voluntary position, it will still give you a great insight into how the industry works. Another option is work shadowing, where you start off simply observing what someone in the role does on a daily basis. There may be the opportunity into taking on small parts of the work, but this isn’t guaranteed.

Summer Placements

Although most companies prefer to take on a student before they go into their final year at university, that doesn’t mean that recent graduates can’t apply too. Many graduate jobs start in September, so if you can manage to get a placement between May and September, it may fill your summer with useful, relevant experience rather than just something to pay the bills.

Be Proactive

Not all work placements, internships or shadowing opportunities are advertised. Sometimes, it pays to be proactive and contact companies directly asking about opportunities. Ask your network of family and friends if their employers might be interested in hiring you. Scan social media for details of local companies which are expanding and might need someone for a short-term project. Once you’ve found a company you wish to target for experience, call them up and find out the name of the person who handles recruitment, or heads up the department you wish to work in. Send a short, personalised covering letter and your CV. Follow up with an email or call if you haven’t heard anything back in a fortnight.

Use The Careers Service

All universities and colleges will have a career services, and they can be a great source of information for students looking for work experience, placements or indeed a full-time job. Often, employers will contact universities directly rather than going to the expense and inconvenience of an advertising campaign.

We hope this article helps you in your work experience search, in the meantime have a read of these articles for further tips on getting work experience:

Will An Internship Help Me Get a Job?

Graduate CVs: Do’s and Don't’s