Ok, so going on to do a degree these days is more common than ever. The number of people graduating from university is at an all-time high, and there are also more students graduating with first-class degrees.
So, if you want to stand out in the job market, what do you need? Well, you need a competitive edge, and that is work experience.
Work experience is really important. It’s a way to show potential employers that you’ve gained practical skills in the course you’re studying and that you have real-life skills to be able to enter the world of work. Employers are looking for skills such as communication, teamwork, punctuality, innovation - as well as the confidence to make decisions and also an understanding of the workplace, and, more specifically, your chosen industry.
Work experience can also help you figure out whether you really want to enter that profession and what you want to specialise in.
How do I get work experience?
There are a few ways you could get really valuable and meaningful work experience whilst studying:
One of the best ways to secure work experience is through volunteering. Yes, you’re giving your time away for free, but it’s a great way to show how keen and dedicated you are. Plus, it shows employers you are able to manage your time, what you’re like as a team player and the kind of personality you are.
You can do voluntary work through your university and charities. Volunteering is an amazing thing to have on your CV, and a great way to get ahead when entering the world of work.
An internship is a really valuable way to get hands-on experience of the profession or industry you want to enter. It’s pretty much like working there, just for a short time. You’ll often shadow someone and contribute to projects, as well as take on a bit of valuable responsibility.
An internship can last a few weeks or a few months and can either be paid or unpaid.
- Part-time jobs
It may be difficult to score a part-time job within the exact industry or field that you are studying in, but it’s still a great thing to do because there will be transferable skills that you’ll gain. For example, working in a call centre part-time while studying for a media degree can help build confidence when talking to people over the phone. A part-time job - and popular ones for students include retail, barista, coaching - are also a great way to make friends and network with people. You never know who may be helpful later in life when your career is taking off.
- Sandwich degree
This is a degree that offers a compulsory placement year or internship in your chosen industry. You might spend two years at university and then the third in a placement relevant to your degree, before returning back to university in the fourth year to complete your studies.
This is an excellent way to gain critical experience in industry before embarking on your career of choice.
If you want to get work experience you should find out if there are networking events for your industry (lots of trade bodies offer great student membership discounts) and attend. You could also write to companies you’re interested in working with or research opportunities offered within your university, such as working for the Students Union. There will be no shortage of charity shops in your new town or city that you can volunteer in too. Go for it - put your spare time to great use!
Don’t forget - there are other ways you can actually earn money whilst contributing interesting and valuable skills to your CV. Have you thought about any of the following:
You cannot earn money from being self-employed if you’re in the UK on a student visa. This means you will not be able to work as a freelancer, contractor or consultant in exchange for payment.
If you're able, why not try your hand at one of these:
- Online tutoring - you are showing your aptitude for your subject/field, and also your commitment to helping others.
- Delivery or courier driving (Uber, Deliveroo, DPD, MyHermes, etc) - you are demonstrating punctuality and a hard-working ethic by doing a job such as this!
- Social media influencing (advertising revenue for YouTube videos, sponsored Instagram posts, etc) - you are demonstrating your business and marketing acumen, which will stand you in good stead in many future career opportunities.
- Writing and publishing articles - you are showing off your writing skills and cultural knowledge here - something many employers are very interested in.
- Babysitting or dog walking - you are showing your responsible and innovative side here by making a bit of extra cash helping people to manage their own lives more efficiently.
- Sport - if you are talented enough to earn money out of a sport (many do in sports such as football, rugby, netball, cricket, etc) then why not? Obviously, you should play for the university too, because this looks great on your CV, but by all means, lend your abilities to local clubs or even professional clubs if you’re that good!
- Entertainer - you are demonstrating a whole range of creative skills if you are able to pursue this path, either as a part-time musician (very popular amongst students), actor (maybe in local plays or pantomimes), or within radio (maybe as a presenter or newsreader). You could also join dance groups, or be a children’s entertainer. The possibilities are endless, and if you’re any good, you could earn and learn whilst studying.
- Selling on eBay, Depop... - you are showing your entrepreneurial capabilities by utilising online platforms to buy and sell. Many students do it to help fund their uni careers, and it is certainly valued by potential employers for its ingenuity and innovation.
Whatever you decide to do, know that there are many opportunities to build work experience whilst studying. Get yourself off the X-Box and Netflix and use that spare time to bolster your CV and improve your chances of getting into that dream career!