Many university courses offer a placement year which can be a fantastic way to gain valuable work experience, test drive a career option and build your CV. However, although the benefits of a year in industry are clear, this isn’t an option for everyone.
For many students, the financial burden of spending an extra year at university can be too much. Some may not have managed to secure a placement of interest and some courses simply don’t give you the opportunity. If this is your situation, fear not! As valuable as a year’s placement is to an employer, it doesn’t have to be your only option of securing work experience opportunities to put on your CV.
Here are a few things you can try:
Many companies offer 6-8 week placements over the summer months. There are paid and unpaid options and getting in early will provide you with the best opportunities. As well as formal applications and processes, there is always the option for securing a placement with a speculative application.
Perhaps not as appealing as a paid option, but volunteering can fit around your studies and other commitments, offers fantastic experience and a sense of value. Most organisations are flexible and you can do anything from one day, to a regular slot. Employers value volunteer work as it shows you’re motivated and committed to a cause.
You may not feel that a part-time job in a shop or a bar is particularly relevant to what you want to do, but you will be learning important transferable skills that you will be able to carry with you to any job. Communication, team work, problem solving and commercial awareness are skills that all employers will look for. There is no such thing as bad work experience, even if it isn’t directly related to what you want to do. Employers are significantly less likely to take someone on a graduate placement if they have no work experience, even if they have top grades.
Get involved on campus
University isn’t only about studying. Throw yourself into what’s on offer and show that you are a person who likes to diversify and try many things. Join societies, apply for Union President or fundraise for a cause you care strongly about.
Many universities offer mentoring or buddying schemes giving you the opportunity to work with new students or school age pupils to help them during a settling in period or with their studies. As well as being hugely rewarding on a personal level, mentoring highlights your interpersonal skills, your desire to encourage others and speaks volumes about the type of person you are. This will be highly regarded by employers.
If you have some specific skills and an ability to market yourself, you can get out there and get some experience working on a self-employed basis, as well as earning a bit of extra cash. This will demonstrate your entrepreneurial skills to an employer and show that you are ambitious and innovative. If the work you undertake is also related to your chosen career path, this is a fantastic way to gain experience and show additional skills and experience that you would never gain from working for someone else.
by Nicola Vivian