In today’s competitive graduate labour market, over a third of the recruiters warned “that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process for their graduate programmes.” They noted that this was “irrespective of their academic achievements or the university they had attended.”
Safe to say that gaining work experience during your degree makes a BIG difference in securing a graduate job or a place on a Masters or PhD programme, as well as helping you explore your career interests and goals along the way.
Work experience is any opportunity that provides work-related learning and prepares you for employment. It can take many forms including:
An increasing number of students choose to work part-time throughout their degree to fund their studies and enhance their employability. Search for roles on Jobs4Students or My Career Hub.
Many students also look to gain experience during their summer break. There are several established global providers of vacation work including Camp America, CCUSA, and BUNAC.
Work shadowing is an informal type of work experience where you observe someone in their role, providing insight rather than hands-on experience. These opportunities are usually short term, unpaid and arranged through speculative applications.
A great way to start building your CV, while helping your community at the same time. The Union runs a volunteering portal where you can search for opportunities.
An internship is a fixed period of work experience offered by an organisation, generally undertaken to gain relevant skills and experience in a particular field. Look out for paid internships across the University.
Note: Some external internships might be advertised as unpaid – make sure you know your rights.
A work placement allows you to put the knowledge and skills gained throughout your degree into practice.
Gain work or volunteering experience in something that interests you, or take advantage of the opportunity to learn a completely new language or skill.
Gain graduate-level work experience with one or more organisations, as part of your degree. Spending a year working in your industry of interest allows you to develop the key skills and competencies sought by graduate recruiters.
Now that you know the types of work experience available to you, the next step is finding the opportunities. The Careers & Employability Service have created several guides on finding work, including general and faculty-specific advice. You can also learn more about finding work experience here.
In addition, each faculty offers a range of opportunities to develop your skills and experience, so speak to your Faculty Careers Team or department to find out more. You can also access global jobs and employer profiles through My Career Hub and MMyou.
Social media can be a good way to find out about opportunities – follow organisations you’re interested in on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.
Apply early. For example, if you are looking for summer work, contact employers between January and Easter. Some of the structured schemes have closing dates in the Autumn term, so the earlier you start your research the better. Consider making a calendar with application deadlines.
Applications are a critical part of securing your work experience, as employers use them to decide whether to interview you. Take the time to produce a quality, tailored application, rather than sending out many generic applications. For advice on creating effective CVs, cover letters, and applications, see our guides. You can also get personalized advice on your CV or application at our general or faculty-specific drop-ins.
Many employers don’t advertise jobs because they receive significant numbers of applications. Be proactive and contact organisations that interest you with a well-prepared CV and covering letter. If they don’t respond, follow this up a week or so later with a phone call.
Work experience connects you with a wide range of people, opening your professional network. Use LinkedIn to connect professionally with your co-workers, enabling you to stay in touch after your work experience ends. Connect or request the contact details of colleagues who may act as mentors, sources of advice, or help in finding employment in the future.
Top tip: Read our ‘Creating your LinkedIn profile’ guide for information on how to set up a profile and build your network.
Whilst completing your work experience, take advantage of every opportunity available to you; being enthusiastic will go a long way and can open doors to taking on further responsibility and stretching your abilities.
Top tip: Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make suggestions; take an active interest in the company and the sector to build your commercial awareness. Even if you don’t intend to work in the same sector once you graduate, this can help you make a good impression on your manager and colleagues.
Keep a document or a notebook of your achievements and any challenges you overcome. Reflecting on your work and newly-developed skills will be extremely useful for future job applications, as you will have a bank of examples to draw from. Make sure you are completely clear about what you have gained from the placement in terms of skills, experience and personal development.
Top tip: Ask for feedback on your performance. Get your manager’s perspective on what you can do to further develop your employability in order to be successful in this work. When you complete your experience, ask if your employer will write you a reference.
We offer range of support services to Manchester Met students and graduates:
The online careers centre you can access 24/7 to view career resources, advice and tips, career quizzes and information tailored to your sector.
Get online advice through My Career Hub, ask your question at any time and receive support via email.
Book an appointment with one of our Careers Advisors through My Career Hub or call 0161 247 3483.