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How to Gain Work Experience in Your Area of Study

Whether you have just graduated from university or you are looking for another career path, getting that job you long for is not an easy task. Many graduates, especially, believe that holding that new qualification in their hand automatically gives them the right to achieving the job they have been studying so hard for. However, this is a huge misconception. A qualification is not simply enough to get your foot in the door. Nowadays, it is essential that any new recruit has had sufficient experience for the job role they are applying for. There are three paths that you can go down in order to gain this experience; 1) volunteering, 2) doing an internship, or 3) Graduate Management Programmes.

#1 Volunteering

Working and not actually getting paid for it can put a lot of people off volunteering. However, by volunteering employers may in fact think more highly of you. It shows that you are clearly interested in gaining necessary skills, such as, meeting deadlines, working as part of a team and punctuality. You will also learn more invaluable skills through the people you will work with and benefit from their own personal experiences.

Which businesses offer volunteering?

Usually government run or not-for-profit institutions such as schools, charities, hospitals and community centres accept volunteers. Gaining your experience at a government organisation can be a clever way of getting your foot in the door. It is widely known that in any organisation, whether the public or private sector, providing you do a good job, show willingness to learn and fit in with the team, that the majority of the time, you will be offered an entry level contract of employment.

Here is a list of organisations you may wish to get in touch with to help you find a volunteering role:

You can find work experience by getting in touch with the organisation directly, via phone or email. Simply state why you are hoping to volunteer (to gain experience to lead to the career you are wanting), what you could offer them, and the times that you are available.

Your university will have a Careers Service team that will help you up to 3 years after you have graduated. Here, you can go to speak to an advisor about work experience, and get as much information as you need. The student support team are trained to deal with your enquiries and have up to date information on all new government legislations regarding the careers of graduates.

#2 Internships

Internships are similar to paid work experience roles, however, internships are usually offered to graduates who have achieved a higher qualification and who are trying to pursue a particular professional career. They were initially only offered to students who were still studying, however in recent years, it has been found that the number of companies offering internships to recent graduates has risen significantly. It is important to note that most internships are unpaid; however, some internship programmes pay travel and food expenses. Paid internships are typically very competitive but are also more likely to result in a full time offer of employment once the internship has ended. For a list of the best paid internships in the UK click here. (

Top 5 websites to help you find an internship:

  1. Graduate Talent Pool
  2. Target jobs
  3. Prospects
  4. Graduate jobs
  5. Milkround

# 3 Graduate Management Programmes

These programmes do actually pay you, but don’t expect big bucks! They usually run for a longer period of time than internships and expect you to behave like an official employee of the company. Again, you will learn invaluable experience and may even be offered a contract of employment at the end of the programme. If you can get on a graduate management programme, they are very worthwhile. You will learn the ins and outs of the company’s day-to-day operations and may even be placed in different departments, doing different roles throughout your placement in order to fully learn how the company functions at every level.

Where should I go to find one of these programmes?

  • Different institutions offer graduate training schemes, so it is wise to look at the individual companies’ websites to see if they offer these programmes or not.
  • Ask your university’s Career Service for a list of companies in your given sector that offer these programmes.
  • Check out job websites such as Guardian or Total Jobs

By gaining work experience, not only will you gain many new skills, but you may also get the opportunity of trying your hand at the job you believe you wish to take forth as your future career. Through this knowledge you will then be able to see whether this really is the job for you. Whether you choose to follow this career path or not, you will still gain invaluable experience that you can add to your CV and take forward into your future workplace.

It is advised to review the Guardian UK 300 list of the Top Graduate Employers 2014 to find out which companies are voted the best graduate employers. Many of the companies’ lists offer both internship and Graduate Management Programmes.

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