How to Gain Work Experience at University

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Nothing can help you get a job right after graduation like work experience, put yourself ahead of the competition. Ensure you get everything you need!

Although the job market’s been picking up lately, things are still hard for recent graduates. Getting a job in their chosen industry is often impossible as employers are looking for experienced and skilled workers to join their ranks, and as recent graduates are neither of those things, employers often favour candidates who have a proven track record of success in the industry.

It is a problem for both new jobseekers and the various industries involved in the long run. For new jobseekers it’s a matter of being denied a career and success; the longer this practice continues, the less chance they have of succeeding professionally. But, it is just as harmful on industries as young people usually bring about a sense of innovation and creativity. Without these things, an industry can grow stale.

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But, it seems that employers refuse to recognise the negative impact of their actions. So, it’s left to the new jobseekers to do as they see fit and to make opportunities for themselves. According to Eurostat, more than half of Europe’s youngsters are currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree. Most of these people will eventually flood the job market, and unless they can prove that they somehow have employability skills, they’ll just go on to increase the ranks of the more than 600,000 young people in the UK who are currently unemployed.

Although many students recognise the need to do something to gain employability skills and work experience, most never do anything that could help them. Many students settle for the skills they acquire through their courses (for example analytical or numeracy skills) thinking that if they spin them the right way these skills could help make a difference. But the reality is that hiring managers and recruiters are not as easily swayed.

The one thing that could make an impact on your chances of getting a job is for you to get some work experience and below are a few ways you can do that.

1. Get Involved in Societies

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It may seem obvious, but you’ll be surprised to know that very few students take the time to get involved in a society, and often those who do, don’t think ahead and join societies which can’t offer them anything regarding future employment.

Joining a society should be all about gaining skills that can help you get ahead after university. That is why it’s important to find a society that will challenge you. Focusing on developing skills you don’t have could go a long way in making you more employable.

For example, if you are an introvert who’s a bit shy about giving speeches etc. and are interested in developing your communication skills (as they are after all essential in getting a job) you could join the debate society.

But, developing skills isn't the only thing you should focus on. You can also use societies to prove to potential employers that you have some work experience. For example, if your goal is to become a content writer and you participate in your university’s newspaper society, you could have some good examples to show a potential employer. You will have created a portfolio, but you’ll also have developed your own personal system for working which can prove to be valuable.

Sticking with a society till graduation is highly advisable as there’s much to be gained in terms of employability skills. First of all, it will prove your loyalty and dedication and these are characteristics that employers are always on the lookout for as millennials have time and again been labelled job hoppers. Second, you can demonstrate your initiative as being involved with something after school always means excellent self-motivation.

Every single society you get involved with will offer you something of value in terms of work experience. So it’s important to select something that can increase your chances of getting a job in your desired industry.

You can read more about how joining societies can help you gain transferable skills here.

The one thing you should remember if you are considering gaining work experience through a university society is that you should try and rise in the ranks of your society so as to acquire a managerial position. By climbing the ladder of a society, you are proving that you are everything that an employer could hope their employee to be.

2. Get a Part-Time Job


Balancing university and a part-time job can be hard, but that does not mean it’s impossible. As long you are focused and determined, you can make it work for you. It’s important for you to understand that although working throughout university can be difficult, it can also be highly rewarding.

Despite the fact that you are more likely to get a job as a salesperson or as a waiter than a job in your industry, there are still many benefits to be gained.

One of the reasons employers want their employees to have previous work experience is because it makes them more trustworthy. It means that you were responsible, and this responsibility can make you more reliable.

Also, there are many transferable skills to be gained from part-time jobs, even when it comes to being a waiter. These skills include learning how to deal with clients - demanding or not - learning to collaborate with other team members, bearing responsibility for your actions and managing to keep an employer happy with your performance.

Of course, to maximise your employability, you’ll need to make the most of these transferable skills on your CV, so make sure that you read this article to better understand how to use your transferable skills.

3. Volunteer

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Much like being a member of a society, volunteering helps prove your dedication and loyalty. Managing to juggle studies and volunteering - or any other sort of - work says a lot about your professionalism and your character.

Volunteering is working without pay to help someone else and as such, employers always consider it to be an advantage. A jobseeker who spent their spare time working for free is an employee who will always prioritise his or her job’s needs over their own and for employers, that’s music to their ears.

Of course, to make volunteering relatable to having work experience you should focus on doing something relevant to the kind of career you are going to pursue later on. For example, if you are planning to be an event planner, perhaps you can volunteer with a foundation that hosts fundraising events often and help organise events. The more related your volunteer work is to your chosen career, the better your chances of getting a job in that career so bear that in mind when looking for volunteering options.

4. Take Up an Internship

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Much like part-time work, nothing can help you gain work experience like an internship. Spending a summer or just a couple of months interning with a company in your chosen industry can help teach you a lot of industry secrets.

If you are looking to maximise your employability potential, you should look for opportunities to intern with a couple of companies you are interested in - even if you are afraid that your cluelessness might hurt your chances in the long run. No one expects an intern to know what they are doing so that gives you an advantage to learning everything there is to learn about your chosen trade without having to risk your paycheck.

If you are unable to find an internship with a company you are interested in, make sure not to deviate too much from your industry. Look for opportunities that will help you learn and try to get an internship with a respectable organisation as it will look great on your CV.

The idea behind a successful internship is to not only maximise your employability skills but also to make your CV seem more impressive so don’t hesitate to apply for internships.

Balancing studies and any or even all of these things can be difficult, and it’s important that the quality of your school work does not drop because of your after-school activities.

The point of getting a job, internship or volunteering, etc. is to maximise your employability skills, and if you are unable to keep both your school work and after school work top notch, you should consider asking for help. Getting some help with your argumentative essay writing can go a long way to making you more productive so don’t hesitate to seek assistance whenever you need it.

Can you think of any other ways for students to gain work experience in university? If you can, share with us in the comment section below!