Work Experience

Graduate Work Experience

If you’re struggling to find a position on the job ladder after university and you believe this may be due to your lack of time spent in the workplace, then a work experience opportunity may be perfect for you. Work experience is essential when applying to most jobs after you graduate due to the stiff competition out there. Even if your degree class may not be what you expected, work experience may be the perfect opportunity to support your application and convince employers that you are the perfect candidate for their role.

Work experience will equip you with the skills and confidence to take on your first graduate role by working alongside talented colleagues in the field, and will look great on your CV. Employers favour graduates that have work experience as they will already have the qualities that will make them an excellent employee. Though you may believe you will be spending your days making endless cuppas and twiddling your thumbs, in reality, you will often be granted real responsibility and thrust straight into the workplace environment.

You don’t need to have years spent in the workplace, even a few weeks or months will help you get to grips with a role you may wish to take on later down the line. It doesn’t even need to be your dream line of work or in an office – simply having a part-time job while at university will show employers that you are able to organise your time efficiently as you can handle working alongside your studies.

During your work experience, whether that’s a placement or a part-time role, you will have a manager or supervisor to mentor you. You could even have the opportunity to work alongside others from various areas of the business in to give you a broader understanding of how the company and wider industry operates. It is always useful to ask questions to help you get to grips with how they found themselves in their role and how you can advance throughout your career.

Due to your efforts, you’ll gain a reference from your employer which can be used to support your application to a graduate role and help convince employers you will be an excellent employee. After all, a graduate with experience in the workplace with a good degree may be favoured over someone who only has the qualification. If you’re still unsure about how a work experience placement may benefit you, why not check out our handy answer guide to the most frequently asked questions we receive on the topic.

What will work experience be like?

What your work experience placement will be like will vary massively depending on the role and employer; however, you will be treated as any other employee, expected to represent the company well. One major difference will be that you receive more support from your manager or supervisor than your colleagues in order to get you up to speed with your team mates. If you work part-time alongside your studies, you may be given more responsibilities than if you were to be offered a short-term placement at a company.

What are the benefits of doing work experience?

There are a huge number of benefits to work experience. If you’re unsure about giving up some of your free time to a role, then considering the impact that a work experience placement may have on your future career may sway you. Here are a few:

  • Help you decide on your career goals after university or clarify the kind of role you wish to pursue as a graduate.
  • Gain an understanding of how organisations operate and the potential challenges you may encounter in your role.
  • Increase your industry knowledge and soft skills and impress future employers.
  • Gives you opportunities to network with colleagues in your chosen field.
  • Relate your academic studies back to the world of work.

What kind of work experience could I complete?

You will be able to find work experience opportunities in nearly every industry and in almost any job you can think of. For those positions where work experience may not be available, such as where a qualification is essential, time spent in a similar role may be just as beneficial in aiding your understanding of what to expect. Even taking part in university open days or working as a student ambassador will grant you an insight into the wider working world, experience is truly everywhere you could think of.

Volunteering alongside charities is also a great example to put on your CV, as it shows you go out of your way to make a difference – a great quality to have in an employee. A summer internship with a company, a year spent on a placement scheme organised by your university or part-time work while studying are all good examples of work experience available to you. For more information on internships, click here.

What will an employer look for when applying to work placements?

An employer, more than anything else, will be looking for candidates that display a keen enthusiasm for the industry or company they are applying to. Most will not expect you to not have much past involvement in the sector (after all, that’s why you’re applying to a work placement), but by displaying great commercial knowledge on your CV or in your interview, you will prove to employers that you are taking this opportunity seriously.

Will I be paid for my time?

Some employers will pay you for your work experience, especially if you’re in a part-time role or in a longer-term scheme that takes place over a few months. However, you may find that placements lasting only a few weeks or days will be unpaid, and the company will offer you the opportunity in exchange for your hard work. Despite this, most employers may grant you subsidised travel or free lunches as an acknowledgement of your time.

How will work experience affect my prospects as a graduate?

Work experience will help you stand out from the crowd. Every year in the UK, more than 350,000 people graduate from university, meaning these are the people you will be competing against for roles. Differentiating yourself by having some great experience to back you up will make you seem more favourable to an employer than a fellow graduate who has no work place experience even with a better degree award.

Spending time in a working environment will develop your skills and the qualities that make an effective employee, and a company will not have to spend time instilling these into you. Additionally, some longer placements can lead to full-time employment as many employers will choose to offer opportunities to those that they already know as the first stage of graduate recruitment, and then move onto candidates that are unknown to the company.

At what point should I start looking for work experience?

There is no right time to start searching for work experience, only as soon as you can. No matter what stage of your university career you are in, whether you are a first year or just about to graduate, gaining some work experience should help you get ahead of the curve. You might even find you already have some if you’ve checked out our examples of potential work experience above!

However, starting as early as possible will help you direct your career search down one path, and so you may be able to refine your opportunities to reflect the demands of a certain role, putting you ahead of other graduates also wanting the same thing.

Discover Graduate Opportunities With The Following Companies