Work experience can enable you to find out more about a specific career/type of organisation. This will be invaluable for making informed career choices. You’ll be better placed to assess your suitability for and level of interest in particular areas and will have much needed evidence for applications and interviews.
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It is a competitive climate for graduates and you need to stand out from the crowd. Potential employers can see that you have used your initiative to secure experience and have appropriate knowledge on which to base a sound career choice. Some employers use work experience as a filter for graduate recruitment.
Typically these are with large commercial organisations such as KPMG, Unilever or Baker McKenzie but also with the Civil Service and local government. They are usually for 6-12 weeks over the summer and often offer opportunities in specific sectors such as finance, marketing or law.
Placements such as these are usually well paid and can be used as a pre-selection tool for graduate training schemes. Opportunities are very competitive and have early closing dates - typically January or February.
These are six month to one year placements undertaken during your degree and may be assessed.
Most smaller and medium sized organisations, as well as creative and social-welfare employers, do not promote placements and need to be approached individually on a speculative basis. This includes areas such as advertising, family law, housing and teaching which all require experience to gain entry to their respective professions.
You can discuss and negotiate how you spend your time in the workplace. It could include admin support, observing client meetings, undertaking research, providing information… It’s up to you to shape and make the most of your time. Typically, this experience will be unpaid.
This may be undertaken on a part time basis during semester time or during vacations. Opportunities are available in a range of sectors including charities, conservation, health, youth service and play centres. In some cases voluntary work is the only way to obtain work experience for your chosen profession.
If you can’t find or afford to do a period of work experience it is worth looking at shadowing. This entails spending your time sitting alongside someone for a few days. You can take the opportunity to gain an insight into the days’ routines and the way in which individuals apply their skills and knowledge. This is great for an application form.
Some business and legal organisations not offering work experience give students the chance to visit them, listen to presentations from professionals and receive skills training. There is often a competitive application process for attendance and deadlines at the beginning of the calendar year.
These competitions and schemes help you to develop your employability. They do this by enabling you to develop business ideas and business plans and (if you want) actually launching your business concept.