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Kick Start Your Career with a Graduate Job Before You Graduate

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Work experience is our way of demonstrating that we are right for the job!

Regardless of how we want to see ourselves, in the job market we are all products, selling our skills.

Work experience is our way of demonstrating to future employers that our “product” has been tried and tested in the market place.

Why work experience is important

Work experience has risen in importance and as such has become increasingly competitive. Management consultants PwC saw 22,000 students apply for 960 work experience places. Don’t despair though, as 90% of the top 100 graduate recruiter companies offer some form of work experience.

Companies value the opportunity to work with new talent and so are continually increasing ways to identify new talent for their businesses.

How to get experience

What opportunities exist? Companies provide various opportunities for students to find out more about their organisation:

  • Insight Days: Students gain an insight into the firm and speak with professionals to gain an insight to career options

  • Internships: Students undertake paid work experience for an average of 8 weeks

  • Placements: Students work full time for a company for between 10-12 months. This is often undertaken following the completion of the second year of study.


Where to look for work experience

Don’t limit your search to the usual suspects! There are many bona fide companies beyond the top 100 graduate recruiters who have great opportunities. Consider the top 300 companies listed by the Group GTI, where you will find top names like Dell, Sainsbury’s, BNP Paribas, Tesco: all leading names in their sectors. When researching internship opportunities, avoid limiting your search.

Often students who perform well in their internships or placement year are offered a graduate role on completion of their degree. Can you imagine the relief of going into your final year with an offer of a graduate role already secured? As a result, it’s important to spend time during you second year of study to ensure you secure an internship during your summer break.

How to get work in smaller companies

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) also present another avenue to secure work experience. 99.3% of private sector businesses are classified as SMEs. SMEs provide 60% of all private sector employment, so it is likely that when you graduate, you will work for an SME.

How do you find opportunities with SMEs? There are job boards that specifically focus on presenting opportunities with SMEs.

  • Work In Start Ups

  • Start Up Jobs: Angel List

  • Enternships


How to get work experience in a charity

Let’s not forget the third sector, which comprises charities, community and non-profit organisations. This sector represents a wealth of opportunity for students to find rewarding roles. To find employment in these sectors, review the job boards: Third sector and Charity Jobs.

Gaining work experience is no longer just an option for students, as it is often the differentiating factor when applying for graduate roles. Those students who have undertaken work experience are often more work ready. This is demonstrated in their approach to work, and the value that they can add to an organisation.

When returning to university, start researching your internship opportunity – applications are open from the start of the academic year.

Gain the experience that can help you to stand out in the graduate job market!

[b]Frances Trought is the author of Brilliant Employability Skills and the Deputy Vice Principal of Talent Development at Pearson College London.

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