The realities of university living costs mean that for many students, working part time throughout uni is the norm. While any experience is good to have on your CV, it is not always possible to gain valuable work experience related to your field of interest.
But it is possible. Here’s what students need to know about finding valuable work experience during uni - sooner rather than later!
● You may have to balance a few plates
Achieving a uni/life balance as a student is tough (especially if you work part time already). However, if you’re prepared to sacrifice even just a few hours of your free time a week, you could make up some serious ground along your future career path.
Even just swapping your Saturday morning lie-in for a few hours of volunteering or staff-shadowing would add valuable skills to your CV.
● It’s who you know...
It’s true what they say, it’s who you know that makes a difference - sometimes. While there is no substitution for hard work, getting your foot in the door early with people in the field you want to go into could prove very helpful.
If your course is related to the career path you think you want to head down, make the effort early on to get to know your lecturers, or join a society. Indicate to university staff that you are contributing to the learning culture of your chosen department. The relationships you built in your first or second year may come in very handy when it comes to securing a graduate job, even if just for references!
● Face it - you might not get paid
Unfortunately, the chances of securing paid work experience are usually quite slim. Taking unpaid work is a very common and effective way for students wanting to gain experience and build connections. Many graduates move into internship positions immediately after university, so get ahead of the game. You might not see any immediate reward, but in the long-term your CV will be all the stronger for it.
● Think outside the box
Approaching companies for work experience opportunities might seem scary, it is usually necessary (click here for some useful tips for asking for experience). While dogged determination is not something to be sniffed at, relentlessly emailing a contact who fails to respond might not be the best use of your time. Try and keep an open mind. If you’re not getting anywhere with your dream company, don’t panic - apply for some different places which would allow you to build up a similar skillset. You can find experience opportunities in some unexpected places - even asking at your student accommodation for student ambassador opportunities, or blog writing opportunities might prove fruitful!
● Don’t expect it to be perfect
So, you walk in for your first day of your work experience and are promptly swept into the kitchen, inundated with tea and coffee orders. Don’t get frustrated with menial tasks like making coffee or filing paperwork. Just by showing up you are demonstrating to future employers that you are eager and willing to pursue this career path. So put the kettle on and do your best to keep focused - it will pay off in the future.