According to a survey conducted by the UK Commision for Employment and Skills (UKCES), up to two thirds of employers regard applicants with relevant work experience as being more prepared and suitable for job opportunities. This creates a catch 22 situation where in order to find work you need experience but can’t gain that experience if you have no work. This highlights the importance of work experience as a way of increasing employability and becoming a more attractive applicant in the jobs market.
For most students, doing work experience will be the first time they gain a practical understanding of the world of work and employer expectations. Placements, summer internships and insight programmes are really great ways to learn more about a chosen job opportunity, company or field and for students to find out what life on the job is truly like. However, experience comes in many different forms and students should be open to engaging with different activities to broaden their horizons.
Other forms of experience are just as important in helping you develop your skills and learn more about your strengths. They provide avenues to learn skills that you may not be able to develop on your course. These kinds of activities are also very useful in building soft, transferable skills that are needed in any working environment such as effective communication, teamwork, problem solving skills, as well as time management and customer service.
Volunteering is a popular way of gaining experience, not only do you get to develop your skills and meet new people, you’ll also be contributing to a cause and giving back to the wider community. The University has many volunteering opportunities running throughout the year such as YSIS, the Community Projects and volunteering with YUSU. You can also find other causes that are important to you that may not be associated with the university and volunteer as well.
Lots of students work part-time or seasonally during their time at university. Most students will work to supplement their living costs, however the skills gained when working a part-time job are often very important in the wider world of work. As students often work in retail or other customer-facing roles, they walk away from their jobs with an excellent understanding of customer service and all it entails as well as strong interpersonal skills. If you are interested in part time work, please see our blog on ‘how and where to find part-time work’ and now is the time to look out for seasonal jobs in the busy run-up to the Christmas period.
Virtual Work experience
Virtual work experience allows you to gain experience from the comfort of your own room. Since the pandemic, an increasing number of employers and organisations have expanded their online learning opportunities and offer virtual work experience schemes. These often simulate the employer’s work environment and take the format of a project or task that you can complete at your own pace. Platforms such as Forage or Barclays Life Skills offer a wide range of virtual work experience, meanwhile Bright Network runs their Internship Experience UK programme for students and recent graduates every summer.
Unpaid internships and Work Shadowing
Unpaid internships and work shadowing are often short term opportunities to learn more about a specific role or working in a particular company. Whilst they provide practical experience they are also a great way of helping you meet contacts and grow your network. Often students organise these through speculative applications to potential employers.
Other forms of experience
Getting involved with the wider university community through societies and student representation is another popular method of gaining experience. You get the chance to develop your leadership skills, find out where your talents lie, and influence the student experience at York either by being involved with YUSU, your colleges or student societies. For example, you can become a YUSU officer, a member of your college committee or help run a student society.
Furthermore, programmes such as York Strengths, York Leaders and the York Award help you recognise, reflect and improve upon the skills you have developed in your time at university. These programmes allow you to understand the kinds of skills you have and how they may be applicable to your chosen career.
Overall, experience allows you to build on your strengths, skills and gain practical knowledge. Remember that all experience is useful and it is how you present what you have learnt to employers that is the key to unlocking its true value.
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