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How to gain work experience while at university

Posted in Blog by on October 9, 2020

Alongside studying for your degree, you may consider doing some work experience during your time at university. Not only can you use it as an opportunity to learn useful transferable skills, but it may give you more of an idea of what you want to do career-wise and provide your CV with a boost when it’s time to secure your first graduate job. Whether you work during term time or opt to do an internship during holidays away from uni, racking up that all-important experience can totally transform your higher education experience.

Here, we’ll go into how to gain work experience while at university, including information on sandwich courses and other additional opportunities you can take advantage of.


Consider an internship

For those looking to take their first steps into the world of work, an internship can be a real badge of honour on your CV. Once you’re part of an internship, you’ll have an opportunity to learn about company values and culture, get to grips with specific technology, software and equipment, and collaborate across multiple teams and departments.

The duration of internships can last anywhere between four weeks to a full year, and application dates can vary depending on your industry of choice. If you’re thinking of applying, it’s best to do it as soon as possible as they can fill up quickly, and the competition is tough.

student working in coffee shop


Look for jobs in the summer

If an internship isn’t really for you, or your university schedule doesn’t give you enough time to gain work experience, then try something with a more leisurely pace and opt for getting a summer job instead. Not only can they fit more readily into your timetable once lectures and exams are over, they can help with your finances, too.

Even if it’s something like bar work or helping out a family friend’s business, a summer job still shows you’ve spent your time doing something constructive with your free time, which is far better than just an empty space on your CV. While it’ll only be for a limited time before lectures start again, they provide a degree of experience which allows you to net further summer jobs the following year, providing valuable transferable skills that you can begin to shape your career with.


Give volunteering a try

Volunteering can be a highly rewarding experience that provides you with plenty of benefits further down the line. It might be difficult to get your foot in the door, but it’s worth persevering with if it’s something you feel passionate about. And much like any other form of employment or work experience, it illustrates your ability to balance responsibilities.

student planting trees

And who knows, volunteering may take you around the world in ways that paid placements and summer jobs simply can’t.


Become a society president

An overlooked way of gaining work experience is through becoming president of one of the many societies that your university has to offer, and they can be of massive benefit to your CV upon graduating. Whether you’re heading up self-defence classes or running the anime society, it really doesn’t matter. What’s important is that it offers you a variety of opportunities to test your skills of organisation, delegation, events creation, finance management and relationship building – all of which looks amazing on a CV.


Opt for a sandwich course

Sandwich courses are degree programmes that include an industrial placement i.e. a set period of time working in a related industry or studying abroad. They tend to be most common in vocational-based degree subjects, such as business or engineering, while study-abroad placements form part of language or humanities-based sandwich course degrees.

Regarded favourably by employers, sandwich courses provide in-depth experience of the working world in an industry you plan on entering. Likewise, studying abroad illustrates you’ll have the experience of learning a new language and getting to grips with different cultures you may not be used to. The skills and knowledge gained from sandwich courses make graduates highly attractive to future employers.

students talking through work

Additionally, many sandwich placements will pay you a salary, with your tuition fees taking an additional reduction for that year too, so it’s something well worth looking into if you plan to get your foot in the door early when it comes your career after university.


Benefits of work experience

  • Provides opportunities for networking:One of work experience’s biggest benefits is that it lets you build up a network of contacts within a particular sector or company. When you graduate, this network can act as references or alert you to new opportunities for further employment should they arise.
  • Allows you to test out a potential career path:Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what you want to do with your degree after graduating. Luckily, undergraduate work experience is the best way to find out whether a profession is right for you or not, and provide you with valuable insights when it comes to making important decisions about your future.
  • Puts theory into practice:After graduating, it’s entirely likely that many students don’t feel like they’re ready to enter the world of work. A professional environment is entirely different from studying for a degree, and for some, that difference can come as a shock.

Since degrees often tend to be theory-based with a few transferable skills, work experience provides students with a chance to put learned theory into practice, giving them an opportunity to test the skills and knowledge acquired in a real working situation.

If you’re looking for a student living experience that offers more, head over to NIDO STUDENT to see what properties are nearby or drop us a line on 0207 1000 100 for more information on our student residences.