Preparing for the working world: Top Tips on gaining work experience this term

A new academic term has started and many students will be thinking about how they can reap the rewards of a £9000 annual investment. With one in five graduates struggling to gain work after university, it’s time to think about securing valuable industry experience in addition to academic studies. 

According to a report published by High Fliers in this year’s Graduate Market 2012, more than half of recruiters warn that graduates who have had no previous work experience are unlikely to be successful during the selection process.

Help is out there for Students and Graduates in Wales 

Since 2009, 2,071 students and graduates have taken part in the GO Wales Work Taster scheme to gain relevant work experience with local businesses. The scheme aims to create bespoke periods of quality work experience for students and graduates from three to ten days.

84 per cent of individuals who have taken part in a Work Taster believe the skills and experiences gained would help them gain employment in the future. The most popular skills developed are communication, confidence, planning, time management and job specific technical skills.

Chris Wilding, who is currently studying for a Business Economics Degree at Swansea University undertook work experience with Business Sense in Swansea as part of the GO Wales Work Taster programme to help him gain relevant experience in accountancy.

During his time at Business Sense, Chris gained an insight into the day-to-day operations of a small accountancy practice and has been able to make some important decisions about his future career;

“Overall, the experience was positive and the tasks allocated to me were relevant and appropriate in helping me learn more about the real life completion of accounts.”

“In an increasingly tougher job market, employers are looking more and more for individuals who stand out and have gone beyond their academic achievements. Although it sounds cliché, it is critical that you show that by having relevant work experience you have learnt and applied the skills that are needed in the potential role you are applying for” added Chris.

Top Tips on gaining work experience

1. Plan ahead

University life is an extremely exciting time for all involved but don’t let it pass you by without putting your plans into action. Think about the type of career that interests you and what you need to do to secure work experience in that field. Research the industry or career you are interested and start to make a list of companies in your local area. and online business directories are a useful place to start!

2. Be proactive

Be proactive! Believe it or not there are a wealth of work experience opportunities out there, employers understand how difficult it can be for students to start their careers once they graduate and many will be willing to offer experience with this in mind. Employers also favor individuals that take the initiative so start introducing yourself to companies by sending speculative letters, emails or even through social networks; stating who you are, what your objectives are and why you would like to be given the opportunity to gain work experience with the company.

3. Finding work experience

You can never have too much experience, so whether it’s a part time job you’re looking for, voluntary opportunities or internships there are many online sources that you can tap into. Local university job boards will feature a whole host of part-time jobs available during term time and holidays. GO Wales arrange bespoke periods of work experience for second and final year students in Wales and Volunteering Wales have over 1000 volunteering opportunities available across the country.

4. There’s a difference between work experience and working for free

Work experience should be of mutual benefit to you and the company; you have the chance to develop new skills, ask questions and find out more about the industry.  The company benefits from your input into a small project or set of tasks.  Before undertaking work experience be clear about how long you are available for and what you will be doing during your time with a company.

5. Reap the Rewards

There are huge benefits to be gained from work experience; ask yourself what you want to achieve from the experience and this will allow you to plan clear objectives before you start.  You may want to improve your CV, make new industry contacts, use the experience to help with your academic work or find out more about the skills and qualities required to work in a particular field. These objectives will help you to reflect on your achievements at the end of the experience.  Above all else, enjoy your new experience it could be the first step to a successful career!