With so many graduates unemployed these days, simply having a degree is not enough to stand out from the fierce competition when looking for a job. This is why it is worthwhile seeking opportunities to gain professional experience whilst still at university. In addition to being able to build a more valuable CV, it also demonstrates qualities like initiative, maturity and a desire to work hard, which any employer will look favourably on.
When looking at ways to gain experience whilst still being a student you should definitely prioritise your studies in whatever you arrange, but also realise that skills can be transferable. So, putting yourself under immense pressure by trying to find working opportunities in the industry you want to work in is unnecessary. Of course, if you can find relevant work experience then that is a bonus, but recognise it is a ‘nice-to-have’ and not a ‘must-have’.
Here are five ways to gain work experience whilst still at university.
1. What does your course offer
At the expense of adding a year to your course completion date, many courses offer sandwich year. This is when you spend one year working full-time in a role related to your area of study, typically in your third year, to return to university to complete your degree in the fourth year.
The prospect of graduating a year later, and the risk of how enjoying earning some money may change your perspective on completing your degree, can be off-putting, but it is the one sure-fire way to gain relevant experience and often to secure a job when you have completed your degree.
2. What does your university offer
If your course doesn’t directly offer a means of gaining professional experience then your next best option of finding an arrangement that doesn’t interfere with your studies is to look at university-based jobs. Whether there is a vacancy in the administration team or the union bar; remember that communication and organisational skills are always transferable. As are the good habits of punctuality, reliability and being well-organised.
An even better route to pursue is to ask your lecturer or members of the departmental team related to your course for any job openings or opportunities to gain experience. At the very least they will be able to advise you on where else to look.
3. Are there opportunities in your chosen industry?
Although I stand by the principle that no experience is wasted experience. The more relevant it is to the industry you aim to enter once you have graduated; the better it can be for your career entry prospects.
There are two strands to this sort of experience – the role and the company. If you can secure a relevant role in an industry specific company then perfect, but if not, don’t be hesitant to pursue one or the other.
4. Make the most of your time off
If you are determined to build an employable profile of yourself by the time you finish university then you should see time off as ample opportunity to dedicate yourself to seeking opportunities to gain business experience.
Use your weekends and holidays to line up work experience or regular jobs so that you can demonstrate initiative, staying power and a good work ethos.
5. It’s not about the money
The money helps, but right now your focus should be more on making yourself employable when you graduate – it is an investment from which you will get a huge return.
This means that looking for volunteering roles or unpaid internships is a worthwhile angle.