Starter Guide: Securing work experience while at university

Internships, Advice

October 15, 2021

As fresh graduates, international students often wonder if they can land a job without any experience. The reality is that it’s possible to bag a job without prior experience of working in the field, but it does help if you’ve gathered some sort of professional experience. This can be done in a variety of ways while you’re still a student. Here’s a list of options to help you create your career game plan. 

1. Internships during semester-break/summer

Working while attending regular classes can make things tricky for a student. What can be done instead is to make good use of idle time (usually between the end of one semester or year and the beginning of the next one). This time can be utilised to get some experience in the targeted industry. Summer/ winter internships are also a good option since students can devote full-time to a sector they wish to be a part of. In the UK, applications for summer internships open in September and October, but deadline for submissions vary.

International students also have to keep in mind that the student visa only allows them to work up to 20 hours during term time. It’s important to check with the International Student office at your university before committing to a full-time summer internship gig. 

2. Volunteering

Work experience doesn’t always have to be similar to a future job. Participating in and leading activities and initiatives at colleges/universities can help a student develop his/ her skills. For instance, in several universities in the UK, there are Student Unions, campus-based publications, and other clubs/associations, where various events ranging from athletic to cultural activities are held. Participating in such events helps students meet experts across fields and fine-tune their management skills, and personality, among other things. Organising such activities can be added to the CVs and these tell an employer that the candidate is pro-active and a self-starter. 

3. Work experience schemes

Students can also opt for work experience programmes in which the employers give them a chance to learn the work & get a peek into what working at their organisation looks like. UK’s BBC each year invites 1,000 people to participate in one such scheme. There is a proper placement mechanism to work for BBC under this scheme which is unpaid but gives a great chance of learning in one’s area of interest. There are many other organisations that provide such opportunities. These are not internships and are advertised heavily with deadlines for different terms throughout the year.

 4. Job shadowing

Job shadowing means you will be a “shadow” of an employee at a company. You can follow your mentor around as they go about their everyday activities, get a peek into their decision-making process, closely observe how things happen in the real world. Job shadowing is a very good option as it helps a candidate contextualise their technical, leadership, management skills. The only challenge with job shadowing is that you have to work your networking muscles a lot before you can land an opportunity to shadow someone.

5. Part-time work

Your University careers job board would advertise a plethora of part-time opportunities. These can range widely in their scope and are mostly looked at as opportunities to earn while studying. The experience, nonetheless, counts. You develop important soft skills while working in any job — whether as a library assistant or in retail.  

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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