Are you looking for your first job? Does every employer require experience, and you don’t know how to get this? You’re not alone – this is a classic catch-22, that lots of students face, but we can help.
This is the first instalment of our year-long employability series, aimed to help you:
- Identify the next step in your career and find relevant work experience
- Feel confident in your applications
- Be able to articulate the skills you have already developed during your time at university, through the lens of work experience and volunteering.
This first blog is focused on the types of work and experience available to you, via the University, the Guild of Students, and through external professional opportunities. To help you get started on your career journey we will be focusing on 7 different types of work, along with a brief description of what they are, who they are beneficial to, and their typical duration.
Types of Work:
- Paid internships:
This is a job opportunity offered to students for a fixed period of time, often between four weeks and four months and usually over summer or during Christmas to avoid conflicting with your studies. This is an opportunity for students to work for an employer and learn about how their business runs, what day-to-day life is like in the working world, and to gain insight into an industry that may interest you. Not only is this a good opportunity to get experience (and be paid to do it!), but many employers who offer internships recall interns back with the offer of a permanent role upon graduation. Paid internships are therefore an excellent way to get your foot in the door in a competitive field.
These are often advertised to students via websites such as Gradcraker, Bright Network and Prospectus.
- Job shadowing:
This is a “Give it a go” kind of opportunity, offered by several companies (usually upon request). You can work closely with a trained professional (A current employee), observe them doing their job and ask practical questions about their role and company operations. This is not only a good opportunity to develop some excellent and transferable workplace skills, but also for you to decide whether this is the type of job you are actually interested in.
Generally, you have to have to personally contact someone within the company. Often it makes sense for this to be the person you would like to shadow, but can also be a manager or person within their recruitment team. If accepted, these are often quite short, ranging from one day to a few weeks if you’re lucky.
Many of the courses that UoB offers allow or require a year or semester spent working within industry full-time, often referred to as an industrial placement. These placements are sometimes quite intensive and are a big commitment, however this is a fantastic opportunity to develop your skills (particularly HighTec software and equipment you otherwise wouldn’t interact with), experience workplace culture and the real role responsibilities you would be introduced to with a graduate job. As an added bonus, placement years often carry a competitive salary and can also help lead to and secure a permanent position.
Placements are also often advertised to students via websites such as Gradcraker, Bright Network and Prospectus, but you can also always get in touch with our lovely Careers Network team, who are always ready and keen to help you.
- Graduate Schemes:
To put it simply, a Grad Scheme is like a normal job that is exclusively on offer to students who have just completed their studies, just before their work contracts begin. They can vary in length but are often one or two years long, and are a structured training program offered by employers to help recent graduates evolve the theoretical skills gained during your degree into practical industrial skills, to mould graduates into future employable candidates.
Types of Other Experience:
- Experience days:
Many companies, businesses and industries have short (only a day or two) events referred to as “insight days”, or “open days”. These allow students to learn more about a company, industry sector, or job role. This is a great opportunity, as it is a very short time commitment so will not interfere with your studies, and these are often in a large group, so less intense, and simultaneously granting you the opportunity to network with employees and other students in the same field as you.
These are often advertised on LinkedIn, or directly on company websites.
Voluntary work provides a great opportunity to develop workplace skills, and may be particularly beneficial to do alongside your studies. This type of work experience can take many forms, including but not limited to assisting the elderly, conservation work, litter picking, etc. Depending on your course and career aims, you may or may not find an opportunity to volunteer in the exact field you’d eventually like to go in to. However, you can get much satisfaction from these positions, gain lots of transferable skills and employers will be able to tell a lot about your character.
- Day-to-day life – Societies, Sports, Group projects
Following on from this, there are many volunteering opportunities within university life that you might not even think of as volunteering. For example:
- Being part of a committee: this can help you build transferable skills for the workplace, and the time you put into your society or sport can be logged as volunteering hours.
- Group projects: are also a good reflection of the skills employers are looking for such as collaboration, listening, communication, and ability to lead or take direction. Hence, these experiences will really give your CV and employability a boost.
We know that all of this might be a lot to take in, so please do take the opportunity to re-read this and decide what is the best next step for you. But remember, you probably have so much more work experience and transferable skills than you first thought, and if you don’t, don’t stress, it’s early and you have plenty of time to explore the above options.
We briefly discussed Committee roles and transferable skills, but we’ll be exploring this more in our next blog – so keep an eye out!
All the best,
Ness, Education Officer, and Izzy, Activities Officer