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The Value of Work Experience for Students

23/04/2013 14:21 BST | Updated 21/06/2013 10:12 BST
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How are you going to spend your summer this year? Will you spend it travelling, at home or working? Three months are a substantial amount of time, so you might consider using this time efficiently.

Many students underestimate the value of work experience - be it a structured internship in your field of study or general part-time work at a coffee shop. I have just been at a seminar at my university in which the discussion involved summer placements and work experience. It was quite interesting to see how important it is to have some kind of extra curricula activity on your CV. According to the High Fliers Report 2013 over half the employers that participated in the research actually stated that candidates with no previous work experience are unlikely to be successful and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer. (The Graduate Market, High Fliers Report 2013)

This shows that having a degree today is simply not enough anymore. Your degree might equip you with certain skills including communication and team work, but remember your fellow students, and future competitors, also possess these very same qualities. We have to perform activities that will make us stand out from the crowd, but how do we do that? Working is definitely one option.

Internships

Summer internships at companies are probably the best way to gain experience within your field of study. Most of them are paid, but there are also non-paid opportunities. It will not only help you to develop your skills, gain experience and practise what you have learnt but will also give you a taste of what the work specifically entails. This will help you to establish if working in that particular field is something you want to pursue. There is no such thing as 'bad' work experience. You will always learn something new. And if you don't enjoy your time you will be able to eliminate that career path for the future. In fact, you might realize that working in the field you were hoping to go into is not as great as you thought, and start thinking about alternative pathways.

Part-time work

Working part-time is another great option to broaden your skills.

They might not be specific to your degree but there are many transferable skills you could gain, such as customer service and time management skills. It will also show that you have been in work life and have held a position of responsibility. Apart from that it will give you some extra cash.

Volunteering

Voluntary work is another alternative you might consider. This could be with a charity or within your university. There are always opportunities available which will not only benefit society but also yourself. Voluntary work shows integrity and productivity, and you can develop your social skills, particularly if you are shy. There are many organizations that are looking for volunteers, it depends which field you are most interested in- an environmental charity or humanitarian aid, maybe?

Network, network, network!

No matter how you choose to utilize your time, if you work part-time, volunteer or do an internship, network! Knowing people in a professional environment will definitely be an advantage to you. Endeavour to make a good impression and develop long-term relationships. It might be that an opportunity arises and you cross the mind of an employer.

Above all remember that work experience will give you the chance to develop your existing skills and gain new ones. You will develop self-confidence and learn how to work in different environments.

Here are a few useful websites to help you get started:

www.targetjobs.co.uk

www.ratemyplacement.co.uk

www.prospects.ac.uk/

www.gradcracker.com (Careers for STEM students)