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Why do Work Experience?

Over a quarter of a million students graduate in the UK each year so, increasingly, gaining a good degree is only one of the steps towards landing a graduate job. A period of relevant work experience, whether it’s a sandwich placement, a summer internship or voluntary work, can boost your CV and really help you to stand out from the crowd. Want to know more? Here are three reasons why work experience is important for you:

• Experience is essential (or will give you a competitive advantage) in many graduate career sectors

You are unlikely to get a job in a very competitive field, such as journalism, design, law, film/TV or media, if you don’t have any relevant experience. Types of work experience on offer will vary from sector to sector and it’s important to do your research carefully so that you know where and when to look for opportunities. Placements and internships are also highly valued by employers looking for engineers, computing staff, scientists and business professionals so, again, having some relevant work experience on your CV will really make your application stand out. Even if you are considering taking a postgraduate training course, for example in teaching or chartered psychology, you will also find that relevant work experience is often an essential entry requirement.

• Employers use work experience as “extended interviews”

In 2015 it’s expected that large companies will recruit up to a third of their graduate intake from their previous year’s work experience students. In some sectors, such as the large law firms or investment banks, around half of the graduate entrants will be recruited in this way. Even if you do a placement or internship but aren’t then offered a graduate job by the company (or if you don’t want to work there), you will still be very attractive to other recruiters and will also have made useful contacts within your chosen industry.

• Unrelated work experience can help you develop relevant skills

In a recent survey, 93% of graduate employers agreed that having any work experience was better than having no work experience at all, particularly if applicants could demonstrate that it helped them gain relevant skills. So, if you can’t find a placement, work out which skills you need and look for alternative ways to develop them. Even voluntary work or being actively involved in a student society can help. For example, organising an event for a local charity or club is a great way of demonstrating organisation, negotiation and target-meeting abilities. A part-time job can also be useful. For example, customer service experience in retail or catering will be valued by employers recruiting for client-facing roles (and this can include design, technical, IT and business positions, not just sales and retail management jobs).

Placements and internships are now an essential part of the university experience. Rather than wondering whether you should do work experience, you should be asking yourself why you’re not doing it. Watch our video from final year engineering student, James Smith, on how having work experience helped him secure his placement.

Suzanne Ball is a Careers Adviser at the Careers, Employment & Enterprise Service. She regularly tweets on careers in the creative industries http://www.twitter.com/careerview

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