Work Experience Information and Support!

Completing work experience alongside your degree is one of the best things you can do to improve your future prospects, and it’s never too early to start! Last week I attended a seminar held by the University of Manchester Careers Service, which explained some of the options available for students looking to gain some experience. Here are a few key points from the seminar, along with information about where you can find careers information and financial support:

The importance of work experience

A really interesting way of looking at the importance of work experience is by being aware of what skills employers have said graduate applications often lack. Leadership, teamwork and commercial awareness (knowledge of how your sector works) were the three skills employers said most applications failed to highlight. Work experience is the best way to show how you’ve developed these skills and impress an employer. Go to the Transferable Skills page to find out how you can develop each individual skill and for more information on related opportunities.

What opportunities are there?

There are so many opportunities out there, the hardest thing is often knowing where to start! Whichever year you’re in there’s guaranteed to be loads of opportunities specifically for you. For general information about work experience head over to the Careers Service’s Internship page. However, to search and apply directly make sure you take advantage of CareerConnect. Part time jobs, volunteering opportunities, internships and placements are all regularly posted into CareerConnect exclusively for UoM students. If you don’t have any luck here make sure you head over to Prospects who also have plenty of options designed specifically for students.

It’s a great time to get work experience!

One of the most encouraging points from the seminar was that COVID-19 presents a potential opening for students to seek out work experience!. Of course, most people might think that because of the virus, getting work experience would either be impossible or pointless (if it’s all online, why bother?). But that isn’t true! Now more than ever, any amount of work experience you can do before you graduate is going to make you stand out. And there’s still loads of opportunities available if you know where and how to look.

How else can you get work experience?

There’s always going to be work experience opportunities to apply for, however one of the most proactive ways to ensure the work you’re doing is perfect for you is to self-arrange your own internship, placement or volunteering opportunity. This is particularly useful if you know exactly what career you want to go into. First of all, identify your ideal sector and a few companies, people or contacts in that sector that you like the look of.

Image of the LinkedIn logo on a phone

A great way to do this is on LinkedIn (just search your sector or subject and see who comes up) or by looking at the people or companies that sponsor/appear on events related to your ideal job. Of course, the scary bit is always the dreaded ‘first contact’. One of the best tips from the seminar was to ask for advice rather than asking directly for an opportunity.

Email the contact you’ve highlighted, letting them know that you’re interested in finding work experience in their sector, asking whether or not they have any advice. If they’re willing to give you an opportunity they’ll let you know, and if not they’ll give you lots of information or potential avenues! You can even do this with your lecturers, who will always be willing to help and point you in the right direction.

What financial support can you get?

University of Manchester Work Experience Bursary promotional image

To help you afford work experience, the Careers Service offers students the chance to apply for additional funding. Once you’ve secured your opportunity, you’ll be able to get up to £1,000 to help with travel costs, accommodation or care! To find out more information go to the Work Experience Bursary Scheme page, with links to the application form. Getting work experience is easier than you think, and the potential benefits are huge!

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