Choosing work experience

Work experience does not need to be geared towards your final destination.

It is important to do some background work to make sure you are going for the right type. Below are some tools to help you consider what type of work experience will work for you.;

Types of work experience

Types of work experience include:

  • Summer internships
  • Year placements
  • Voluntary work
  • Work shadowing
  • Insight programmes
  • Part time work

Each type has its own benefits which you may need to consider, and different opportunities may be available to different groups of students, depending on factors such as their year of study. Whichever type of work experience is best for you they will all provide you with skill development, networking opportunities and personal development.

Your career aspirations

The career you hope to go into on graduating should be a key factor in selecting the right work experience for you. If you know a particular occupation will require you to have a work experience in a specific area, now is the time to get it.

If you don't know the requirements of occupations you are considering then look at current vacancies in the field and review the person specification and requirements to find out.

If you are not sure what you want to do, then select a career you think you might be interested and use your work experience to find out whether that line of work is for you. 

Current skills and skills gaps

However vague or clear your career aspirations are, you should always try to get work experience positions which give you the opportunity to enhance your existing skills and develop new ones.

To do this you will find it helpful to assess your current skills base, identifying both your strengths and weaknesses, and prioritise a handful of skills you would like to improve during your work experience.

When assessing your skills consider your transferable skills such as team building, presentation skills, leadership, communication, etc, as well as more occupational specific skills – knowledge of processes, activities and cultures which are specific to a particular career.

Your values, interests and motivations

It is really important to review any work experience opportunities you consider in terms of your value base, interests and motivations.

These are basically your core beliefs, the things that make you ‘tick’.  If you end up selecting a position which conflicts with your beliefs you may find yourself in disagreement with the working practices and functions of the organisation you are working for. Watch out because it can be really uncomfortable and anxiety provoking when you have to work day in day out in an organisation whose ethics are fundamentally against your own.

Learn more about yourself using the following resources:

Personality preferences

As with your values, interests and motivations, it can be difficult to work in a position or an organisation which does not reflect your own personality preferences.  For example:

  • If you like working and interacting with people do not select a work experience position where you are working in isolation for long periods of time – it could make the day go very slowly!
  • If you are an innovative and self starting individual make sure any position you consider gives you the flexibility to come up with new ideas and to work independently.
  • If you like to check things over with others and learn best when you have a clear line of support, make sure the post includes a supportive line management, supervision or mentoring element.

Take our online personality questionnaires to find out more about preferences in the work place and learning styles.

The practicalities

Last but not least you need to consider the practicalities of any work experience opportunity you are thinking about. Is it actually feasible? For example:

  • How will you travel to work? Is this transport affordable and safe?
  • Will your working hours interfere with your study commitments? Will you be working late and long hours during term time?
  • How much income do you need to earn in order to supplement other sources? Can you afford to do volunteering?

Some funding is available to help students go on work experience placements they could not otherwise afford.

What next?

Now that you have thought about what you want, it's time to start looking for work experience opportunities.


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