Work experience – why is it essential?

Work experience – why is it essential?

Impressing an employer when applying for a job is a hard task; you need to have a CV and cover letter that helps you stand out from the crowd, your interview techniques need to be on point. But what can help you gain an advantage over other candidates? What can help give you an edge?

Work experience, placements and internships.

Work experience is a term often passed around rather casually, but what does it really mean? What skills should you be looking to learn? How do you gain work experience? DisCUss tell you all you need to know.

What is work experience?
Work experience is a job or activity, which may be paid or unpaid, that you undertake in order to obtain skills you may not yet have, to add to your CV. Work experience or a placement may be on a temporary basis, and is typically unpaid. Internships or Sandwich placements are usually paid and is usually last anywhere between 3 – 12 months.

Why is work experience valuable?
Work experience is valuable for professional and personal growth. As you consider what you would like to do after university, the prospect of a fast-paced, full-time job can seem daunting. If you gain some work experience, you can find out your working style, your strengths and weaknesses, and areas you need to improve on.

On top of this, you can gain important employability skills. If you’ve never worked in an office, even some basic skills can be attractive to employers. These include:

  • Good time management
  • Good communication skills (handling phone calls, responding to emails etc.)
  • Confident in the use of IT, such as Microsoft Office and other software
  • Good organisational skills

Demonstrating a level of commitment and dedication is also attractive to employers. If you can use your own initiative to improve your skills, employers are more likely to invest in your development.

How do I gain work experience?
First of all you need to decide the career sector you wish to enter. There’s little use in taking a work experience placement at a radio station if you’d like to become a care professional.

Secondly, you need to identify the skills which are desirable for jobs in the sector you’ve chosen. Perhaps experience with people, taking charge or leading a group, is more valuable than administrative duties, which you can learn later.

Lastly, it’s worth seeking advice and guidance from a Careers Adviser. They can help you find available work experience opportunities, tailor your CV and cover letter and coach you for your interview or assessment centre. Your Student Support Services should be able to help point you in the right direction