Employers warn that graduates with no work experience are unlikely to be successful in the selection process
High Fliers 2012 survey.
Sound scary? It is worth noting that High Fliers is a survey of the Times Top 100 Graduate Recruiters which is only a very small portion of graduate market. Nevertheless, experience is increasingly important and sought after by employers across the board.
The good news is that there are many ways of developing experience. We’ve listed some below to help you get started; whether you are in your first or final year, it is never too early (or too late) to undertake some work experience. Clearly, the more you have the better, so we advise starting as soon as possible, but even in your final year, there are still things you can be doing to develop your experience.
What are the options?
Many of the terms below are used interchangeably (internship and placement for example) so don’t worry too much about the labels; we have just used these to distinguish in the summaries below.
Internship/ Placement – Many large employers offer structured summer internship or placement programmes. These typically last between 6-10 weeks although this can vary. You may have the opportunity to ‘rotate’ around a few different departments, or spend your entire internship in one department.
Small and medium sized businesses will also offer internships and placements although these are unlikely to be as widely advertised and may recruit on a different time-scale (i.e. closer to the summer), but this really does vary from employer to employer so it is vital to start researching options early.
We work with local employers and departments in the university to develop internship opportunities through the Leeds Internship Programme. Such opportunities will usually be advertised around April through our vacancy system.
Industrial Placement – May also be referred to as a 12-month placement or year in industry (among others). Again, these are offered by all sorts of employers and the larger employers may begin accepting applications up to a year in advance (i.e. now for opportunities starting next summer and autumn). You may have the opportunity to ‘rotate’ around a few different departments, or spend your entire internship in one department. If your school or department doesn’t provide the option for a placement year, you may still be able to do one through our Work Placement Module.
Insight days – offered by many larger graduate recruiters, often aimed specifically at 1st year students, and usually take place in the spring term. Typically involve spending a day at the organisation finding out more about them and their work and the types of opportunities available.
Self-created experience – By only applying to advertised positions, you are automatically increasing your competition. Be proactive and try contacting organisations which interest you directly to see if they offer work experience opportunities. If you want ideas of how to identify organisations in your field of interest, come and talk to us.
Part-time work – is a great way to develop vital transferable skills, even if this is not directly related to what you want to do after finishing university. Work-place experience of any sort is always valued. Check out Joblink
Volunteering – Similar to part-time work, volunteering will also help you develop useful skills and work experience. There are hundreds of different things you can get involved in, and charities may appreciate support in different areas of the organisation as well as the more traditional voluntary opportunities. For example, marketing/ PR, finance, IT, general administration and more. Check out the Leeds Volunteering and the Union for opportunities locally as well as Do-it.org for opportunities throughout the UK.
Leeds for Life
Hundreds of opportunities – both school-specific and university-wide – are advertised through Leeds for Life every year. There is also the Leeds for Life Foundation which enables you to apply for funding to support a project or experience which will develop your skills. Find out more on the Leeds for Life website.
When to apply
Internships, Placements and Insight days: With the larger employers, these often recruit on similar cycle to their graduate schemes; i.e. you should be researching and applying now for opportunities starting next summer or spring. Smaller employers typically won’t recruit as far in advance and may advertise closer to the time (i.e. next year). However, the important thing is not to miss any closing dates, so you should still be researching opportunities now to find out as much as you can about what the options are, what’s required, when they accept applications, closing dates and so on.
Self-created experience – contact employers at any time and find out if this is something they offer. You may be able to arrange a day or two with an employer locally or perhaps closer to home during vacations.
Where can I find opportunities?
We advertise hundreds of internship, placement and other work experience opportunities every year through our vacancy database
If you are interested in particular employer or sector, do some research and check with employers directly – via website/telephone call – to see if they offer work experience. Even if nothing is mentioned on their website, they may still be willing to consider work experience requests.
Other useful placement websites:
Remember, you can pop in and talk to us on drop-in any time Monday-Friday between 9am and 4pm if you want some help or advice about any work-experience or career-related issues.