At a recent panel event our speakers discussed the benefits of undertaking volunteering and work experience and shared their tips and tricks for making the most of your opportunities. Here are the top three questions:
What are the advantages of work experience and volunteering?
All of our speakers agreed that the skills you develop through work experience and volunteering can be really useful in helping you to land a job or internship later on, whether within the organisation or elsewhere. Not only will you develop soft skills like teamwork, leadership and networking, but by putting yourself out there you’re demonstrating to potential employers that you are driven and motivated to succeed.
In today’s remote working environment, volunteering and work experience give you the perfect opportunity to prove your technical prowess and show that you’re a “digital native” – a capable, confident user of workplace technology. Employers are keen to hire graduates who are demonstrably tech-savvy and familiar with the digital landscape, so if you’ve completed a remote internship then you can highlight this in future applications and interviews.
What if I haven’t got any experience? Am I doomed?
The panel were keen to emphasise that just having work experience or volunteering listed on your CV isn’t enough to secure you a job, or even an interview. It doesn’t automatically make you a better candidate either.
For those who don’t have experience, never fear. Firstly, it’s never too late to start volunteering – remember, people find jobs in all sorts of different ways. One of our panellists noted that when recruiting for highly technical roles in particular, what matters most is your ability. For example, if you’re applying to a job that requires proficiency in a particular computer programming language and you have work experience at a company that used a different one, you may well be rejected in favour of a candidate without work experience but who became adept at the required language during their degree. What matters most is proving that you are the best candidate for the job.
If the role you’re after isn’t technical, make sure that you articulate why your work experience or volunteering makes you an excellent candidate. What did you gain from your internship? Why did you choose to volunteer for a particular organisation? Try to craft a story and show employers your journey. You might know that interacting with customers and promoting products in your weekend retail job developed your verbal communication skills, but a recruiter doesn’t. Graduate hiring managers receive hundreds of applications and shouldn’t have make inferences, so connect the dots for them, make the value of your work experience clear and explain what you have to offer.
I’m an international student, how important is UK work experience for me?
Depending on where you’re from, the UK professional work environment may be very different to what you’re used to. Undertaking work experience can help to familiarize you with workplace culture which will stand you in good stead if you decide to seek out graduate opportunities here.
However, our panel agreed that the most important thing when applying for UK-based opportunities is to know exactly what your working rights are. Put in the work and contact Student Services who can help you understand exactly when and how long you are allowed to work for and what – if any – visa sponsorship you might require. Being specific at an interview will leave a great impression on an employer who will see that you’re organised and serious about their organisation.
A link to a recording of the panel is here: