Written by Conor Reilly from RateMyPlacement.co.uk, the UK’s leading job resource for undergraduates seeking placements and internships.
The Institute of Student Employers has reported that, in 2018, there was an average of 41 applications for each graduate job. The competition is fierce!
It is so important – now, more than ever – to get work experience while you’re still at university.
Gaining work experience as an undergraduate will significantly increase your chances of getting a graduate job. Furthermore, it will help you make more informed decisions about what career to pursue once you’ve finished university.
In this blog we’re going to break down the benefits of getting work experience, however, we’ll begin with an overview of the different opportunities that are available…
Types of work experience
There are three types of work experience that you can apply for at university. They vary in length and content and are designed for students at different stages of their degree.
Apply for Insight schemes
DURATION: 1-10 days
WHEN TO APPLY: Sep-Mar
FOR: Primarily 1st years (but available to all)
Insight schemes are short-term schemes that are aimed at first-year students, although second and third-year candidates can also apply. They are designed to give students a taste of what it is like to work in a particular sector, or for a specific company.
Most insights take place during the Easter break, so it’s best to get your applications finalised and submitted early in the new year.
In the financial sector, insight schemes are sometimes called ‘spring weeks’.
Apply for Internships
DURATION: 4-16 weeks
WHEN TO APPLY: Sep-Mar
FOR: All undergraduates
Internships typically take place during the summer, so you might hear them referred to as ‘summer internships’.
An intern will work for an employer for at least a month to get knowledge and experience in the following areas:
Collaborating across multiple teams and departments
Using specific software and equipment
Apply for Placements
DURATION: 5-13 months
WHEN TO APPLY: Sep-May
FOR: 2nd years
Placements have various names, you might hear them called ‘industrial placements’, ‘a year in industry’ and even ‘sandwich placements’. All of these terms refer to the same year-long scheme which takes place in between the penultimate and final year of a degree.
You can read more in-depth overviews of insights, internship, and placements by visiting RateMyPlacement.co.uk. We also have job vacancies for all of these schemes with some of the UK’s best employers, so head to the jobs page and see what’s available.
The benefits of work experience
Gaining work experience in a professional environment
Interns, placement and insight students gain professional work experience. It’s nothing like the mandatory work experience that all secondary school students have to complete.
These schemes are designed to give students an insight into the professional environment, so they’re given real work and contribute to important projects. If you apply for a placement, internship or insight scheme, you might also have the opportunity to shadow an experienced colleague.
When it comes to applying for a graduate job, employers look for candidates that have relevant experience. This is exactly what these schemes provide.
Building a network of contacts
Have you ever heard the phrase, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’? It’s often a negative cliche – describing how in some industries, it’s a lot easier to get a job if you have friends or family who work in the sector.
One of the main benefits of getting work experience is that it gives you a platform to build a network of contacts inside a sector or particular company. These contacts that can act as references, with full knowledge of your capabilities and career aspirations, or alert you if opportunities arise.
Test out a potential career
Have you decided what you’re going to do after you finish university? Some young people will study a vocational degree such as nursing or have a very specific idea of what path they’re going to take. Others won’t have a clue.
It’s not uncommon to think that a career path will materialise during your studies, but this will only happen if you test-drive different careers while you’re studying. Undergraduate work experience is the best way of finding out if a profession is right for you.
Just say, for example, you know you want to work in the accountancy sector. There are many accounting firms in the UK, so which company do you apply for? A four-week internship in a large firm might help you to decide that you’d rather work for a small or medium-sized organisation.
This inside knowledge is valuable when you are making important decisions about your future.
Putting theory into practice
Many students feel they are not ready to enter the professional environment after they graduate. The world of work is very different to studying towards a degree – and it can come as a shock.
In addition, degrees tend to be theory-based. Getting work experience is an opportunity to put the theory you have learned into practice. It’s a chance to test the skills and knowledge you have acquired in a real working situation.
MyPlus Students’ Club feature over 40 disability confident employers on their website, the majority of which offer insight weeks and internships – current schemes are listed on their jobs page.
All types of undergraduate work experience mentioned in this article are available on the Student’s Club job listings page.
This is your opportunity to get valuable work experience!