Why you should gain experience whilst at university

This guest blog has been written by Sam Miles from Step, a company who provide a range of work experience opportunities for students and  graduates.

portrait of Sam Miles from Step

Why you should gain experience whilst at university

Along with ensuring you get the best grades you can and having a great time at university, another thing you should make a priority is gaining work experience. But if your course doesn’t include a placement or work experience element, don’t think that this means you have missed the boat already. Experience can come in many forms and all experience is valuable. In this blog, we explore what forms experience can take, why it is important to gain experience and how you can use that experience in your graduate job hunt.

What counts as work experience?

The most obvious sources of work experience that we see on graduate job applications are professional training year placements and paid summer internships. These tend to complement the field of study and many graduates think this is the only relevant experience that they have. But to ignore your part-time retail, hospitality or bar work is doing yourself a disservice. In the same way, regular volunteering activities such as mentoring, supporting your local charity, assisting at sporting events or clubs or working in the community is incredibly valuable to your future employer. Finally, don’t ignore the work you put in for your student society, as this is also valuable work experience. It all counts!

Why is work experience so vital?

Employers want to know that you have a work ethic. This simply means the ability to commit to a job or task, attend regularly and be a reliable member of a team. You may not realise it at the time but handling healthy conflict within a team environment, dealing with customers and overcoming setbacks are all relevant skills to take into your graduate employment. Any experience that you can gain outside of an educational setting, family or friendship group will enable you to develop skills in communication, diplomacy and problem solving that you won’t pick up from your immediate peer group or teachers. It’s all about developing skills to become an independent and confident member of the workforce.

How can you use your work experience?

Quite apart from the personal satisfaction and improvement in self-esteem, work experience in any form gives you a tangible benefit when looking for your first graduate job. In an interview situation, employers are looking for evidence to back up your claim that you can work both independently and in a team. Having real-life situations to draw upon will help you to show an employer how you might address a problem or set back in the workplace. Every new circumstance you encounter, be that handling a difficult customer, managing a project or delivering a task within a set timescale provides you with a situation to draw upon in a written application or job interview. This is in addition to the money you might earn, the contacts you will make and the opportunity to apply the skills you are learning at university. 

About Step

Step is a leading provider of student and graduate placements and internships. We offer undergraduates and recent graduates a range of work experience opportunities. All Step opportunities have a genuine development focus, are structured and often project based.

By registering and creating a profile with us, you will have access to a range of opportunities on our website, and we will be able to contact you directly if a great role comes along.

You can find out more about Step on our website: http://www.step.org.uk/