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How work experience can help you get ahead at university

Italian student Sofia Quaglia explains why carrying out work experience at university is a key way to ease career concerns and enhance your employability levels

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Sofia Quaglia

January 9 2018
Apprentice work


As a final year undergraduate at City, University of London, I’m on the cusp of the working world. Right now, I’m trying to crack the journalism industry. In fact, I’m quite worried about my future and how my life will pan out after I graduate. However, the fact that I’ve carried out a lot of work experience throughout my studies helps me stay calm. I think not only has it prepared me practically for this industry, it’s also helped me refine my career choice.

Here are my reasons why everyone should consider completing work experience while you’re still at university.

1. Decision making

Other than facilitating the transition into the world of employment, work experience will help you both with your studies and with making future career decisions while you’re still at school or university. Voluntary work or part-time roles are not just meant to sit well on a CV, but they can help you work out what you love and what you loathe.

2. Soft skills development

Some skills can only truly be developed in practical environments. In fact, sometimes it doesn’t even matter if the experience you accumulate is relevant to the career you want to pursue. The "soft skills" that work experience provides you with will help you across the board. Professional communication skills, collaborating in a team, working hands-on and learning to solve problems are all transferable skills.

3. It gives you a taste for “real-life juggling”

The decision to take on extra-curricular activities while still studying inevitably forces you to be more organised and practise your time-management skills. For example, essays and coursework must be started sooner in order to complete the work experience and also meet your deadline.

Although at times it may feel like a delicate balancing act, this will stand you in good stead for when your workload increases through employment (and probably your commitments outside of work too). As Lucille Ball said: “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.”

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4. It can lead to new employment opportunities

It is well documented that professional experience enables you to get a job more quickly at the end of your degree. The work experience throughout my years at university allowed me to meet a wide and fascinating variety of people. I also made long-lasting connections with people that taught me a lot, and could possibly help me later on.

For instance, thanks to my time at the learning and networking platform Creative Entrepreneurs, I had the opportunity to meet founders of high-profile companies such as IMDb, It’s Nice That, UsTwo and MUBI.

5. It can take you to great places

Finally, work experience can bring more experiences than simply being “on the job”. With the years I spent working at the youth lifestyle magazine, , I got to travel all over the world from Europe to the Philippines and Taiwan, collaborating closely with tourism boards and governments.

How to source your work experience

There are so many options available for work experience on your door step – helping out a society, a charity, a community group or a church are just a few examples. Across all sectors, many companies offer part-time employment or work experience. It can seem like a mammoth task to find the right placement but there are numerous resources designed to help students do this.

TheBigChoice, for example, allows students to create free accounts through which they can set up a professional profile and follow employers from a variety of industries. These employers post updates when new opportunities are available, so it is a simple way to stay informed with employers that you are interested in working for after university.

Following companies that you are interested in on Twitter can also help you to stay up to date with any work experience opportunities, as well as regularly checking out their websites and signing up for newsletters. Your university careers service will also have good contacts throughout different industries and so will be able to advise on which companies to approach and how best to approach them. 

Ask family or friends that are working in industries that you might be interested in whether their places of work have any opportunities for work experience too.

There are so many ways to find work experience that is right for you. The important thing to remember is that the more varied your work experience, the more likely you are to be able to narrow down your choice.

Sofia Quaglia is an Italian student studying journalism at City, University of London 

Read more: Best universities for graduate jobs: Global University Employability Ranking 2017


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