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Finding work experience

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Published: 23 December 2021

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Coming to the University of Sunderland in London for your degree is one of the best career decisions you can make. 

That sounds like a big promise, but thanks to the skills, theory and practical knowledge you will be learning you’ll graduate prepared to enter the job market. 

But in the modern world, it shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that most people applying for the same roles as you also have degrees, many of them with very high grades. 

So, how do you set yourself apart? Employers will look at what you got at university, of course. But they’ll also consider your work experience. 

That is fantastic if you have years of employment under your belt. However, that’s not the case for many people.  

If you’re one of them, it’s time to start thinking about getting some work experience of your own. 

What should I do? 

The first question you need to ask yourself is, ‘what kind of things do I want to do?’ 

Obviously, it’s a good idea to find work experience that is as closely related to your ideal career as possible. 

At the very least, you want it to be in the same sector or using similar skills. 

That way you can point to the practical things you know when it comes to explaining why a company should hire you. 

Want to work as a nurse? Look for placements in hospitals or GP surgeries. Consider you’d be suited for a career in finance? Think about internships in the banking sector. 

I don’t know what I want to do 

Do not be fooled into thinking that everyone at university has their career mapped out. Many people come to study here without a clue, which is totally fine. 

Your starting point should be thinking about the things you enjoy. Take the lead from your studies.  

If you’re really enjoying a specific module, maybe that could be a career option for you.  

Got a great grade on a particular assignment? What was it about the essay that you found so engaging?  

Finding placements 

Once you have an idea of what area you want to get experience in, it’s time to narrow down the search. 

Do a little research and jot down the top ten internships, work experiences and placements you’d like to do. 

You can be ambitious but try and be realistic as well. Don’t, for example, say you want to shadow Jeffrey Bezos at Amazon – he's probably a little busy! 

Get looking 

Next up, you need to actually find the internships. Speak with family and friends – everyone has a network, you just need to work out about how to use yours. 

If you know about a company you’re interested in, try emailing their HR or contacting the head of the department you want to work in – you'd be surprised how often this can lead to a positive outcome. 

Try looking through job search sites like Guardian Jobs or Indeed. They might not list work experience opportunities, but they will let you filter your searches for companies in your industry, giving you an idea of new places to contact. 

Then it’s all about getting in touch. Send a polite email explaining that you’re looking for a little experience. 

Say how long you can work with them and your free times, as well as why you chose them in particular.  

You can also try a phone call or getting in touch through social media if you don’t get a response but make sure you’re not overwhelming them.  

Finally, be prepared to send your CV if they ask. Don’t worry if it’s not a very long one at this point – you’re asking for work experience so they’re not expecting you to have a huge employment history. 

Whatever you decide to do with your future, the University of Sunderland in London Careers and Employability Service is here to help.    

To have a one-to-one chat with them, book a meeting through Compass or email them at careers-london@sunderland.ac.uk. 

You can also follow #WeAreSunLon on LinkedIn for all our on-campus and online events including some run by our external partners.

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