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How to make your university work experience count after graduation

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When you leave university and step into the ‘real’ world, it can very often be a daunting and disheartening place. Being offered a job upon graduation is no longer the norm. Graduate jobs are competitive and employers are looking for more than just a good degree.

You may have minimal experience in your chosen field and feel that you don’t have a lot to offer but it is highly likely that you’ve got some great experience under your belt that you can use to your advantage, even if you don’t think it’s directly relevant.

Upon graduation, most people have some form of work experience, be it volunteering whilst at university or a part-time job to fund yourself through your degree.

These types of roles mean that you will have developed all sorts of transferable skills, whatever your chosen career path. Employers are not only interested in skills that are directly related to their industry, these skills can be learnt and built on and you will have gained the bases of these from your degree.

Employers want to know that you have also developed key skills that will serve you in a business environment. They want to know that you are motivated enough to get out there and get work and, as a result, you are more rounded than someone who has simply devoted their entire time at university to studying.

That part-time bar job or supermarket check-out Christmas work doesn’t seem so irrelevant now does it? This kind of work will have helped you develop the following skills that all employers will be looking for when hiring a graduate. Make sure you make use of them on your application.


Communication Skills

There are not many graduate jobs that don’t require good communication skills. Even if you are working purely online, you will still need to communicate via email at least. Communication skills are going to be an essential criterion for most graduate jobs and any customer facing role will have given you a wealth of experience you can draw on.

Whether you have worked in a shop, in a call-centre, handing out flyers, in a bar or for a helpline, you have used communication skills and will be able to give some good examples from your experiences.

Team Work

Employers generally want to know that you can work well with other people. Most jobs that you will have had whilst at university will have involved some form of team work. Draw on these examples and think of a time you worked well with others.

Any examples of work in a multi-functional team will be particularly useful. If you haven’t worked in a team and had a job that required you to work alone, switch it around and use your example to show how you are able to work independently with minimal supervision.

Commercial Awareness

As I’ve already said, employers want someone who has experience of working in a business so that they already understand the processes and day-to-day elements involved.

No matter how small your role, if you’ve had a job, you will have been part of a business or organisation and will understand their inner workings. Use this to your advantage.

Problem Solving

In your working life, there is no doubt you will have had to solve a problem. It doesn’t need to be earth shattering, employers just want to see that you can think on your feet and use your own initiative.

Maybe you were faced with a difficult customer and handled the situation well. Maybe a product wasn’t available so you used your persuasive skills to sell a similar one. Whatever your experience, you will have come across problems that you’ve dealt with effectively.

Organisational Skills

A part-time job will have been a great opportunity for you to learn some organisational skills, even if it doesn’t seem obvious. You may have had the opportunity to organise something on a large scale like an event, which would be a fantastic example, or you may have been in charge of organising staffing rotas.

Even if it is as simple an example as organising yourself to manage your studies whilst juggling a part-time job, that is still a very valid example, use it.


This guest article was written by Nicola Vivian. Nicola is a regular contributor to WorkAlpha, a job search resource centre.


Read more career advice for fresh graduates on our blog – or search the latest entry level graduate roles on our jobs board.

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