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WORK EXPERIENCE IN THE UK
Getting some real hands-on experience of work with a UK-based company can be the first step to getting a permanent position. Read on to find out what you should be looking for from work experience here in Britain.
Although taking a gap year or doing an internship or work experience abroad may sound glamorous and very appealing, there are plenty of reasons for looking for a placement closer to home. Apparently, thirty per cent of graduates who do internships with firms here in the UK then go on to get a permanent job with that firm. However, this is not the only reason for seeking experience here; other factors you should consider include any payment you will receive (the average placement pays £14,000); the costs you save by not having to travel large distances; and if you are doing your placement between your second and third year at university, some companies will then sponsor you when you return to your studies.
Although any form of work experience looks good on your CV, if you can do a placement or internship for longer than a week or fortnight (over the summer break for instance, or for a whole year) it can have real benefits. Short placements usually consist of an ‘overview’ of what work is really like, with students assisting or shadowing existing employees and completing more rudimentary tasks. With longer placements you get a chance to do specific projects or tasks where you may have sole ownership. Such high levels of responsibility can really hone work-specific skills such as time management, problem solving and, if the task involves a lot of collaboration with colleagues, also team working. Many students discover the work-related skills they have learned while on their placement help with their studies when they return to university – in a way they ‘link up’ the practical with the academic, making the theory more understandable.
For students, not only are placements a great way to earn while you learn, they can also be a practical way of seeing whether a particular work sector or company is really for you. The pay off for companies that run placement schemes is they get extra manpower to help with tasks that may not be top priority, but need to be completed, and they get to ‘road test’ potential employees before engaging them on a permanent basis. Assessing students as they perform real tasks is a much better indication of their skills than any number of interviews or aptitude tests. So, while doing your placement, be sure you show off your motivation, maturity, and management skills, but above all your enthusiasm.