“You can’t get a job without experience and you can’t get experience until you have a job.” (Jack Buck)
This is a common (and understandable) concern, for university students. But…experience isn’t just gained through paid jobs or internships. There are many ways to build up work experience – and it all counts on CVs and applications to help you stand out from the competition!
Experience is any activity that provides you with opportunities to (further) develop your skills, gain an insight into specific companies and is a great way to gain a real understanding of different roles and sectors. It can be paid or unpaid.
In this blog post, we asked six of our Careers Service Assistants to share the benefits they have gained from undertaking various work experience whilst studying at the university:
Alison, third year Biological Sciences student – Careers Service Assistant
“Working as a Careers Service Assistant alongside my studies has been a rewarding experience. In my role, I proofread job advertisements and interact with employers, students and graduates. This has allowed me to develop my skills in IT and communication, and I have enjoyed learning more about careers and working as a part of a team in the Careers Service. This experience will be very valuable to me going forward and I feel I have gained a lot of additional skills outside of my studies.”
Maja, final year Psychology student – Resident Assistant
“The Resident Assistant post is a fantastic student opportunity, which allows me to combine having fun whilst developing highly valuable, transferable skills such as communication and time management, as well as more specific skills like crisis management and marketing. I work part-time in a team of four and am responsible for the welfare of 250 students living at one of the university’s accommodation sites. I am also involved in projects such as organising monthly events e.g. social activities, sustainability themed and mindfulness. I receive regular training on crisis management, and enhance my marketing skills through promoting events and sustainability initiatives on social media. It’s great that I am able to draw on my experiences from this role during interviews for jobs/internships.”
Florence, fourth year Spanish and Linguistics student – Retail experience
“Working part-time in a clothing store alongside my studies gave me the chance to develop different transferable skills such as organisation, teamwork, communication and problem solving. In my role, I was responsible for tasks such as serving customers, restocking the shop floor, and taking stock of deliveries. I also used my initiative by identifying and suggesting ways to make our processes more efficient. I was able to draw on my problem solving skills to resolve customer enquiries when I was on shift by myself or if other members of staff were busy serving other customers. I learned how to use various IT systems, and gained experience on working to set targets. I have been able to showcase these skills on my CV.”
Munya, final year Chemical Engineering student – Brand Ambassador at Saltire Scholars
“I am an alumni of the Saltire Scholars Programme through which I completed a summer internship in Process Improvement and Optimisation at Scottish Leather Group. I have been very fortunate to represent the Saltire Scholars brand at the University of Edinburgh by promoting the programme through sharing my experience to prospective Saltire Scholars. In addition to honing my communication and time management abilities, being a Brand Ambassador has allowed me to live out the values of giving back to my community – contributing immensely to a very positive student experience at the University. It has been a worthwhile experience for me so far and I am glad that I took up the opportunity.”
Ailsa, Third year History and Politics student – Treasurer for the Retrospect Journal
“When I first joined the society, it didn’t cross my mind that being Treasurer might be for me, but since taking up the role, the skills I’ve picked up have been really useful! For example, balancing the budget and learning how to manage spreadsheets are useful skills to have in any career, but I’ve particularly found that writing funding applications has taught me how to emphasise something’s good qualities – a project, a society, or even myself – and it’s made me a more convincing communicator in a lot of situations. Plus, just keeping on top of everything within the society and within EUSA, as a whole, really teaches you how to stay organised!”
Ailsa also volunteers in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology (HCA) Student Research Room
“Volunteering in the Student Research Room has taught me specific skills like cataloguing, supervising, and other skills for working in libraries, but it’s also helped me learn how to communicate and collaborate with other teams members who I don’t see regularly. Since we’re on shift at different times, we have to be very clear in communication when reporting at the end of the shift to make sure things keep running smoothly.”
Tian, third year Philosophy and Economics student – EconPALS leader
“I am volunteering as an EconPALS leader for the 2022-2023 academic year. My role involves facilitating first-year students’ Economics comprehension through leading weekly study sessions with around ten attendees. With two colleagues, I prepare exercises beforehand, communicate the concepts interactively during the session, and collect students’ feedback for the next week’s debrief. This process allowed me to make new friends, unlock new opportunities (such as a heavily subsidised in-person delegation to the Warwick Economics Summit), and gain invaluable experience in university life. More importantly, I have developed strong communication skills by explaining economic concepts in different ways so that they become accessible to students with various learning styles. This has boosted my career prospects – I was able to put my role as an EconPALS leader on my CV and illustrate how I’ve developed my skills in interviews!”
So… work experience – it all counts towards boosting your career prospects. If you’re just starting to draft your CV or are looking for ways to gain work experience, our Careers Service Assistants have provided some great examples of the range of transferable skills you can gain from activities outside of your degree.
If you’re not sure how to demonstrate your skills and experience on CVs and applications, or how to build work experience, here are some ways the Careers Service can help:
- Our information and advice drop-in sessions are offered online and on campus – no need to book! They’re great for asking quick questions and getting quick feedback on your CV or application. Check this schedule to find a session that suits you: Information and advice drop-ins
- Book an in-person or online appointment with any of our Careers Consultants to discuss your career planning or get feedback on your CV or application. Book via the “Talk to us” tab in MyCareerHub.