Working at work experience - Advice for the unsure

Posted by Kate Murray on 22 December 2015

I met someone earlier today who wanted to find a part-time job to give himself some work experience for when he finishes his further degree. 

Business Cat by Flickr user wackyvorlon used under CC BY 2.0

When I went to record our conversation, I found that he and I had already had that conversation a couple of years ago. I wondered what stopped him finding work then?  Will our chat today have made any difference?  

Here are some ideas for finding useful experience. Think carefully before you dismiss them, or perhaps your thoughts will, like my student’s, go round in circles for the next couple of years!

What ‘experience’ are you looking for?

Does it need to be an actual job?  Here are some ideas for experience that aren’t actually work:

Work shadowing

Spending a morning at an interesting company, sitting in on meetings or observing the kinds of conversations the person has, could be great.  Talk to your careers consultant about how to set up these ideas

Student societies

These societies really do offer opportunities that are hard to get once you leave university.  Much maligned as offering ‘CV points’ if you use them well, they're good stepping stones into part-time work.

Attending a firm’s Open Day

Many of the top firms offer Insight Days, or equivalents, to first year undergrads.  Make the most of these to be your launch pad to summer internships.

Active holidays or other volunteering 

Take a look at your university’s union pages for ideas, or a volunteering site like


I've seen applicants list their Airbnb experience as business management, and met various people who sell through online or real auctions who could claim business acumen, though it might not look obviously like work experience.

Part-time jobs  

Use a jobs board like JobOnline to search for part time jobs.  Be careful about putting in more filters as you may well come across jobs you’d not previously thought of if you keep your search wide.


Are you telling everyone you know that you are looking for work? It might feel a bit odd, but the more people who are looking out for you, the more ears to the ground there are.  Figures vary about how often people get jobs this way, but even at post-doctoral level, 31% of people asked in a recent survey said they were told about their posts by a contact.


Are you clear on which skill you want to use? A Spanish PhD student I heard from recently was using her Spanish skills as a translator, her advanced research skills as a journalist and her interest in cultural studies to identify interesting organisations to target for work. 


Do you know which organisations you want to work for and how they recruit? The temptation to sit back and wait for jobs to come to you is often overwhelming, when time is tight and you’re busy. But being proactive, making opportunities happen, compiling lists of places you want to work for and talking to people there could be a different way to access jobs before they’re necessarily published.

 ask information staff at your careers service for help finding part-time jobs   



Topics: job hunting, work experience

Subscribe to Email Updates


A blog written by experts

If you’re looking for information to start or progress your career then you’ve come to the right place. The Careers Group blogs are written by experts with a mission to help you develop your expertise or start on the right path. with tips, advice, techniques and resources you need.

Subscribe to this blog and you'll receive:

  • Top tips
  • Expert advice
  • Effective techniques
  • World-class resources

Recent Posts