December 9, 2015, by NUBS Postgraduate Careers

International Students: The Importance of Work Experience

So, as an international student, you are here in the UK and you are probably thinking about your options that are available once your finish your course. But what about now? Have you thought about applying to some part-time employment alongside your studies or making the most of your spare time during your vacation periods?

Studies have shown that quality work experience enhances employability and provides a range of benefits to both students and employers. Many (if not all) employers now search for the ‘soft skills’ that are required to successfully work in the roles that they are hiring in to. A degree is now simply not enough – there are so many graduates and postgraduates leaving university each year that a qualification alone no longer stands out. Work experience and extra-curricular activity involvement are now high on an employer’s agenda when it comes to sifting through applicant’s CVs and shortlisting potential candidates.

There are many beneficial reasons for applying to UK work experience, but why would you consider this, alongside what you may think is a time consuming course or study load?

Top 10 reasons for undertaking work experience:

  • Improve the soft skills required by many graduate employers, including Teamwork, Organisation, Communication, Time Management, Planning and Leadership skills.
  • A good reference can be provided by your employer for future roles that you apply to (remember to ask their permission first though!).
  • Make good contacts/networks – you never know who you may meet in your workplace. One employer or contact within the organisation may be able to point you in to the direction of another future opportunity.
  • Gain commercial awareness skills (you will be provided with some basic common sense of how many areas of a business operate in the market that they are trading in – a key skill many employers now seek).
  • You can apply theory in to practice! What better way of implementing what you learn on your course in to a real life piece of work?
  • A potential tier 2 sponsor will be looking for any UK work experience you may have and this will help you to stand out in your graduate/postgraduate applications.
  • The opportunity to experience different cultures in the work place and see how they differ from your home country.
  • Work alongside employees of other nationalities and embrace and improve your English language skills with them.
  • Earn a bit of extra income to help pay for those text books (and occasional nights out you have), if the opportunity is paid! Employers also deem voluntary work experience extremely valuable.
  • Undertaking work experience in a country that is not your ‘home country’ will provide you with the skills to prepare you for being a true ‘global graduate’.

Remember that any work experience, if paid, should adhere to your tier 4 visa restrictions. International (non-EU) students are currently restricted to working no more than 20 hours per week in a paid position during term time here in the UK. For further information on visa restrictions and paid work experience, you should speak to the International Office, or check out the UKCISA website.

You will find that there is a whole range of work experience placements, internships and volunteering opportunities available here in the UK. Come and speak to the Postgraduate Careers Team for suggestions on where to look for opportunities locally. Some useful web sites to refer to also include:

Top Tip: Make sure your work experience section stands out on your CV! Clearly highlight any employment roles that you have worked in here in the UK and the responsibilities involved within each of them. This will demonstrate the skills that you have obtained and this is what employers will be looking for. Include key dates and also any volunteering experience as well (however minor you think it may be!).

Don’t leave it too late to apply to work experience opportunities – you may think a couple of months’ worth of employment or volunteering during your final year is enough to include on your CV, however employers are now looking at what students have been doing with their time right from the start of their studies.

Apply to those opportunities now, gain those valuable skills and get better prepared for the ever increasing competitive graduate labour market – work experience will help you stand out from the crowd!

This blog was produced as part of a series by the Midlands International Group – a working group of careers professionals from universities across the East and West Midlands regions.

Posted in Postgraduate