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Work experience & internships

Work experience is vital

  • to test the water in a particular industry/sector or job
  • to build your CV and make it appealing to employers

Landing work experience takes effort but is worth it

Top tips
  • Create your own luck. Don't wait for internships to be advertised as you'll be competing with everyone else.
  • Start small. Think about a sector or job that interests you and who you know working in those areas. Ask if you can shadow them or do a couple of days' work experience. Write directly to local companies and ask if they will let you come in and observe.
  • Build on the connections you make with the above companies. Start applying for advertised internships on their websites, or continue approaching people directly.
  • Use LinkedIn or other social media to find possible contacts.
  • If you’re a Level 1 student look into our Widening Participation Internship Scheme (WPSIS) - an eight week, fully paid summer internship scheme for eligible students.
  • Placements help you to gain the all-important hands-on industry experience that is directly relevant to your degree. Contact your Placement Adviser to find out more and to check whether your course offers a placement.
  • Volunteer with Brunel Volunteers, on campus or elsewhere. It's a great way to develop office skills and experience of working with specific communities.
  • Ask your careers consultant how to approach firms directly.
  • Don't expect to be paid, especially at first and in certain sectors, such as media and politics.
Some sectors expect you to have work experience
  • Investment banking, for example, expects interested applicants to do Spring Weeks and summer internships, starting at the end of your first year. Look out for these towards the end of Term 1.
  • Law asks for experience in a law firm, or to have visited a local court for examples.
  • The media and politics sectors expect some level of work experience too, as this shows interest and determination.
  • Medicine requires experience of a medical environment, e.g. National Health Service (NHS) or similar clinical setting, care home or hospice. Visit Medschools Online for suggestions.
Bar and retail work counts too

In 2016, 64% of students joining university had already undertaken part-time work. Part-time work, of any kind, is valuable experience and should be present on your CV.

Think of the skills you've developed while working, but also speak to your manager about getting some experience at your employer's head office - in the HR, finance or marketing department for example.

Where to look...

If you are unsure where to start looking, or you feel you are not finding the right opportunities, come in and talk to a Careers Consultant.

When you are ready to apply you will need a good CV, so look at our examples for different subjects and sectors, and then visit the PDC to get advice on presentation and content, and to identify possible gaps in your experience.

 Unpaid work experience

Please check the opportunities in these links carefully and, where work is unpaid, try to ensure you are not being exploited. Come in and talk to a Careers Consultant if you would like some help deciding if an opportunity is right for you.

The Professional Development Centre always encourages employers to pay the national minimum wage (NMW) or above unless they are a charity and legally exempt. While we recognise that in some industries unpaid work experience is considered normal practice we will not advertise these vacancies. 

Further information

Points to remember

  • Match your skills and personal qualities to the job requirements. Market yourself by selling yourself as a solution to the employer’s requirements. Target your attributes to appeal to them.
  • Many large organisations have deadlines for vacation schemes in autumn or early spring. Remember to check websites so that you don't miss these opportunities.
  • Consider small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) as the work can be very varied giving you all-round experience. SMEs may only recruit occasionally – research and networking will help you identify these jobs.
  • Many vacancies are never advertised. Put together a list of organisations that you feel will offer the right kind of experience but are also likely to need your skills.

Resources to help you find work experience

  • Adzuna Search for jobs by UK location or by job category and opt to receive jobs by email alerts
  • AllAboutCareers Search for internships and sandwich placements by sector, location and employer
  • AnyIntern Search for internships by industry and/or location
  • The BigChoice Search by location and industry
  • E4S Job board helping students find part-time and temporary vacancies, internships and graduate jobs during Christmas and summer
  • Enternships Internships and entry-level jobs in starups and small businesses across UK and Europe
  • Fledglings All types of work experience including part-time jobs and internships
  • Give A Grad A Go Work with new and more experienced graduates in a range of industries from media to finance. Registration required
  • Glassdoor Search for jobs by keyword and location. The site gives employer reviews (provided by employees) and salary information
  • Go Think Big Work experience opportunities and advice
  • Gradcracker A specialist website for technology and engineering students
  • Graduate-jobs.com A specialist independent graduate job board where you can set up an account to match your academic subject, ensuring you only view relevant jobs
  • Graduate Recruitment Bureau Offers intern work experience opportunities, part-time jobs and vacation work at locations throughout the UK
  • Graduate Talent Pool Designed to help new and recent graduates from countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) gain real work experience
  • Indeed Search jobs by keyword and location
  • Inside Careers Graduate jobs and placements in Business & Management, City & Finance and Engineering & Technology
  • Inspiring Interns Helps graduates find internships that lead to full-time jobs
  • Internwise Aims to connect employers with students and fresh graduates
  • Joblift works with partner job boards and allows you to search for internships by location
  • Jump in Sport Publishes employment and internships opportunities in sport from around the world. The website also features volunteering opportunities in sport, and tips and advice to help search for jobs
  • LinkedIn Search for UK and international internships
  • Mediargh Offers advice, resources including a jobs board with internship opportunies and blogs to people who are interested in media production
  • Milkround Searchable by location, industry, job role and type
  • National Association of Student Employment Services (NASES) supports student workers
  • PDC Jobs Board Part-time, vacation, and short-term graduate jobs on and off campus
  • PDC on Netvibes A resource bank for part-time jobs bringing in feeds from agencies advertising opportunities that are local to campus, and a list of recruitment agencies close to university
  • PDC Placements Find out who is the Placement and Internship Adviser for your course, how to register, and where to look for placements
  • Placement UK Undergraduate placement and internship opportunities in a range of sectors for European and UK students
  • Prospects Student/graduate careers website with employer vacancies, information on all types of jobs, and job search
  • RateMyPlacement Student work placements and internships, reviews and careers advice
  • Reed advertise vacancies from employers and job sites. Search using the term 'internships' or look at the listing under 'Temporary jobs'
  • Save the Graduate Browse graduate jobs and graduate schemes. Site includes employer profiles and graduate scheme deadlines. Wide range of job sectors covered, search by keyword or by location
  • Step Browse placement and internship opportunities across the UK
  • StudentGems Connecting employers with students and graduates for one-off jobs and projects. You can register, complete a profile, then search and apply for jobs
  • StudentJob Specialist online job portal offering part-time jobs, summer jobs, and internships searchable by region, job type and area of study
  • Student Ladder Placements for first year students, internships for second year students, graduate schemes, and a section on careers with insight on job roles, applications and recruitment processes
  • TARGETjobs Search the database to find internship and work experience opportunities. Use the Work Experience Tracker to help you keep track of what you've learned during your jobs
  • TopIntern.com Dedicated to undergraduate, graduate internships and placements with opportunities across multiple sectors
  • Totaljobs.com Searchable jobs board for part-time, internship and placement vacancies, by sector or location
  • Work Placement Search for placements by sector, job role and location

Equal opportunities

  • EmployAbility Not-for-profit organisation dedicated to assisting students and graduates with all disabilities, including dyslexia and long term health conditions, into employment
  • Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) Not-for-profit organisation enabling ethnic minority students to take up internship opportunities with graduate employers
  • Where women work is a company careers comparison website advertising internships and events only from companies and not from agencies

Other resources, e.g. Equality and disability, are listed in the How can I get help? section.

Voluntary/Charity work

  • Brunel Volunteers Advertises a range of opportunities, will search for specific opportunities on your behalf and help with The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks - formerly the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB)
  • Do-it Searchable database of voluntary opportunities by interest and location. The website also gives details of Volunteer Centres: local agencies that promote and develop volunteering

Working abroad

Use the resources in our Working Internationally section to look for internship or other opportunities. Start your search early as you may need to organise a visa.

  • Absolute Internship Helps university students and graduates gain international work experience by providing internship programs in Beijing, Hong Kong, London, Shanghai and Singapore
  • Erasmus+ offers Brunel students the opportunity to study or undertake work experience in Europe through one of the University's partner institutions
  • BUNAC offers a range of summer camp, work abroad and volunteer abroad programmes
  • ErasmusIntern.org Set up a profile, search and apply for internship vacancies
  • Glassdoor Search for jobs by keyword and location. The site gives employer reviews (provided by employees) and salary information
  • GoinGlobal Contains resources for finding employment at home and abroad, and gives international job openings and internship positions
  • InterExchange Non-profit organisation devoted to promoting cross-cultural awareness through work and volunteer exchange programs
  • International Arts & Artists (IA&A) Internship in the USA Recognised sponsor for the J1 trainee/intern visa that is required for unpaid and paid internships and training programs in the United States. Programme costs vary depending on the length of the internship
  • InternJobs.com A global database of internships and entry-level positions for students, recent graduates and career changers 
  • Internships.com Searchable by category, location and company to find US internships
  • Jump in Sport Publishes employment and internships opportunities in sport from around the world. The website also features volunteering opportunities in sport, and tips and advice to help search for jobs
  • Prospects Country profiles, vacancies, and suggestions on how to prepare for working in another country
  • TARGETjobs (in partnership with AGCAS) Country profiles that cover the job market, applying for jobs, vacancy sources, getting work experience, visa information, and living in the country
  • TeamWork Online Covers a range of North American sports and organisations
  • Xpatjobs Global jobs board

Targeting employers

Employers hate ‘round robin’ applications - where students cut and paste the name of the company without adapting what they write. Currently, more companies say they will almost certainly reject applications that do not demonstrate authenticity and real passion for their business. Applications need solid research, planning and a focused strategy. Employers may receive hundreds of applications per advertised position, so make yours special. Treat each application as if it is your only one.

How to target employers
  • Company websites and brochures. Read case studies of work experience and graduate recruits to see if you have the skills and qualities that the firm normally expects. Make sure you are attracted by the work itself, not just impressed by the name of the firm
  • Publications such as the Prospects and TARGETjobs series list larger recruiters who offer graduate training schemes; these firms are likely to offer internships or other work experience. You can pick up free directories from the PDC in the Autumn term
  • Other useful sources of employer information include the Financial TimesHillingdon Business Directory, and Brunel Library resources
  • Our Industry A-Z provides links to specialist recruitment agencies and other organisations for specific work sectors
  • Jobcentre Plus may not top your list of vacancy sources, but firms are urged to advertise roles here, so it’s worth a look
  • National newspapers are a good source - see the Paperboy website. Specialist journals and regional or local newspapers often have excellent vacancy pages
  • The Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) site includes a database of agencies searchable by job type and location - click on 'Members'. You can also search ‘graduates’ for jobs at the right level. Popular sites include Reed and Monster
  • Recruitment fairs are held throughout the year at various universities. Employers set up a stand, usually bring graduate trainees, answer questions about their companies, and give details of available vacancies (generally graduate or sandwich placements). It's also an opportunity to ask about possible work experience opportunities. Careers fairs at other universities are listed on the Prospects website.