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Work experience & internships

Work experience is vital

  • to test the water to see if you like 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 with them. 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 find out about the Widening Participation Internship Scheme (WPSIS). An 8 week, fully paid internship scheme for disadvantaged students.
  • 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.

Try looking at these internship/work experience websites.

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 or 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 firstly look at our examples for different subjects and sectors, and then visit the PDC to get advice to help with presentation and content and identify possible gaps in your experience.

Unpaid work experience

Please check out 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 to decide if an opportunity is right for you.

The Professional Development Centre (PDC) always encourages employers to pay 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 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 opportunities

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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 to ensure 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 is designed to help new and recent graduates from countries within the European Economic Area (EEA) gain real work experience
  • Inside Careers Graduate jobs and placements in Business & Management, City & Finance and Engineering & Technology
  • Inspiring Interns help graduates find internships that lead to full-time jobs
  • Internwise Aims to connect employers with students and fresh graduates
  • 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) allows students to use another institution's student employment service during the vacation
  • 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 student placement and intern opportunities in the UKa 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 connects 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 and summer jobs, internships that is searchable by region, job type and area of study
  • Student Ladder Placements for first year students, internships for 2nd year students, graduate schemes, and a section on careers with insight on job roles, applications and recruitment
  • 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 is dedicated to undergraduate, graduate internships and placements with opportunities across multiple sectors
  • Totaljobs.com Searchable job board for part-time, internship or 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 or 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
  • Wherewomenwork is a company careers comparison website advertising internships and events only from companies and not from agencies

Voluntary/Charity work

  • Brunel Volunteers advertise 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 the Working Internationally section to look for internship or other opportunities:

  • Absolute Internship help university students and graduates to 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
  • Going Global contains resources for finding employment at home and abroad and gives international job openings and internship positions
  • InterExchange is a non-profit organisation devoted to promoting cross-cultural awareness through work and volunteer exchange programs
  • International Arts & Artists (IA&A) Internship in the USA is a 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 job board

Targeting employers

Employers hate ‘round robin’ applications where students cut and paste the name of the company without adapting what they write and in the current climate are even more demanding meaning they will almost certainly reject applications that do not demonstrate a 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 and 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 copies from the PCC in the Autumn term
  • Other useful sources of employer information include the Financial Times, Hillingdon Business Directory, and Brunel Library resources
  • Exploring Career options gives 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. Specialist journals and regional or local newspapers often have excellent vacancy pages. Look at the online pages for newspapers and journals and local newspapers on the Paperboy website
  • Recruitment agencies. 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 on ‘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 placement. It's also an opportunity to ask about other work experience opportunities. Careers fairs at other universities are listed on the Prospects website- choose the 'Careers advice' option.