Almost all jobs require some sort of previous experience and it is becoming more common for school leaver schemes and placement opportunities to expect some level of experience too, but what if you have none? Good news – work experience can be many things, you just need to think outside of the box a little and know how to present your life experiences as relevant to the position you are applying for. Read on to find out how!

Experiences that could be relevant when applying for an internship, school leaver scheme or placement opportunity can include:

  • A time you have achieved success or impressive results, academic or otherwise.
  • A way in which you tried an alternative career path prior to the area you are now pursuing.
  • Networking, presentations or career events you have attended relevant to your chosen industry.

You can use the necessity of gaining some relevant experience as an opportunity to explore new areas for you, make a positive difference in the world, grow as a person and to figure out what it is that you find fulfilling. Enhancing your employability can take many forms; maybe you have already had some of the following experiences already, but if not, you can certainly have fun doing so.

There are many types of work experience that you can find yourself doing without any sort of formal application, for example, student committee roles, volunteer work or personal projects. There is no defined way to gain relevant experience, so think carefully about what you have already done up to this point and what you might like to actively pursue in the future.


Volunteering is a great way to develop employability skills while using your time to make a positive difference. When volunteering you will complete tasks or work on projects that will hone and develop your employability skills. You most likely won’t be paid but you do have the benefits of flexible hours, no notice period and no obligation to work any set hours – plus you will grow as a person through your altruistic efforts!

There are plenty of volunteering opportunities out there catered specifically to students. You can find one by completing your own research or call into your careers service and find out if they already have any established connections with charities or local organisations that you could benefit from. Your local council may also have some good leads on community projects you could get involved with.

Part-time jobs

Quite an obvious one, but even if your part-time job isn’t directly relevant to your career choice, it can still help you to gain relevant skills and experience. The practical experience of paid work demonstrates that you are an independent, punctual and reliable person. Juggling work and study commitments also shows self-discipline and a strong work ethic.

Holding down a part-time job will mean that you will have experienced working as part of a team, communicating professionally and dealing with a certain amount of pressure – all qualities that recruiters love to see evidence of. Keep a record of your responsibilities and translate these into skills that are relevant to the industry you are applying to. It is also impressive if you can show progression from when you began the job to a more senior position as this will suggest leadership qualities and manager potential.

Clubs and societies

Being involved in clubs and societies at school and university is a good idea for you and your future career – you get to pursue your interests and have something to put on your CV and application forms: win-win! You will come across as a well-rounded candidate if you can show that you managed your studies while participating in events outside of your degree or subject areas. Whether it’s sport or chess, a range of interests show diversity.

Having these experiences will also equip you to better answer questions about competencies such as teamwork and organisational skills. Make the most of your membership by actively participating and initiating activities rather than just attending. If you strive to make improvements in your club or society recruiters will be impressed by your initiative and enthusiastic approach. Challenging yourself in this capacity is a healthy and relatively safe way to find out about how you might perform and react in the workplace.

Self-directed learning

Taking a proactive approach to your own development and deciding what you need to focus on outside of your formal education is a very attractive quality to recruiters and will also benefit you personally for years to come if you maintain the habit. The first step is identifying what gaps are in your skill set and the second step is finding out how and where you can learn these skills. It is helpful to focus on a particular career sector and specific companies that you are interested in applying to when figuring out what it is that you need to learn.

You can start researching employers, using the Inside Careers Employer Directory, and then create a list of the skills your prospective employers require in order to obtain work experience or a school leaver scheme. You could find the answers at your school or university, for example if the company requires computing or language skills then make sure you are taking these modules or classes. There are also lots of free or affordable online courses that you can use to teach yourself coding, languages or economics. Maintaining personal projects such as a website also prove that you are able to dedicatedly teach yourself new skills to a visible standard.

Overseas experiences

Are you planning on taking a gap year or have you spent a summer travelling? Great news: you can use travel experiences to enhance your CV and applications too. Long periods of travelling take serious organisational skills, communication skills, self-motivation and adaptability. Independent travel is an experience that was not organised through a travel agent or a package holiday. Arranging such an experience requires confidence, which is an attractive quality for many employers. If you still have a few school or university summers left ahead of you or are planning a gap year, you could consider organising some of the following opportunities on your travels:

  • Volunteering abroad
  • Overseas internships
  • Working overseas.

Taking the time to organise and complete any of the above will show that you are a very capable individual and that you have experienced another culture in an occupational capacity as well as for your own leisure.

What are you waiting for?

All of these experiences will benefit you on a personal level as well as helping you to decide on and achieve your dream job – so there’s nothing to lose! Get out there and get involved with as many of the above as possible. School and university are a great time to expand your horizons, learn through trial and error and enjoy yourself while doing so.

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