There are a wealth of options available for those wanting experience in finance and consultancy, ranging from a couple of weeks to something more long-term. They can help you figure out which sector and company is right for you. There are also plenty of other ways to gain experience while still studying to strengthen your application if you do not manage to secure some formal work experience in time.

Structured opportunities

In today’s job market, gaining a degree and qualifications is only part of being employable. Companies want to hire candidates who have developed skills demonstrating that they can function in a professional manner. Teamwork, problem-solving skills, communication, negotiation and adaptability are all important when working in finance and consulting. Gaining experience such as the opportunities outlined below will improve valuable workplace skills and bolster your CV.

Insight programmes and spring weeks

Lots of investment banks offer insight programmes – sometimes called spring or summer weeks. These opportunities are typically short introductions to a company’s work, aimed at first year students. Some big graduate employers offer insight or open days that work in a similar way to give students a taster of how their business operates.

WHO: Undergraduates, particularly first years
HOW LONG: 1-5 days
WHEN: Usually Easter/Spring

Work shadowing

One of the best ways to discover what a specific role is like is to observe a professional’s working life for a short period of time, usually a day. Work shadowing is typically arranged independently through speculative applications. You could even gain a valuable and influential reference for your CV from this experience!

WHO: First to penultimate year students
HOW LONG: 1-5 days
WHEN: At a time that is convenient for both you and the professional

Internships

Also called work experience or summer placements. Most big graduate recruiters offer paid, structured work experience programmes to penultimate year students for 10-12 weeks during the summer. Internships can also be offered at other times of the year and for different periods of time by smaller employers. In finance and consultancy sectors these opportunities demand a high calibre of applicant and often have an intense application process, which is great practice for job applications.

WHO: First to penultimate year students
HOW LONG: Usually 10-12 weeks
WHEN: Generally during the summer months

Industrial placements

Also known as a ‘sandwich year’ or ‘year in industry’. This is usually part of a four-year degree programme, taken between second and final years, and is a year of working in your chosen sector. It is usually arranged through or in agreement with your university. This kind of placement is a significant commitment and you need to ensure that you arrange it at the right company. This opportunity should be treated more like a job than work experience – take full advantage to network, adjust to the culture and gain a thorough knowledge of the company’s business across all departments.

WHO: Those seeking a placement year as part of their undergraduate degree
HOW LONG: 6-12 months
WHEN: Penultimate year of university course

School leaver schemes

More and more companies and industries are now offering school leaver schemes for A level (or equivalent) students who have decided against university. These types of opportunities tend to be offered by the larger finance and consultancy companies and are structured programmes that often include the chance to work towards professional qualifications.

WHO: A level (or equivalent) students
HOW LONG: Anywhere between 3-7 years
WHEN: On completion of A levels (or equivalent)

Other types of work experience

Outside of formal placements or structured internships, many students might think that their part-time job, volunteering work and extracurricular responsibilities are not important if they do not directly relate to their future employment sector. However, employers want to see evidence of your development; this can come from varied types of experiences, such as those mentioned below, and could provide valuable examples to employers of your personal achievements and promising professionalism.

Volunteering

Volunteering is a great way to develop transferable skills while helping to make a positive difference. If you’re interested in an accountancy career in the not-for-profit or public sector, this could also help you get your foot in the door! Volunteer experience looks great on any CV and there are plenty of opportunities to get involved while you are still at school and university.

WHO: All students
HOW LONG: Varies
WHEN: Varies

Extracurricular activities

Getting involved in college or university clubs, sports teams and societies will substantially strengthen your CV from an early stage, hopefully while you enjoy yourself too! Some schools and universities offer employability awards that further endorse this kind of experience. Becoming the treasurer of a club or society is a brilliant accolade for a finance-orientated CV.

WHO: All students
HOW LONG: The academic year
WHEN: During term time

Open days

Many large finance and consultancy companies offer open days to give students an understanding of their work life and culture. These opportunities might include talks, presentations and sessions designed to enhance the skills these companies are looking for in their recruits. Check out our events calendar on www.insidecareers.co.uk to see if there are any that interest you!

WHO: All students
HOW LONG: A few hours to one day
WHEN: Varies – check the Inside Careers events calendar online to see what’s on offer

Part-time jobs

Part-time jobs or holiday work can help you develop valid skills like teamwork, communication and customer service skills, as well as giving you valuable business insight and experience. If you are able to find work that’s linked to your career choice – even better! Balancing a degree or school/college and a job shows future employers that you have strong time-management skills and can multitask.

WHO: All students aged 16+
HOW LONG: Ongoing
WHEN: Part-time or during school/university holidays

Gap years

Whether you take time out in the UK or abroad you can use this opportunity to gain experience of new roles and working environments, as well as working alongside colleagues from alternative backgrounds to your own. Having the aptitude to arrange and carry out work abroad is very attractive to employers and demonstrates a range of desirable skills as well as a high level of responsibility and independence.

WHO: All students
HOW LONG: Depending on your own availability
WHEN: After final year or before starting university

Careers and recruitment events

Most schools, colleges and universities run careers and recruitment events, giving you the opportunity to meet the companies you are interested in applying to. Refine your ability to sell yourself by networking at these events and discover what recruiters want, straight from the horse’s mouth! Also take advantage of any presentations and workshops on offer to develop your professional skills.

WHO: All students
HOW LONG: A few hours
WHEN: Usually autumn term, some summer events.
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