This guide will help answer the question – why is work experience important for a CV? It will offer a few tips on how to get the most out of any work experience you find, as well as how you should be including the information on your CV
Choosing what to do for a career can be quite a daunting task. With so many options out there, it’s difficult to know what you will be good at or what you’ll really enjoy. You can read a lot about what certain jobs or careers consist of, or you can ask family members or friends who have more insight than you. But, doing some work experience is the best way to find out about a job as you’ll get first-hand experience in what it’s really like and how it suits your strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, how it motivates and drives you.
As well as this, working in a new environment with a range of people in various roles can really help develop you personally, and help develop both your hard and soft skills.
Employers really value your willingness to work
Employers really value work experience. Including any work experience you’ve done on your CV is a good idea because it shows that you’re keen to find out what you’re most interested in and you want to develop yourself. It also shows the employer that while you mightn’t have been employed much before, you’re not workshy as you’re willing to put the hours in without necessarily being paid.
Types of work experience
Internships: these are where you will temporarily be employed by an organisation with the intention of gaining work experience there. In return, you will be expected to pull your weight and work productively for them.
Shadowing: this might be a little less hands-on. You will be watching an individual or a team in what they do day-to-day. Shadowing opportunities tend to be unpaid as while you will get great insight into what a role involves or what a certain organisation does, they mightn’t have the time to get you very involved in the work.
How to find work experience
Your careers service at university will be the best place to start when looking for work experience opportunities. Speak to a career advisor there if you’re not sure what you should be looking for. You can also find opportunities on recruitment websites like Reed, Indeed, Monster or LinkedIn. If you can’t find anything there, there’s nothing to stop you from asking around. Introduce yourself to people in the industry you’re interested in and ask if they know of any opportunities available. When it comes to employment (including unpaid opportunities) word-of-mouth is the most common route to getting into roles.
Also bear in mind that much of the experience you will be gaining will be the development of your soft skills (also known as transferable skills) like time management, teamwork, communication, organisational skills etc, so the role or organisation mightn’t particularly matter. Try to embrace whatever opportunity you get even if it’s in a completely different industry to what you’re interested in. Generally speaking, the more you put into your experience, the more you will get out of it.
If you don’t have much or any experience in the field you’re interested in, it may also be a good idea to include volunteer work as well as unrelated internships you’ve completed. Volunteer work shows that you’re keen to get involved in causes that are important to you, and again, it demonstrates that you’re not workshy
How to get the most out of work experience
It might be obvious, but the main thing you can do to get the most from your experience is to get involved in as much activity as you can. It might feel a lot at the time, but it will help develop your confidence with different kinds of tasks. As well as this, work on the relationships you build at the organisation. These might be valuable connections you can make use of in the future. Making a good impression will really help later down the line. And, they might even ask you to come back for paid employment.
During or shortly after your experience, make sure you jot down all your duties and achievements, no matter how minor they are. You can list these on your CV wherever they are relevant.
Tips for including work experience on your CV
When detailing your work experiences on your CV, list them in reverse-chronological order.
- The name of the company
- The dates you had your work experience there
- Your title if you had one, or a brief title for your experience – eg Internal Comms Intern at Barclays or Shadowed Lead Project Manager at Nationwide.
- List of duties
- Any achievements
Like with the rest of your CV, make sure you read through your new section thoroughly to ensure you’ve caught any typos or sentences that don’t make much sense. The best way to do this is to read it aloud. Also, consider giving your CV to a friend or family member to read through it with fresh eyes. They’re far more likely to spot mistakes or inconsistencies in what you’re saying.
- Use keywords. It’s often the case that recruiters or hiring managers will be skimming through a huge pile of CVs and will only spend a few seconds on each. Remember this when drafting yours and focus on the keywords that they have used in the job description for the role you’re going for.