The Value of Work Experience – What do Employers Say?

Guest BloggerFinal Year, First Year, Postgraduate, Sarah Collins, Second Year, Work Experience

General [non-degree related] experience is really important as it teaches transferable soft skills that we find very valuable in the workplace. Retail and customer service related experience is very useful and enables them to perform better within their graduate roles. A varied mix of different types of part time work would be optimal. It gives them a broader skill set and commercial awareness.”

– Lorien Adey, Midlands Student Recruitment Officer, KPMG.”

Many of you may wonder about the value of Work Experience, especially if it’s not related to the type of work you want to do as a graduate. The quote above is an example of the feedback we get regularly from employers which says specifically that non-degree related experience will help your applications and will also help you settle in better once you find that Placement/Internships/Graduate role you’ve been looking for.

Here in Careers and Placements, we advertise over 30,000 opportunities every year so we’re constantly talking to employers about what they are looking for in terms of skills and experience.

An example I heard during an employer session in the autumn term was a student saying they “only have babysitting” experience. The employer was a consultancy firm and their reply was that if the student could talk down a crying baby/toddler mid-tantrum, they would have learnt valuable skills that could be transferred to calming down stressed clients/colleagues if needed. It’s a simple example, but it highlights how all experience can give you skills that you can relate to roles you’re applying for during application and interview.

Here’s a couple of articles from organisations that work with businesses to recruit graduates, about the types of skills employers are looking for, and a word cloud of the skills they mention:

Reed: Graduate skills – what are employers looking for?

Target Jobs: What are the Top 10 Skills that’ll Get You a Job When You Graduate?

Pareto Law: 5 transferable skills that make every graduate more employable

If you haven’t already, why not go through all your work experience (including those part-time jobs you don’t think are relevant!) and see how many of these words relate to what you’ve already done? If there are skills you haven’t gained through work experience so far, think about all those extracurricular activities, maybe you were/are part of a society, helped organise an event, played/play a team sport, volunteer in your spare time or maybe you have worked as part of a team on a student project. If you haven’t done any of this…it’s never too late to start! Get creative about how you can build these skills and evidence them on your CV/applications.

Take a look at this Work Experience information, which includes blog posts from Aston students about how they’ve used their work experience.

My favourite is Jordan’s story about how he used his experience as a self-employed gardener in his interview with IBM. What a great example of how non-degree related experience can be used during interviews!

Remember we’re here to support you all the way, so get in touch if you need some help finding the best way to showcase your experience.