How to get work experience for your personal statement

You've worked out what you want to study at university. You're excited and relieved to have made that big decision.

But now you're faced with the prospect of writing your personal statement. Arghhhh!

You've heard here and there that it's a good idea to write about your work experience.

But what work experience should you be writing about? And, how do you get it?

How to get work experience for your personal statement

Start with the subject you've decided you want to study. Break it down into three areas:

1. What you're actually going to be learning

2. The skills that are involved

3. What careers people go into after studying your subject

Now, I'd hope that you've got quite a clear idea of the answer to number 1, but the other two might take some research on your behalf.

I'll give you an example: Geography. It's what I studied at university so it's easy for me to talk about.

What are you actually going to be learning?

Look at the prospectus or course outline for your subject. For Geography, it will be split into Human and Physical and give you lots of topic areas that might range from Volcanology to the Social Geography of Latin America.

This is all very broad, but as you go through your time at university you will be given the chance to specialise more and more.

Pick out the things that are listed in the course outline that interest you most and write them down.

What are the skills involved?

Think about what studying your subject will actually involve. Will you have to do lots of numerical analysis? Will you have to give presentations? Will you have to do large amounts of reading? You'll almost certainly have to summarise large quantities of information and create logical arguments.

All of those skills were involved in studying Geography. If you're studying maths the range of skills may be smaller, similarly if you're studying English.

If you don't know what's involved, find out. Call the admissions tutor at your preferred university or ask your teachers for that subject at school

What careers do people go into after studying your subject?

When I studied Geography everyone said “Oh, you're going to be a teacher then.”

At the time that wasn't my intention, although I did end up becoming a Geography teacher later. I just thought it showed a severe lack of imagination on the part of most of the general population.

I just googled what people do when they've got a Geography degree to see what would come up. The answer was very varied. Anything from becoming a weather forecaster to town planning. There are also lots of generic jobs like the business analyst / project manager role I did at Tesco straight after leaving university.

For you, it might be a lot more straight forward. If you want to study medicine most of the people will become doctors. If you want to study law most people will become solicitors or barristers. But, if you're studying history or archaeology it is probably more complicated.

What next?

Now you know what you'll be studying, the skills involved and what people end up doing put all this together to narrow down to the kind of work experience you're most interested in. So, if you want to study English you might decide that you want to get publishing experience.

Now you have to go about finding and contacting publishing firms to see if they'll take you on for a week or so. If people say no, be persistent. Keep trying and eventually someone will say yes!

What if no one will give me work experience?

If you can't get work experience in your chosen field, then try to get experience in a field that uses the same skills as your chosen degree course. So, if you want to study maths and you know you want to be a banker but you can't get a place, try accountants instead. You'll still be working with money and numbers so you'll get similar experience that you can write about.

How are you going to go about getting work experience?

Leave a comment below telling me what you'd like to study at university and what steps you're taking to get relevant work experience. If you've already got work experience, help others out by explaining how you got it.

 

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