How can international students find work experience during COVID-19?

There’s no doubt that having work experience dramatically increases your employability, but where do you start as an international student? We suggest getting started in your first year of study if possible but gaining quality work experience at any stage will enhance your employability. As an international student currently navigating study and career options during COVID-19, you may wonder where to start, so we’ve put together a guide to get you started.

Why start work experience?

Work experience gives you exposure to working cultures, in the same way you learnt about academic culture by studying in a different country, it’s also vital to learn how the working culture is different so you’re prepared. Having work experience shows you’re adaptable and helps present your skills to employers regardless of the country you start work in. Work experience is a great way to gain soft skills and can be transferable to several opportunities. Unfortunately, a qualification alone is not enough to impress employers, you need to show them how you can transfer what you’ve learnt into real life skills. So, lets get started.

How can you find experience during COVID?

Firstly, if you haven’t already done this, speak to your university careers team. They have expert knowledge and are there to support you during your studies. Most universities also provide some career support after graduation but to make the most of the service, get in touch while you’re studying. Start by trying to find experience that relates to your course or industry, but any work experience that gives you the opportunity to develop key skills or commercial experience is key to enhance your CV.

While the pandemic may have made face-to-face interactions and some in house experiences harder to access, there are still several avenues available. It’s important to consider all the options, including volunteer positions which can often be overlooked. Employer’s won’t be interested in whether the work experience was paid or not, what is important is what you have learnt from the role and how it relates to your career. In the current climate, a volunteer role may also be more attractive for employers working through COVID with less resources. With the right company, you can find opportunities to be involved in a real working environment which won’t just help with applications but also for your introduction into the working world. Take a look at the following sites for ideas and volunteering opportunities;



-Volunteering England

-Volunteering Matters

Speaking to your careers team will help you determine where you can find the most suitable opportunities and they can give you practical advice for local volunteering or structured experiences such as internships and placements. Some universities even have dedicated opportunities for international students such as UWE Bristol’s International talent Internship Scheme. The video below shares the experience of two international students who found opportunities through International Talent. Prospects also have an online tool to help your search for experience in your area and Placement Year International have adaptable ideas for virtual and future global placements.

Things to consider

Most international students are allowed to work up to 20 hours per week during term time, and full-time during vacations. While many things have been interrupted this year, it doesn’t mean your work experience has to be. Check your visa conditions at the UKCISA website before applying for any roles so you know which you’re eligible for. Don’t let your international status restrict you, there may be some limitations, but these can be worked around for the right experience. Lastly, don’t forget the benefits of networking. This means approaching employers and contacts directly, which can be done through LinkedIn. Making connections with companies you have interest in, learning about their company culture and engaging with opportunities they have will push you closer to your goals as there will be a range of experience available through your contacts. For full access to the latest news on employability for international student, register with GradLink today!

By Jen Garmston Published: Nov 18,2020

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