Each faculty has a dedicated Employability team that is here to support you with placements, internships and projects. In addition to reading the information provided here, take a look at the relevant Moodle page and contact your Employability Team for further information.
|Faculty ||Moodle page||Email address|
|Arts, Design and Media||ADM Careers+ ||ADMCareers@bcu.ac.uk|
|Business, Law and Social Sciences||BLSS Careers+||BLSSCareers@bcu.ac.uk|
|Computing Engineering and the Built Environment||CEBE Careers+||CEBECareers@bcu.ac.uk|
|Health, Education and Life Sciences||Contact your faculty office||HELSCareers@bcu.ac.uk|
What are the benefits of gaining work experience?
Research shows that you are more likely to gain a graduate job than those without relevant experience – you may even be offered a job with the employer you have worked for.
It helps you to explore and test your job ideas and see if a career is right for you.
It enables you to gain and develop transferable skills such as team working, communication and commercial awareness.
Experiences enhance your CV and will give you more to talk about during applications and interviews.
It can provide you with references and letters of recommendation from employers.
What type of work experience can you do?
Work experience can range from the short-term (one to two days) to the long-term (e.g. a placement year) and can be paid or unpaid.
Sandwich and industrial placements: A fixed-term period of assessed work that forms part of your degree. These are normally advertised and entry is competitive.
Work experience / Placements: Usually refers to a shorter period of experience, typically one to four weeks. Short work experience placements are usually unpaid although you should consider discussing payment with an employer if it lasts longer. This type of experience is rarely advertised and may require you to approach an employer directly.
Work shadowing: Similar to work experience, this is an informal type of unpaid experience where you shadow or observe a member of staff performing their job. It normally takes place over a few days but can extend over a longer period of time. This can be valuable in helping you find out more about a job or a career.
Internship: A more formal placement in which you take on real responsibilities. They can be both paid and unpaid and typically last from 4 to 12 weeks during University holidays. Graduate internships may last for up to a year. Internships are usually advertised so entry can be very competitive, with a formal application process and interview.
What are the steps to finding work experience?
Not sure what you want to do? Think about broad occupational areas and try short placements in these to give you an insight into different roles.
Identifying an opportunity: Think about likely career interests and long-term goals you may have and skills you want to develop.
Balancing work and study: Think about how much time you can spare for work in addition to studying.
Making contact: Some companies will advertise placements but most work experience is found informally. Start by contacting the company reception and ask for the details of who deals with work experience requests. Sending your CV and a cover letter is a good approach but don’t be afraid to pick up the phone too.
Making your request: Be clear what type of experience you are looking for and when you would be available. Explain what you know about their company to show you have a genuine interest in them. Remember to highlight what skills and personal qualities you can offer them too.
Being persistent: You may not hear back from an employer straight away but don’t give up. Follow up your initial approach with a polite email or phone call if you haven’t heard anything within two weeks. If you haven’t heard back after two or three approaches, it may be time to move on to another company.
Preparing for an interview: You may be asked to come along and meet the employer before starting. This can be on an informal or formal basis, so it’s good to prepare as you would do for a job interview and research the company thoroughly before you meet.
Useful places to look for a placement
You can find advertised placements and internships on numerous websites:
Rate My Placement - read student reviews and ratings of internships. Also advertises a variety of opportunities with larger companies.
BCU Online Jobs Board - wide selection of work experience, internship and placement opportunities are available on the BCU Jobs Board.
Prospects - lists student and graduate internships and sandwich placements.
Milkround - student and graduate internships with larger national employers.
E4S - site specialising in student jobs and internships.
Step - UK’s leading organiser of paid student internships and placements.
BVSC - large database of Birmingham-based volunteering opportunities across hundreds of sectors.
Time bank - local organisation specialising in mentoring and youth work opportunities.
AIESEC - specialises in internships abroad for students and graduates.
When you are looking for companies to approach for work experience you may want to use directories as part of your research. Some useful resources are:
Yellow Pages / Yell.com - UK’s largest business directory, enabling you to identify companies by product or service and location. Searches are free at
Google Maps - if location is important, Google Maps, found at google.co.uk is a useful tool for identifying businesses and organisations close to where you live, work or study.
Key British Enterprises - A guide to the UK’s top trading companies providing location, parent company information, export data, and a brief section on company financial data. Available via BCU Library home page.
Birmingham Central Library Business Insight - This specialist business library houses a wide selection of national and international business directories, databases and journals. Contact 0121 303 4531 or visit their website here.
Birmingham City University Libraries - there are links to a wide range of databases and websites providing quality business information. Look through the Business Subject Pages via Birmingham City University Library home page
Business directories provide names, addresses and contact details of organisations. They may be specific to a particular industry or specific to a region or country.
To identify which directories are appropriate for you, look online via the iCity Library tile or speak to a BCU Librarian.
If you need some more information or some inspiration of where to go on placement, take a look at some more resources to help you on your journey to becoming more employable.
Make a good impression
If you haven’t managed to find out in advance what the dress code is, you may want to wear more conservative outfits initially, until you figure out what is appropriate.
Be punctual – arriving late for work will appear unprofessional. Work experience placements are often stepping stones for future employment so it’s in your interest to make a positive impression.
Build relationships with people - smile, be polite and greet everyone. Identify colleagues whose work interests you and actively ask for their advice. It may be possible to organise some work shadowing or do a short project for them – just ask.
Show your enthusiasm and reliability by paying attention to detail and take plenty of notes during the induction/training sessions.
Make a real effort to fit into the organisation - once you are aware of the culture try to work within their guidelines.
Be sure of your responsibilities and ask for a review with your Manager. You should have a job description or – at the very least – a list of duties that you are expected to perform on a day to day basis. If not, find out what is expected of you to avoid any misunderstandings.
Ask sensible questions – don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re not sure of something or want to find out more.
The 4 P’s
Making a good impression right from the beginning is essential; remember the 4P’s throughout your time at the organisation:
While you’re on placement
Listen to advice and observe – placements provide the ideal learning environment. Much of what you learn and observe by watching and listening to others will be transferable to future work scenarios.
Be prepared to speak up, get involved and push yourself – make it clear that you’re eager to take on extra responsibility such as managing a small project.
Ask for regular feedback to find out what you are doing well and what you can improve on.
Record your experiences – the work you have done and the challenges you encountered. Reflecting on what you have done, and the skills and attributes you have developed, will be extremely useful for future job applications.
Be diplomatic and remain sensitive to the staff and culture of the organisation. Remember that everyone you meet during your placement could be a potential contact that will come in handy in the future.
Be prepared to work hard – give your all. Work that might seem to be menial or serve little purpose will help to build your employability skills.
Be proactive – proactive behaviour will demonstrate that you’re really interested and keen to learn. If you run out of things to do ask if there’s anything else that needs to be done, it won’t go unnoticed.
Before you leave
Thank the employer for your experience, find out who will give you a reference and ask for their contact details.
Ensure you have the contact details of colleagues who may act as mentors, sources of advice, or help in finding employment in the future.
Ask for final feedback on your performance. Make sure you are completely clear about what you have gained from the placement in terms of skills, experience and personal development. Get your employers perspective on what you need to do to further develop your employability in order to be successful in this field.
When it’s all over
Keep your contacts warm - Send a follow up email to your colleagues thanking them for the opportunity.
Keep in touch with your closest colleagues and manager - they may be willing to keep you up to date with latest developments, let you know about any suitable openings, advise you on your next steps and/or provide you with a reference.
Evaluate your experience - Reflect - what went well, what did not go well and what area or skills you can improve upon, linking back to your reflective journal. Think about what you actually achieved and particular outcomes.
Update your CV and LinkedIn profile to reflect the skills and experience you gained - This along with your placement journal can help you answer questions on application forms and during job interviews.
Plan your next steps - After evaluating your work experience, you may conclude: