Work experience and volunteering

Work experience, placements, and volunteering are a great way to demonstrate your enthusiasm, knowledge, and passion for your chosen subject area in your personal statement.

But, with the current restrictions on our lives, carrying this out in-person can be difficult. 

Don’t worry, unis and colleges understand this and will take it into consideration, and there are lots of other ways you can gain useful experience.

Research is key

It’s important to research your chosen profession to  make sure it’s right for you, especially for vocational courses. In your personal statement you need to give evidence that you have a good understanding of what it would be like to study your chosen subject, and have a realistic idea of what a career in that area involves.

There are a number of ways you can carry out research:

  • Virtual work experience: Some organisations are offering a virtual experience and it can be equally as valuable as doing it in-person – ask around any you’re interested in to find out if this is a possibility.  
  • Talk to the professionals: Why not have a phone or video call with people working in the field you’re interested in? You can ask any questions you might have and get a real insight into what they do on a daily basis.
  • Speak to students: Who better to tell you what it’s really like to study your chosen subject – chat to students on Unibuddy to find out. Unis often have student ambassadors at their events too – talk to students on similar courses to the ones you’re interested in to find out about their experiences. You can search for events here.
  • Professional bodies’ websites: Check out websites for the professions you’re interested in – some give useful hints and tips on how to give evidence of your experience when you can’t do it in-person.

Take an online activity

While you’re at home, there are lots of online activities which will expand your knowledge and give you a broader understanding of a subject. Some examples which could help you include:

  • attending a virtual event or online lecture
  • reading a book or article
  • watching a documentary    
  • listening to a podcast
  • taking an online tutorial
  • visiting a virtual art gallery or museum

Don’t just list what you’ve done though. Think about and analyse your experience, and then link it into evidence in your personal statement:

  • What did you learn?
  • What did you find particularly interesting or inspiring?
  • What does it tell you about the profession?
  • Did you find it challenging?

These are all great ways of building up evidence of your interest in your chosen subject. Writing about your online experiences and reflecting on them in your personal statement will help demonstrate your passion and dedication for your chosen subject and course.

You already have skills…

Also remember, you’ll already have a lot of the skills you would use in the workplace – try to think more broadly about these – for example, teamworking experience you’ve gained when completing a school or college project, or communication skills you’ve learnt and how you’ve used them. How are these relevant and useful to the courses you’re interested in?

Activities planned for the future?

If you have activities planned in the future, it’s fine to mention these in your personal statement and explain what you’re hoping to get out of it. But life is unpredictable at the moment. If it doesn’t happen, do something else to demonstrate your interest in your subject instead – for example, an online project. Show you’ve used you initiative to fill that time wisely.

Even though your plans to get work experience might have to change, try to think creatively. There are plenty of other options to research and gain more knowledge of your subject and course, and to give evidence of your commitment and enthusiasm.