What is work experience?
Work experience is a valuable way to develop your skills, knowledge and experience in a practical setting. It can help you to build a useful network of contacts and provide evidence for future employers during their application processes.
Most employers will expect to see examples of work experience on your CVs and application forms, showing them where you have developed and used the skills and capabilities they are looking for.
When work experience is mentioned, you might assume that means an internship, but there are many other ways to gain experience in the workplace, and employers will be just as interested in your volunteering as they are in any paid work you have undertaken.
‘Internship’ is an increasingly common term, used to describe a fixed period of, usually paid and structured, work experience within an organisation.
The length of an internship can vary from a few weeks up to a year, and they are often used by large companies to assess you for potential future recruitment. This means that many interns have opportunities to work on real projects, gaining a useful insight into the firm and role.
Students typically undertake internships during the Summer vacation, although opportunities exist throughout the year, depending on the sector and employer. Graduate internships are also available.
Insight programmes and Spring Weeks
These are structured programmes often aimed at first years, lasting between one day and a week and usually taking place during the Easter vacation. Typically, you’ll get the opportunity to listen and take part in presentations, skills seminars, interactive workshops, group activities and work shadowing. There may also be social events and networking opportunities where you can talk to recent graduates and interns.
As well as being an opportunity to find out more about a company and if the work will suit you, some are also used as a feeder for their internship programmes.
Jobs that fall into this category tend to be casual, paid positions in sectors such as retail or tourism.
Although a summer job is usually not as structured as an internship, it provides a useful opportunity to develop your skills and the experience can be very relevant to your career plans if you choose wisely. For example, supervising children at a summer camp will be useful if you are considering teaching, while working as a sales assistant in a high street store will give you excellent customer service experience and help to develop your business awareness.
If you hope to work abroad after you graduate, obtaining a summer job in the country you are planning to target will be a useful starting point.
Many students need to work alongside their studies to supplement their income.
As with summer work, part-time roles will help you to develop your skills and build valuable experience. Keep a log of the skills you use and experiences you have – it will be a useful reminder when you start applying for graduate employment.
This involves a day or more observing a person in their role and can give you a real insight into the work. These opportunities are unpaid and unadvertised, so you’ll need to use your initiative and approach someone directly.
Work shadowing can potentially be undertaken in the UK or overseas, depending on the willingness of the individual and their organisation to host you.
Volunteering involves working with an organisation (usually a charity) or an individual on a voluntary, unpaid basis. It can offer personal satisfaction as well as an opportunity to build relevant skills or experience. This type of work experience is often highly valued by employers.
Volunteering can be a great way to make useful contacts and develop your career, and opportunities can be based in the UK or overseas.
Capstone and Links projects
As part of the curriculum, some LSE students are required to undertake a consultancy project on a selected topic relevant to a client organisation. This known as a Capstone or Links project.
Conducting research and presenting your findings to the client organisation will give you useful experience and an opportunity to make some relevant contacts.
Where can I find work experience and how do I apply?
Once you’re familiar with the different work experience options available, such as internships, volunteering etc., you can start to explore where to look for opportunities and how to apply for them. There are many online resources that will be useful to you, as well as events on campus and beyond.
To find out more about any visa restrictions on work experience, contact LSE’s International Student Visa Advice Team (ISVAT).
Internships are normally advertised, and in some sectors e.g. financial services, application deadlines can fall as early as the preceding December.
The following resources provide advice and information on application deadlines, interviews etc.:
- CareerHub – updated daily with internships, including those from smaller companies.
- Our employment sectors section - choose a profile that interests you and view the ‘Routes In’ section for sector specific advice
- Our internships fair, which takes place every Autumn on campus
- InternJobs – hosts hundreds of global internship advertisements
- Prospects advice on finding and applying for internships, including a list of organisations offering international internships.
Insight programmes/Spring Weeks
Our top tip is to apply as early as possible and don’t wait for deadlines. The following resources will be useful:
To find out more about the types of summer jobs available, including Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), summer camps, temping and event stewarding, visit our Summer jobs page. Other useful resources include:
There are many opportunities for part-time work available, both on and off campus. For a list of ideas and useful links for further research, visit our Part-time work page. For part-time job vacancies, visit:
Work shadowing opportunities are rarely advertised so you will need to take a speculative approach, identifying an organisation and/or individual and making contact with them directly. Visit the following pages to find out more:
Voluntary positions vary widely, but the LSE Volunteer Centre advertises a range of opportunities and offers advice on how to find a position and how to use the experience to develop your employability skills. The following resources provide useful information about volunteering opportunities and how to apply:
- LSE Volunteer Centre
- CareerHub – regularly updated with volunteering opportunities
- Our volunteering fairs in Michaelmas and Lent terms – watch out for publicity
- Our Volunteer Centre Co-ordinator has regular appointments during term time if you need advice. Log in to CareerHub to book a volunteering appointment
- Prospects volunteering page provides information, advice and opportunities for volunteering at home and abroad.