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How to: earn a degree and build up work experience

Once upon a time, finishing university and gaining a degree meant adding invaluable letters to the end of your name, which almost instantly guaranteed you a job. These days, however, prospects for a recent graduate are markedly bleaker.

Rising university places have left more and more of us with degrees, so whilst having a qualification is helpful, it doesn’t complete your CV. Instead, browse current job adverts and the most common prerequisite you’ll read is: “Must have relevant work experience”.

Somehow you’re supposed to have both experience and a degree to qualify for positions, and it’s a situation that’s left thousands of students feeling utterly baffled.
With commitment, though, it’s possible to get the best of both worlds. We’ve put together some top tips on building work experience and earning a degree at the same time, so that you can enter the job market as a fresh-faced but knowledgeable graduate.

Work whilst you study
If working during university is a financial necessity, remember you don’t have to stick to traditional educational routes. Undertaking an online degree will let you earn necessary qualifications around a full-time job – you’ll be able to manage your debt and have one foot in the door come graduation.
Even if you don’t need the income, there are plenty of other benefits that come with working your way through four years of study. Get a part-time job which gives you responsibilities and the chance to develop new skills, and you’ll have quality work experience to bolster your CV.
It’s no easy feat to balance shifts with study sessions and your social life, but once you’ve got it right you’ll graduate with a proven track record of your stellar time management abilities.
Take advantage of internships
A placement with an organisation relevant to your future career plan is the perfect way of gaining work experience. In fact, The Telegraph reported that UK students who completed an internship during their time at university were three times more likely to get top jobs after graduation.
Providing an opportunity to see diverse workplace environments and get a hands-on feel for different jobs, the advantages are clear. The only downside – and it’s a big one – is the pay. Or lack of payment, to be exact.
Most internships are voluntary, and although a rare few offer some compensation, you’ll be lucky to find one that covers travel costs. Your best bet is to ask your university for advice on available funds and managing finances.
Make the most of networking
Studying and partying aside, university is also the perfect place to start networking. Look around – the people sat next to you during classes could one day be your colleagues.
It might seem like jumping the gun, but set up a LinkedIn profile during your last couple of years and follow your fellow students and lecturers. You never know when a connection might come in handy!
Join a society or campus group related to your interests – for example, writing for the student newspaper if you’re keen to pursue journalism – and you’ll meet like-minded individuals. You could find yourself creating a support system that lasts throughout university and your future career.
Although difficult, it is possible to build up relevant work experience whilst studying for a degree. Taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way – be it part-time employment or a voluntary job – is the most important and useful thing you can do to create a winning CV.