Work experience – thank yourself in 20 years’ time!


Thanks to Jenna Kelly, Vice President of Edinburgh University Students’ Association, for this great post celebrating the potential in every opportunity. A fantastic way to start off our #ExperienceWorks campaign!


Work experience can be selling lemonade to neighbours, part-time jobs, tutoring primary school science, volunteering at homeless shelter, summer internships, being treasurer for a society.

Work experience is – put simply – anything that gifts us with skills and experience for working life. The world is your salmon*.

*Oysters distress me a little.


Since the age of 14, I’ve been immersed in the working world, when I began teaching piano. At the time, my one and only motive was a desire to pay for my own school lunches, and so the cash-in-hand at the close of every lesson was the sole benefit.

8 years, and endless jobs, later, I can see that my younger self had started a business. One that marketed itself, set a price point, formulated a growth strategy and a carefully executed exit strategy.

Since then, I’ve transitioned from working in corner shops, to receptionist roles, to the Royal Gallery for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Volunteer positions have presented themselves in the dozens, and extra-curricular courses and events have provided an alternative channel by which to learn skills for life and work.

This may seem like an attempt to self-reward; it’s not. Every week I acquire a working quality that I didn’t previously have, the process never ends.

This is merely a way by which to show that we don’t need to spend every waking moment at university aiming for a 1st (I didn’t get one, FYI) and secure that graduate scheme with one of the Big 4. On the other side of the coin, there are many experiences embedded within our course content that are transferable to on the ground work experience; we shouldn’t miss those, shouldn’t neglect the academic core of our university opportunities.

In summation, there is no right or wrong way to gain work experience. My advice to you would be, don’t get tunnel-vision, don’t go down one route – welcome every opportunity with open arms and always be willing to learn. You might make a contact at that seemingly unimportant society conference, who, 2 years down the line is looking for an employee just like you.


Edinburgh is rife with metaphorical doors.

Join a society like the Entrepreneurship Society, The Buchanan Institute or iCue, who facilitate networking and think-tank events and opportunities to establish employable skills. Write for The Student newspaper, learn to be a radio extraordinaire with FreshAir Student Radio, help run RAG with the Edinburgh Students’ Charities Appeal.

Check into My Career Hub on MyEd weekly to search through the best that – not just Edinburgh, but the WORLD – has to offer. Volunteer placements to graduate schemes to summer internships to one-off roles.

Go and speak to the Careers Service in the library. In person. Real human interaction. They’re a fab bunch and are actually trained to help you make it big in the working world. Free consultative advice – lucky you!

Explore the Students Association or University of Edinburgh websites for vacancies that might suit your set of talents.

Walk around this wonderfully vibrant city of festivals, which relies on its workforce to keep it going through the ~20 festivals each year, and manage the multiple universities; not forgetting every other outlet and organization that underpins these events and serves their audiences. Pop into Codebase for an innovative awakening, or look out for A4 pages in windows advertising staff requirements.

Volunteer with a community group like the Grassmarket Community Project, or a social enterprise like SHRUB, or a charity like the Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre.

Find the people managing the organisations you want to work for, connect with them on Twitter or LinkedIN, create a social network relationship, land yourself a coffee meeting and absorb their expertise.


I can vouch for this.

Use your platforms.

Get experience.

Thank yourself in 20 years.


Thanks again, Jenna!

Internships and work experience – the essentials:

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