Careers Service

Build up your skills

Which skills should you develop?

Find out what employers are looking for:

  • Careers sectors A quick overview of careers in 8 broad areas including business, media, public sector, science, law, engineering and more.
  • Prospects: Types of jobs - entry requirements, skills, case studies, employers and more for over 400 types of graduate level work

Which skills do you have and how can you improve?

  • Employability skills Try our employability audit and suggestions for improving your skills. Includes an overview of skills needed by most employers - useful if you haven't yet decided on a career.

Figure out where your skills gaps are. Make it a priority this year to develop these skills with activities you can talk about in applications for internships and jobs.

Build up your work and voluntary experience

It's much easier to get a good job when you graduate if you've already got experience of working.

What sort of experience counts?

  • Part-time jobs during term-time or temporary jobs during the short vacations are all useful, if you can manage your time effectively. However, you should ideally aim to get a substantial period of work during the summer vacation before your final year - either vacation work or an internship.
  • Voluntary experience (eg work with student societies) is valued by most employers and is essential to get into some very popular careers.
  • Work shadowing and insight weeks can be helpful to find out more about a particular career and gain some experience.

Internships (a formal period of work with training)

The middle of your degree (2nd or pre-final year) is the prime time to get an internship, a placement or vacation work/work experience which is relevant to a future career.

These are particularly important for:

  • Finance, especially investment banking - summer internships in this field give you a real advantage for jobs after you graduate. Be ready to apply at the start of your 2nd year for internships the following summer.
  • Law - law students should be looking for vacation schemes or mini-pupillages this year. 2nd year non-law students may be able to apply for spring insight programmes (normally open to law students in their 1st year).

Many other employers offer excellent internships, placements and work experience targeted at 2nd year/pre-final year students. These will make you stand out if you apply for jobs in your final year - or may even result in a job offer before your final year.

  • Internships Second year onwards is when employers start to target students for relevant summer internships or placements. Some will recruit as early as September/October the year before they want you to start.
  • Student experience internships for 2nd year undergraduates 8 week paid summer internships, working within your School at the University of Manchester.

Not yet decided on a career?

You can still apply for internships or placements.This can be one of the best ways of identifying careers which might suit you.

Look for opportunities where you could develop skills (eg business awareness) which are useful for a number of careers. Also look for opportunities where you are likely to come out with achievements which will look good, whichever career you choose.

Vacation or summer work

Just because a summer job isn't called an internship doesn't mean it isn't a great opportunity. Many employers offer good jobs which give you lots of scope for applying your skills and learning as you go - it's just not a formal scheme.

Some large employers advertise their vacation work in the autumn. Other employers will advertise vacation work in spring. However, lots of vacation opportunities are never advertised. Contacts and speculative applications are an important way of finding these opportunities.

Voluntary experience

For some popular careers, paid internships and work experience are rare, even for experienced students and graduates. In these cases you need to build your portfolio of volunteer activities and contacts. This will give you the best chance of competing for paid opportunities or postgraduate courses later. This applies to:

  • Creative jobs, such as media, journalism, science communication
  • Heritage and arts jobs, such as museums and galleries
  • Charities and international development
  • Politics
  • Environmental work
  • Some popular areas of business, such as the fashion or music industries
  • Health and social work - caring or support experience can be very important for applying for medicine, psychology, social work and other health professions
  • Education and youth work - need experience with young people, and school experience (while at university) for teaching applications

Most employers love to see voluntary experience on your CV, whether it's related to your future career or not.