Got a degree? Great. But it’s your non-academic experience potential employers are after.
Penguin’s decision to scrap the requirement for a degree reminds us just how high non-academic experience ranks when looking for that first graduate job.
In scrapping this requirement, the publishing house joins PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst and Young, and Deloitte, who have each changed their recruitment policies over the past year so that those who apply no longer need a certain A-level grade or grade of degree.
Deloitte and Ernst and Young have even stopped recording certain information on their job application forms so that recruiters have no idea where candidates went to school or university.
This is quite a statement given that these companies are among the biggest single recruiters of graduates each year.
But why this trend in graduate recruitment? Because employers are beginning to realise that academic achievement, noble as it may be, measures only one type of intelligence.
A degree doesn’t demonstrate business awareness
A degree was once considered the gold standard in measurement for skill and talent but employers now realise that all it measures is the ability to think.
Of course, if you want to become a physicist or to follow a teaching or medical career then a degree is still a fine thing to do.
Other than that it doesn’t form the mainstay of the set of skills required to get a job. It cannot tell an employer very much about a person’s resilience, interpersonal skills or teamwork abilities. And it certainly cannot demonstrate practical business awareness.
The skills developed through academic life are so very different from those needed in work life.
As Penguin acknowledges, if it wants to survive into the future then it must make publishing more inclusive, it must make room for people from different backgrounds who can appeal to readers everywhere.
That means people with demonstrable cultural awareness, creativity and entrepreneurial skills.
What does this mean for you if you’re at university and/or about to graduate?
It means you need to evidence lots of skills other than academic achievement. This is what graduates ought to have been doing all along – and certainly must do now. You must work on your non-academic achievements.
The starting line has shifted. Graduate starting salaries have become very competitive rising to as high as £41k for some positions.
Last year there were a record number of paid internships on offer, over 13,000. For many graduates, the recruitment ladder is difficult to step on.
In fact, the most recent Highfliers research reported a repeated warning from previous years – that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during a recruiter’s selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer from a graduate programme.
Many employers now offer work experience to graduates in their first year at university.
How to strengthen your non-academic experience
If you want to strengthen your non-academic experience, you need to start doing work experience from day one.
Employers want to know about the skills and attributes gained from non-academic pursuits.
Here are some examples of non-academic achievements:
Extra-curricular activities – such as being the president or part of the committee of a society on campus
Hobbies and interests – such as playing a musical instrument or playing being a part of a sports team
Starting your own business
I once heard a recruiter explaining how she screens candidates. She doesn’t look at where they went to school or university but where they went on holiday.
It is important that you include your extracurricular activities in your job applications.
Now, what this all means is that your graduate CV must look very different. It must reflect your out-of-uni, non-academic achievements first, those that show what you’ve been doing aside from studying.
You must now begin to place equal, if not greater emphasis on building a rounded set of skills and abilities as early as possible. It’s about exposing yourself to those opportunities that will truly develop and enhance what you have to offer.
Furthermore, you need to be prepared to talk about your examples of non-academic achievements and be able to elaborate on the transferable skills you have gained from them in job interviews as you may be asked to: “tell me about your extracurricular activities and interests”.
Here at Graduate Coach, we have reviewed hundreds of CVs from students and recent graduates.
A lot of people who have come to us for help often believe that they do not have any examples of non-academic experience or achievements.
However, once we provide some 1-2-1 coaching we usually discover how they can draw out transferable skills from their extra-curricular activities and non-academic achievements that are related to the jobs they are applying for.
If you need some help with the following, contact us on: +44 (0)207 014 9547 or via email on: firstname.lastname@example.org
writing an achievements-based CV
Applying for graduate jobs
Training for interviews
Read this blog post on how to use your work experience to help you to get the job you really want.
Watch this video on how to differentiate yourself from other candidates to hear directly from a graduate recruiter why it is so important to have non-academic experience.
Book a FREE 15-minute career coaching call with Chris Davies, the founder of Graduate Coach, who has 8+ years of experience helping hundreds of students and graduates to get the job of their dreams!
Vacation schemes last between a week and a month. Vac schemes usually take place during the summer, Easter or Christmas.
During a vacation scheme, you will get the opportunity to meet trainees, associates, solicitors and partners. The scheme will also help you to improve your legal knowledge and help you to gain a better understanding of your career path.
The structure of the vacation scheme will differ depending on the firm. However, generally speaking, you will get a supervisor and will gain experience within different practice areas
Benefits of completing a vac scheme
Some law firms use vacation schemes to identify candidates for their training contracts. This means securing a vacation scheme can significantly boost your chances of getting a training contract at a top law firm.
Several firms offer vacation schemes these includes (but are not limited to): Allen & Overy, Dentons, Eversheds Sutherland, Shearman & Sterling, Trowers & Hamlins, Mills & Reeve and Penningtons Manches. Such placements give students structured law firm work experience.
Tip: apply for vacation schemes as early as possible as they are extremely competitive and many places are filled on a rolling basis.
As a part of the application process for vac schemes, you may need to attend a one-to-one or a panel interview. Here at Graduate Coach, we provide interview coaching for students, graduates and career changers. Find out how we can help you to nail your vac scheme interview with our interview coaching.
5. Apply for mini-pupilages
Mini pupilages are short work experience placements for aspiring Barristers. They are designed to give you a taste of the Bar.
Mini pupillage applications are usually open for second or final year undergraduates. However, it may be possible to get a mini-pupillage placement in your first year of university.
Applicants tend to be current law students. Non-law students may have to wait until they are doing their GDL.
The mini-pupillage application process
To apply for mini-pupillages, you will need to send a copy of your CV and cover letter to each of the chambers you are applying to. Some applications will require you to complete an online application form.
Marshalling is another way of gaining law work experience.
It involves shadowing a judge. Marshalling experiences typically last between one day and a week. This experience will give you a birds-eye view of the legal system.
It is a good idea to marshal a judge if you aspire to the Bar. Whilst marshalling is not a substitute for completing a mini-pupillage, it will complement any mini-pupilage experiences you get. Marshalling experience will also stand out on your CV.
Contact your Inn of Court or your local Crown or county court
Send out speculative applications to judges explaining why you would like to marshal them
Ask contacts within your network
7. Take part in debates and mooting
Most universities host debating and mooting competitions for students interested in pursuing a legal career. Find out if your university hosts these opportunities and get involved with them.
Mooting involves presenting a legal issue or problem against an opposing counsel and before a judge. Mooting is often mistaken for a mock trial. However, it differs from a mock trial as it assumes that the evidence has already been tested. Mooting places more emphasis on practising the ability to argue the question of law.
If you are studying a for an LLB law degree, you will probably be presented with the opportunity to gain mooting experience as a part of your course.
Conducting legal research
Preparing written submissions
Delivering an oral presentation
It is a good idea to get involved with mooting opportunities because getting into the legal profession is very competitive and recruiters will be interested in seeing any evidence of advocacy or mooting experience.
8. Visiting a court
Regardless of whether you want to become a Solicitor or Barrister understanding of how courts operate is important. It’s a good idea to visit a court to gain valuable insights.
Court visits allow you to sit in on real cases to see legal professionals in action. Gaining this experience can help you to make informed career decisions and work out what area of law you would like to pursue.
Spending some time in court can help you to decide whether to practice in a contentious or non-contentious area of law.
Even if you are sure that you would like to become a solicitor visiting a court is useful. Some law firms take their trainees to the High Court to help them to gain a deeper understanding of how their work impacts what happens in court.
Tips for visiting a court to gain legal work experience
Arrive a few hours before the case starts if it is a high profile case with lots of media coverage.
Check the rules of the courtroom before you enter. At the Old Baily, for example, you are not allowed to bring anything electronic.
Remember to bow to the crown when entering the courtroom and stand when the judge enters.
9. Attend law insight days
Insight days are also known as open days or workshops.
These events are held at law firms and usually involves shadowing, a guided tour of the office, group exercises and talks from partners and the recruitment team.
Attending insight days will help you to decide which law firms you would like to apply for.
It is a really good idea to attend legal insight days because some firms use them to screen applications for their vacation schemes and training contracts.
If you are currently studying at university, it is a good idea to join the law society. Being a member of the law society will present opportunities to network with other aspiring legal professionals and to meet legal recruiters.
University law societies host events and talks to give students a deeper understanding of legal careers.
You can also gain valuable skills from helping to run the law society at your university.
If you are a member of an unrepresented group and wish to become a solicitor, you can join Aspiring Solicitors. Aspiring Solicitors work with law firms to provide events, mentoring, commercial awareness competitions and employability assistance.
Every year, Aspiring Solicitors collaborates with Barclays to host a work experience week in Canary Wharf.
The programme offers 50 Aspiring Solicitors’ members to do a one-week legal work placement with Barclays. During the one-week placement, candidates gain a unique insight into the internal workings of an in-house legal function.
Find out more about the Barclays Legal Experience weeks here.
11. Get a legal research position
Various institutions such as universities and governmental bodies require people with legal knowledge.
Look out for legal research job opportunities. This role would help you to develop your legal research skills as well as providing some law-related work experience.
12. Complete a Legal virtual internship
The last of our legal work experience ideas is to do a virtual legal internship.
A few of the leading law firms have collaborated with InsideSherpa to provide virtual law internships and experience programmes.
Some of the companies offering these experiences include:
Latham & Watkins
White & Case
King & Wood Mallesons
These virtual work experience placements are free and take around 6 hours to complete.
Alternatively, you could sign up to a company called Virtual Internships. Virtual Internships was founded by Edward Holroyd Pearce who also founded CRCC Asia.
They have a legal programme that is designed to help candidates to develop key competencies for a successful career. Typical placements include roles such as: Legal assistant, Legal researcher, In-house legal intern, commercial exec and business development.
13. Do an internship abroad
Gaining international legal work experience will help you to stand out. International law firms will look at this experience in high regard.
City Internships also offers internships abroad for those who are interested in law and politics. The programme allows students and graduates to do a legal internship abroad in cities including: New York, Paris, Madrid, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Toronto.
14. Sign up to access to law programmes
Law firms are increasingly taking steps to increase the diversity within their organisations. A diverse workforce allows the firm to reflect, and understand their clients better.
There are a few companies that help law firms to access diverse talent. They also help students and graduates from underrepresented backgrounds to get law work experience.
Another one of our legal work experience ideas is to sign up for the following organisations if you are eligible:
Prime is an alliance of law firms who are committed to improving access to the legal profession through work experience.
The Brokerage is a London-based social mobility charity connecting young people to employers. Sign up if you are interested in exploring career opportunities in law.
SEO London aims to connect some of the most prestigious commercial law firms with law and non-law undergraduates, graduates and career changers.
Rare recruitment have a legal development programme called “articles”. Candidates who complete this programme are 27 times more likely to get hired after completing articles.
City Solicitors Horizon provide training mentoring and law work experience placements to improve access to the legal profession.
UpReach has a law springboard programme sponsored by Slaughter and May. They also have a law programme giving candidates exclusive employer insights.
EmployAbility is dedicated to providing opportunities for disabled and dyslexic students and graduates. They are partnered with law firms including Bird and Bird.
15. Do a law-related placement year
If you are in the first or second year of your degree and would like to gain some relevant legal work experience, you could consider taking a law placement year.
Placement years are often referred to as sandwich years or industrial placements and involve working at a company for 12 months before going back to university to finish your degree.
If you are currently doing an LLB Law, with a placement year, you’ll be keen to secure your placement. If you are doing a three-year law or non-law degree, you can speak to the admissions team to see if you can do a placement as part of your degree.
There are a number of companies offering undergraduate students law placement year opportunities.
For example, the Simmons and Simmons Evolve placement year – The evolve placement allows undergraduates to work with lawyers and innovation teams to explore how technology can be integrated across the business. If you have an inquisitive mind and an interest in a legal career, you might want to consider this opportunity. This opportunity is available for students studying for a law degree and non-law students. Throughout the placement, candidates will be assessed for a training contract.
16. Get a law summer internship
If you are currently completing your degree but do not have any law work experience you may consider completing a law summer internship.
If you are an aspiring corporate lawyer, you may have only considered applying for vacation schemes at law firms. However, many reputable companies hire interns to work within their in-house legal teams.
Gaining in-house legal experience will help to boost your CV and will interest legal graduate recruiters.
We hope you implement the above legal work experience ideas.
Remember, both law and non-law work experiences are really important. Gaining a wide range of experiences will help you to develop your commercial awareness skills. If you will be applying for commercial law firms, recruiters will be interested in your commercial awareness skills.
Work experience is important because it will help you to gain and develop employability skills.
Legal work experience ideas: summary
We hope this post has given you some new legal work experience ideas.
Whether you shadow a judge, visit courts, get onto a vacation scheme, do a virtual internship or become a paralegal, all legal work experience will help you to stand out.
As well as taking on board these ideas, don’t forget that some law firms also have application forms for their work experience opportunities online. So be sure to conduct thorough research to find suitable opportunities.
For example, Kingsley Napley offers a number of unpaid work experience placements throughout the year to students who are 18+ and entitled to work in the UK. Placement students get hands-on experience by sampling many different tasks such as attending court meetings, drafting documents, shadowing, qualified lawyers and more.
Here at Graduate Coach, we have helped aspiring lawyers to enter the legal profession. We can help you with creating your law CV, sending successful applications for vacation schemes and training centres and preparing for assessment centres. Visit our one-to-one career coaching service.
It is a good idea to gain a variety of experiences that are relevant to the type of legal career you are pursuing.
In order to secure a training contract to become a solicitor or a Pupilage to become a barrister, you’ll need to first meet the academic requirements. As law is a highly competitive field, having work experience will give you a competitive edge by improving your CV, cover letter and interview answers.
Where can I get work experience for law?
Where you can get work experience for law will depend on what stage of your academic career you are at. Some work experience placements are reserved for sixth formers studying A-levels. Whereas others are for undergraduates. Revisit the 16 work experience ideas above for a list on where you can get work experience for law.
How do I get a law job with no experience?
If you are keen to get a job in the competitive field of law but do not have any work experience:
Do a virtual legal work experience placement
Audit your skills and leverage your non-law experience
Aim to gain some work experience by implementing some of our legal work experience ideas above
What do you do in work experience in a law firm?
This will vary depending on what company you work at and what area of law they practice in.
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So, you’ve bagged yourself a degree, and now you want to land yourself a graduate job. The only thing is, you have no experience. Don’t worry, because in this post, we will tell you how to get a graduate job with no experience.
1: Reflect on your time at university
You may actually have a lot more experience than you think!
Perhaps you feel as though you do not have any relevant work experience to the types of graduate job that you’d like to apply for.
However, you will have gained some transferable skills from taking part in other activities that will be valuable to employers.
Here are some activities you may have taken part in during your time at university:
some universities have work shadowing schemes that allow students to shadow members of staff in different departments or arrange for students to take part in work shadowing experiences with local businesses. Maybe you arranged to shadow a professional in a work environment.
have you taken part in any volunteering activities at, or outside of university? Volunteering can help you to develop a wide variety of skills.
Furthermore, as you start your job search you may realise that a lot of the companies that you are interested in may encourage employees to volunteer for a few days every year. If a company has a culture that promotes giving back to the local community, your volunteering experience may be impressive to potential employers.
Leadership roles within university societies
Have you held any leadership positions within a society at your university?
It can be extremely difficult to balance running a society with your academics. Doing so requires time management and organisational skills which are relevant skills to all graduate roles.
Even if you wasn’t the president or vice president of a society, any role you took that helped to run the society will be relevant.
There are lots of opportunities to take part in sports at university.
Most sports require developing teamwork skills which will be relevant for all graduate jobs or graduate schemes that you apply for.
Maintaining a part-time job
Did you have a part-time job whilst you were studying? if so, you will have gained relevant experiences that will prove to be valuable for your graduate position.
University courses are designed to help students to develop skills that will be useful for the workplace.
Your course probably required you to take part in group assignments, presentations, essays and reports and more.
If you took part in an activity as part of your course that helped you to develop some specific skills, that can also count as experience.
Don’t dismiss any previous experience that you have gained just because you may feel that it is not relevant.
Recruiters will understand that for their graduate and entry-level positions, candidates may not have a lot of experience that is directly related to the role. However, they will be interested in what skills you have gained and developed from the experiences you do have.
Remember, your unique combination of experiences is what makes you stand out from the crowd!
Conduct a Skills Audit
Now that you have reflected on your time at university, it’s time to conduct a skills audit.
Write down all of the skills that you have gained from the activities you took part in during university.
No matter what types of graduate jobs you apply for, all graduate recruiters will look for the following 6 skills:
Organisation and planning
Using your own initiative
For each of the skills listed above, draw upon the experiences gained at university to demonstrate that you have those skills.
This exercise will be helpful when it comes to filling out job applications and preparing for interviews.
After conducting an audit of your skills, identify what your career typology is.
All graduate jobs can be categorised into three groups:
Check out our post on CV-Library called How to discover your career path for more information on career typologies and identifying which of the three career typologies you belong to.
Once you have identified your career typology, you’ll be able to easily create a shortlist of jobs with job descriptions suited to your skills and interests.
Employers will be looking for evidence that graduates are able to solve problems, communicate, work as a team organise themselves, act professional and use their own initiative. Even if you do not have any formal work experience, you should be able to demonstrate that you have those 6 key skills.
Improve your CV
Once you have a better understanding of your experiences, skills and career typology, you can start working on your CV.
By this point, it won’t be a case of writing a CV with no experience.
All of the activities that you listed in step one can all be added to your CV.
The key is to write an achievement-based CV.
We have put together a wide range of resources on how to write an achievement-based CV
There’s a whole section on it in The Student Book which contains everything you need to know to get the job you really want.
an assessment centre with group tasks and a face to face interview
Graduate job interviews might seem daunting if you feel as though you haven’t got any work experience that is directly relevant to the role. However, as we discovered in step 1, you will have gained experiences during your time at university that employers will be very interested in.
Being able to perform highly in interviews is a lifelong skill.
How to get a graduate job with no experience: Summary
We hope you have found this post on how to get a graduate job with no experience valuable!
The chances are, even though you may feel as though you do not have any work experience, you probably have! Remember, at this stage in your career, it’s not necessarily about having a ton of highly relevant experience.
Graduate recruiters will be looking for the skills that you have gained from the experiences you do have. Even if these experiences have been gained from extracurricular activities.
If you are graduating this summer and worried about finding a job, don’t. Here are some of the best things you can do to prepare yourself.
All those lectures over. No more course assignments. Hanging out with your buddies in the student bar is a thing of the past. Now you’ve got to find a job.
Graduating can feel scary.
You may feel alone and worried about how to find that first graduate job.
Well, the best thing you can do for yourself is to take a deep breath and stop panicking over…
…what job you should do…
If you already know what type of job you want to do that’s a good start but if not, you shouldn’t be too concerned about that either. During the first few years after graduating most people don’t know what they want to do or, if they do, end up changing their minds about their career choices. Use this time to learn more about yourself and to explore your skills in a work environment. One of the most important distinctions between university life and working life is to understand that the latter is much more self-determined. There are no programme leaders to set agendas for you or to lead you by the hand. You must decide what you will learn and how far it will take you.
…not having the right skills…
Don’t worry over whether or not you have the skills to do that job right now. What’s more important is to know how and where you are going to acquire those skills. The journey to building the skills you need is just as important as getting them as it gets you in the right frame of mind to make the most of this important stage of your life and career. What I mean by this is that if you know you are on the journey to building your skills then you’ll recognise opportunities as they come up and know what to do with them when you see them. And, besides, you’ll enjoy the journey much better.
…how and where to build the sort of skills you need…
Find an internship position where you can begin to develop, grow and build up your work experience. Look for an internship position in a field or industry that holds some interest for you. Internships opportunities are much better than they used to be in the past and will at least pay you something around an entry level wage. Once you land your internship seek to learn all you can about:
The company and how it ticks – what makes it stand out? Do you understand its branding, how it makes its money, what makes it different to its competitors?
The different departments in the company – how do these department work and fit interdependently with each other? Where does your own department fit?
Build networks – who is who and who does what? How does your own role help other people do their jobs well, and is there anything you can do (without stepping too far out of line) to improve that?
…about money or about not finding the type of internship you really want…
Counter this by finding a job. If you can’t find an internship in the area of your interest find any other job, full or part time, as long as you are working. I’m inclined to say find any job that helps you to build as many of the following skills as possible (and, by the way, these are skills you should also be looking to build during any internship):
Communication skills (written or verbal but preferably both) – writing articles or reports, doing presentations and speaking to members of the public, colleagues, suppliers… anyone in a professional context.
Business awareness – this also covers customer service skills and knowing how to be professional when working with clients, suppliers and colleagues. It also includes understanding and fitting in with the company’s culture.
Resilience – staying on task no matter how hard things become and being determined to learn whatever skills you need to master in order to do your job well. You must be sensible however not to do anything that jeopardises your long-term health and wellbeing.
Numeracy skills – yes, seeking out and using numbers, charts, statistics and other data for practical purposes, but also seeking opportunities develop your analytical, critical and creative thinking and skills. This includes good research skills.
IT skills – you must know how to use software packages to help you do your job better. You’ll also need awareness of online tools (social media, online marketing skills and basic coding or website building skills).
Entrepreneurship skills – an entrepreneur is resourceful, comes up with good workable ideas and knows how to motivate others to get on board to make those ideas work. Be a good leader.
Problem solving skills – never throw your hands up in the air when facing a problem at work but look for ways to solve them. This may include getting help from other people, but you should always present your need for help with at least some ideas of your own on how to solve the problem you’re facing.
Self-management – using your own initiative and managing your own time and work load are important skills if you want to get ahead in your graduate career. You must be a good organiser and planner.
Teamwork – whatever job you do it is likely that it will involve working with other people so get your teamwork skills up to scratch. Teamwork is about doing whatever is required to get the team objective done. It’s not just about you.
…about what to do while waiting for any of the above to happen…
There are a few other things you can do to build your skills while you are looking for the right internship or job. You can:
Volunteer – another great way to develop the skills you need for your graduate career is to volunteer. Volunteering can open doors to valuable opportunities to develop the experience you need, and you can offer as many or as few hours as you have free. Again, seek to grow in the direction of the areas listed above.
Start a blog or online project / business – with WordPress it is easy to set up your own blog or website selling products online. This will give you the opportunity to develop many of the skills listed above and, who knows, you may even end up making lots of money or becoming famous! Ok, maybe not. But at least it will give you the opportunity to develop important skills in marketing, communication, customer service, problem solving, resilience and other important aptitudes you can list on your CV.
Remember, nothing happens by accident. You have to strategically create the opportunities you want to see in your life. Don’t spend the summer sitting on your laurels and bemoaning the fact that you can’t find the job you want. Keep yourself busy building valuable experience and confidence and the doors will open for you.
A degree is no longer enough – Aspect County
Young people graduate into a different world from that of twenty or thirty years ago when their parents went to university. The student population has doubled since 1992 and last year UCAS reported that a record number, almost half, were accepted into university. The problem is what happens when they leave. With 78% of students now achieving a 1st or 2:1, competition for graduate level employment is rife. Which is why, according to official data by the Office of National Statistics, almost half (47%) of graduates were in non-graduate jobs two years later. Read Article
The Student Book & The Graduate Book: Get (& Thrive In) The Job You Really Want
Chris Davies is the author of The Student Book, All you need to know to get the job you really want and The Graduate Book, All you need to know to do really well at work. The Student book introduces the 9 Employability Skills, how and where to acquire them, ways to develop them, how to prove you have these skills, how to create a CV that highlights your achievements and things to consider before and during an interview.
Nail That Interview Course with Chris Davies
Nail That Interview Online Course will teach you everything you need for interview success. Module 1 – I CAN do the job – contains the Graduate Coach Skills Audit and the 9 Employability Skills.
Help to get a graduate job | Graduate interview coaching
The full career coaching programme with Chris Davies | Interview training
Tell me about yourself | Self introductions
Creating a career action plan | Developing career goals
Successful internships | Creating your own internships