Internships and placements

Gaining work experience in college: some different options

6 Dec 2023, 12:01

Gaining work experience

Many college students are told that they need to get an internship if they want a graduate job. Work experience is an asset to any graduate CV. But experience isn’t solely about internships and placements.

There are many types of work experience you can pursue to boost your graduate job prospects. Here are some of the options available to you:

Part-time jobs

Your summer or part-time job can help you develop skills such as customer service and teamwork and give you real-world workplace experience. If you can find work that relates to your career plans, all the better.

Typical student jobs include server jobs, bar work and retail work. You can also look into tutoring, temping, transcribing or stewarding at an arts or music venue.

Brand ambassador roles

Being a brand or campus student ambassador for a brand is a specific type of part time job aimed at college students. This role involves promoting a product or service such as an energy drink or even an employer. Some large employers hire college students to get their current opportunities in front of other students. This is usually a paid role and may provide valuable insights into different companies and what they offer to graduates.

Freelance work

If you have certain skills such as writing, graphic design or web design, you may be able to get freelance work with agencies, smaller companies and charities. This can help you build a portfolio of work which will look good on future job applications. Your work should be of a professional standard, and you will need to negotiate pay rates. Freelance work will build your reputation and client list while allowing you to put into practise your knowledge.


Business and sector related competitions allow students and graduates to practise or develop their skills and provide evidence of your interest in the field. These competitions can lead to mentorship or other prestigious opportunities. For example, the gradireland Undergraduate of the Year Awards , offer winners a range of prizes including opportunities such as job shadowing, mentorships and internships.

Extracurricular activities

Getting involved in student societies, sports, volunteer organisations and interest groups strengthens your CV while you do something you love. Committing to extracurricular activities will help you develop all sorts of soft skills that will give you an advantage during applications and interviews.


Many large companies offer paid work experience or internship programmes to students and graduates. Most of these take place over the summer and last a few months. The are generally open to penultimate year students but some companies are open to graduates and students in other years of their course. Smaller employers also offer internships though these may be less structured or during a different time of the year.

Some organisations hire a number of their graduate recruits from their pool of former interns.

Work shadowing

In work shadowing experiences, you get the opportunity to observe the work of a professional and gain an insight into what working life is like in that particular profession. Work shadowing opportunities can sometimes be arranged speculatively, or you can ask your careers service for their advice.

gradireland editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the gradireland content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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