Employers anticipate that graduates in general, and Oxford students in particular, will be capable and fast learners. If you do have relevant work experience which reflects the kind of work and day-to-day experience in the specific sector or functional role, that clearly offers an advantage in the application process. However, it is certainly valuable to develop and demonstrate your skills in other contexts, whether applying for initial work experience or full-time positions.
Firstly, students will be using and developing many skills through their academic work. Taking an additional course or following self-directed learning beyond your degree studies can build theoretical knowledge and understanding, and also demonstrates commitment. Taking the next step and putting what you have learned into practice can provide persuasive evidence that you have the motivation, drive and skills that employers are seeking.
In some settings, Oxford researchers, staff and students can now use Inkpath, a web-based tool, to guide their development. For example, anyone joining the Oxford’s IDEA Engaging with Entrepreneurship Programme can use Inkpath to signpost content and opportunities relevant to their entrepreneurial journey. The Inkpath platform allows you to assess your skills and set your own goals, and will direct you to relevant employability training provided by the University of Oxford. You can also add notes and personal reflections on your development and, if you want, offer feedback to training providers.
As you complete any course or additional training, seek out opportunities or create practical experiences where you can apply your new skills. Consider running you own projects, volunteer to do something for an individual or organisation, or look for ways to become more hands-on in a society or any other extracurricular activity.
Any practical application of your skills can be highly persuasive, whether it is:
- short-term work experience through a micro-internship;
- regular hands-on experience by volunteering or within a society role;
- practical experience with an employability programme run by the Careers Service – such as The Oxford Strategy Challenge, The Student Consultancy or Research Strategy Consultancy;
- work experience and internships of all kinds – the closer this experience is to the sector, company and position that you are targeting, the more directly relevant the experience will appear to hiring organisations.