Gaining work experience

Non-EU international students need to start building work experience as soon as they arrive in the UK because, in general, they can only gain work experience while they have a student visa. Non-EU students are likely to be able to work up to 20 hours per week during term-time and any number of hours during vacations. See information regarding working in the UK.

Work experience is particularly important for international students hoping to work in the UK after graduation because:

  • It demonstrates that you can work successfully in a UK commercial environment. For example, it shows that you understand UK business culture and that your English language is strong enough.
  • It may lead to that employer applying for sponsorship to take you on more permanently in the future.

What type of work experience do I need?

  • Voluntary and unpaid work experience is just as impressive to UK employers as paid work, especially if it is related to your career interests.
  • Work experience gained outside the UK is also of interest to employers.
  • Any key work experiences should be included in your CV, regardless of where you gained them.

Working in the UK

Historically, graduate work permits are easier to get for:

  • Employers who need large numbers of graduates, eg some large accountancy or engineering firms.
  • Employers for whom your specific language skills and knowledge are an asset.
  • Employers who know you, eg through placement, work-shadowing and project opportunities.

Your chances of finding work in the UK can be dramatically increased by finding and approaching employers who will see your specific language skills and cultural knowledge as an asset.

  • See the Home Office list of registered UK Employer Sponsors.
  • Find out about the Home Office code of practice and what the salary requirements are for a job to be considered a 'graduate job'.
  • Look at sites such as Indeed. You can search using keywords eg ‘graduate’, ‘finance’ and ‘Mandarin’ to find vacancies particularly looking for people with certain language or cultural knowledge.
  • Engage with schemes such as the International Talent Internship Scheme, which links international students with employers who are keen to utilise their linguistic skills and cultural knowledge to help them expand into new overseas markets.
  • Use Alumni networks that may be able to link you with graduates from your country who are now in employment in the UK.
  • The UK-based embassy for your country may be able to provide lists of UK employers with links to your country.
  • Attend internationally-focused events that bring employers and students together.

Vacancy checklist

Use the following vacancy checklist for International students (InfoHub resource sheet) to determine whether vacancies you find are suitable.

CVs and application forms for international students

The Careers Toolkit has information about how to present your CVs and application forms, what to include and how to sell your skills and experience. There are also specialist resources for international students.

These resources will help you get your career off to a great start.

Your skills as an international student

As an international student, you will have developed some of the key skills and qualities that employers look for to a very high standard.

Your unique experience of studying and living in another country will have developed key skills such as flexibility, adaptability and communication skills. It is important to highlight these skills when applying to employers.

The information below outlines some of the key skills to highlight to employers:

Skills and qualities you can offer as an international student

Adaptability/autonomy

Explain to employers how you have managed to adapt to a new environment and its culture. International students often have to do this by themselves.

Organisation skills

Be able to describe how you have managed to organise accommodation, finance, visas, employment etc.

Communication

Living abroad requires using and developing communication skills on a daily basis so that people can understand your requirements.

Language skills

Your knowledge of more than one language could help an organisation to communicate with overseas markets and suppliers.

Motivation

Your willingness to take your studies overseas and embrace new cultures and experience demonstrates how committed you are to learning and developing as an individual.

Flexibility

Again, demonstrated by your adapting to a new life. Also international students are often more mobile and happy to move to different locations around the UK in order to work.

A broader perspective

Your experiences of how cultures vary can bring a fresh perspective to a company. It may provide an insight into different ways of doing business.

Cultural awareness

You could use your particular cultural background to advise and inform an organisation on how to make the right impact on their international customers and clients.

GradLink

GradLink is a free one-stop portal that enables employers from different countries to connect with international students, scholars and graduates from universities across the UK.