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How your work history can be used to support your route into Higher Education

All forms of work experience, including paid, voluntary, work shadowing full-time or part-time, long-term or short-term can play a key role in support
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© University of York

All forms of work experience, including: paid, voluntary, work shadowing full-time or part-time, and long-term or short-term can play a key role in supporting your route into Higher Education. In some cases, work experience isn’t just an optional, nice-to-have experience to refer to on your application, but is a key requirement.

While the tasks and duties we perform as part of a job can be specific to the job, the skills you develop in the workplace can be transferable into other contexts such as Higher Education.

Commercial awareness, communication, creativity, emotional intelligence, numeracy, organisation and time management, problem solving, initiative, IT skills and teamwork are examples of skills that you may have developed through your work history that you can take into your Higher Education experience.

  • Have you worked successfully as part of a team? You may be required to work on group projects as part of your Higher Education course.
  • Have you worked in a role where you have demonstrated excellent attention to detail? This could be highly valuable for courses with a lab-based element.
  • Have you several years, or even a decade (or more!) of work experience? Think about the commercial or sector awareness you have developed over this time and how this might enhance your understanding of the subjects you will be studying.

Prior to applying for your route into Higher Education, it can be useful to take some time to reflect on your work history and the skills you gained from each setting you have worked in. Make a note of the skills that you have gained in each role (if you have any existing CV or a LinkedIn profile this can act as a helpful reminder of your work history). Once you start to do this, you may be surprised to discover how many skills you have! If you are able to talk to a careers adviser, they can help you with the task of identifying your skills.

Once you have a clear understanding of the range of skills that you have developed during your work experience, it can be useful to think about how these skills might benefit useful for you in Higher Education. This might require you to then find out more about the skills that you will be using in the Higher Education routes you are interested in applying for. When you are researching the routes you are interested in, make note of any skills that are mentioned. Depending on the nature of the Higher Education route you are interested in, you might find references to skills such as group/team work, report-writing, practical skills, organisational skills, and commercial awareness. These are just a few examples of phrases you might find mentioned. Then, make the comparisons between your own skills and the skills that are mentioned in the routes you are interested in.

Sometimes, people can undersell the skills they have developed and think that just because they were developed in one setting they somehow aren’t relevant to Higher Education. This isn’t the case! A transferable skill is a skill that you can take from one experience to another, so don’t assume that people won’t be interested in reading about a particular skill that you have developed just because that setting doesn’t seem immediately relevant to the subjects you will be studying.

While work experience is a nice-to-have and useful thing to refer to for some Higher Education routes, there are some higher education routes where specific forms of work experience are essential, and we’ll look at these in the next step.

© University of York
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Diverse Routes into Higher Education

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