At Birmingham City University, we understand that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult to gain relevant experience in healthcare and educational settings, and it is unreasonable for us to have this as a requirement. Therefore, we have waivered this requirement for many of our BCU Health courses. You also do not need to have work experience before beginning on our BCU Education courses.
Nevertheless, there are many benefits of gaining work/voluntary experience, which can be positive additions to your personal statement or simply something to talk about at your interview. Here are five areas in which you can explore alternative work experience or utilise existing opportunities you have been involved with, and the skills you have gained, to bolster your application for your chosen course:
1. Family and personal experiences
These experiences of volunteering to help people closest to you, or help change their lives, can give you invaluable skills and a caring nature, ideal for your chosen career path. They also help you gain important social skills and contribute towards your personal development. Here are some relevant questions to think about to show off your capabilities in this area:
Do you have family members, such as grandparents, that have needed your help? This could be taxi-ing them to appointments, going shopping for them or even simply sitting and chatting to keep them company. Small errands like these show initiative to go above and beyond, and a spark for problem solving.
Have you helped your younger siblings with home-schooling or caring for them? This experience can help show that you have the characteristics and skills ready to start your university journey.
Providing that base of knowledge and support for younger people demonstrates leadership quality, which would add to any application. Many would think that leadership is retained by those in higher positions, but taking ownership of your situation demonstrates leadership of yourself and a knowledge of where you can help.
Have you had to manage your own medication schedule, such as Type 1 Diabetes or asthma? Skills including, time management, organisation and plan development all come into play when managing medication schedules.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been especially difficult for the elderly and vulnerable. Therefore, if you have reached out to help a neighbour to do a small act of kindness, you can draw upon this in your application to show your willingness and attitude towards assisting when help is needed.
2. Employment/educational experience and skills
It is important to showcase why the course you are applying for is right for you. One way you can do this is by pulling on what experiences you have gained already and show you already have some of the skill-set needed for your chosen career. Some questions to think about, answer and explain in your application are:
Have you previously worked in a customer-service environment where you supported customers/clients and have been able to gain skills, such as teamwork and communication abilities?
Can you demonstrate how your previous work experience has given you transferable skills that relate to your desired career path?
Have you played a role in a project, either at work or school, where you have positively increased your skill-set?
Even if you haven’t had employment experience, you can explore the profession by viewing the relevant Professional Body’s websites below. Here you can reach out to ask questions you may have or even find work experience that may be available to you.
- The Health and Care Professions Council
- Society and College of Radiographers (for both Diagnostic Radiography and Radiotherapy)
- The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists
- College of Paramedics
- College of Operating Department Practitioners.
- Chartered College of Teaching
3. Volunteering Opportunities
Volunteering is a rewarding and excellent opportunity to demonstrate your selflessness and your drive to position yourself in a caring or giving role. Examples of this may be:
Volunteering at a local charity – From giving your time to a local charity shop or helping with admin tasks for a charity.
Giving Blood – A sometimes forgotten act, but allows you to gain a feel of a health environment, ask questions of the staff and shows your dedication to helping those who need it.
Fundraising – Have you organised a bake sale or got friends/colleagues involved in a fitness challenge for a good cause? Or in the future are you willing to get involved in helping fundraise locally or for a campaign such as the Macmillan Coffee Morning? These examples will demonstrate you have skills such as organisation and show a dedication to helping those in need.
Volunteer work for the NHS – you can register with the Royal Voluntary Service to be an NHS Responder or see if volunteers are needed in your local area. There are also current NHS volunteer opportunities with Parcels for Patients, where you will be stationed at one of Birmingham’s University Hospitals (Queen Elizabeth, Good Hope or Heartlands). If you are interested in this, you can email Voluntary Services.
Selfless acts, such as the above could be used as relevant examples in your application and show you have important skills that are needed when in the environment you want to work in.
4. Read and Research
Research is key in understanding the course you are about to enrol on and for your future career. In your personal statement/interview you will need to give evidence that you understand what it would be like to study your chosen course and recognise what a career in this profession involves.
At BCU we have lots of resources you can access to carry out your research:
Our I AM BCU profiles allow you to read first-hand what our students have experienced whilst studying on our courses.
The BCU library has online resources to help you gather an understanding of the career and duties.
You can also find lots of useful information about our courses by heading to our BCU HELS Blog pages, plus, blogs written by current students about placement experiences:
Speak to our students – you can attend one of our Virtual Open Days to speak to our Ambassadors who are currently studying at BCU and are willing to discuss their experiences of the course.
You can also explore your own network of connections to arrange video or phone calls with people you know in similar professions.
In addition, partake in activities from home to expand your knowledge, learn more about your career of interest and even learn something new about the subject area, which will vastly improve your understanding for your application. Examples of these activities could be:
- Reading relevant articles,
- Subscribing to relevant newsletters/magazines,
- Watching documentaries,
- Finding a Podcast to listen to,
- Partake in a virtual event/conference.
5. Be Proactive
It may be hard to find work experience at the moment. However, be proactive by contacting organisations you would be interested in volunteering/working for in the future. You may even be able to organise work experience for the future. Or by contacting these organisations you could find out if they have virtual work experience opportunities you could partake in, which could prove invaluable for your application.
If you are unable to gain work experience, remember to still conduct the research above and pull on experiences and skills you already have. But also, use your initiative, for example, do something such as an online project relating to your subject of choice to demonstrate your interest in the area and show you can use your initiative and fill your time wisely.
Finally, remember when writing your personal statement or talking about your experiences in your interview, don’t just list what you have done. It is important to analyse your capabilities, linking them to relevant examples and keeping your explanations directed towards why these skills will make your application stand out, and why you are passionate to study your selected course.
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