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Work experience and internships: Vacation work

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Working during the university holidays can be a great way to earn some extra money and if done right it can build on your skills and knowledge

The majority of students will take up some form of full or part-time employment in order to give them a better standard of living at university. However, if you are not a UK or EEA domiciled student, there may be restrictions on the number of hours per week you are allowed to work during the holidays. If you are unsure about your entitlement to work whilst on your course, visit UKCISA: UK Council for International Student Affairs - Working in the UK during your studies  or talk to a careers adviser.

Where can I get a job?

As some businesses become busier around Christmas, Easter and the summer, they will require more staff, resulting in vacation work being easier to find. For example if you want to work in the hospitality industry then finding vacation work at a seaside hotel during the summer is a good idea. You should visit your careers service or university job shop to see what on-campus opportunities are available to current students. You can also try:

  • Student-Jobs  - part-time work along with holiday, gap year and graduate jobs.
  • Jobcentre Plus  - thousands of jobs and volunteering opportunities.
  • Gap Year Jobs  - covers temporary and seasonal vacancies and international opportunities.

For work experience, see the country profiles in working abroad.

How do I apply for vacation work?

You will have to write a successful job application and attend an interview although it is likely to be less competitive than applying for a permanent job. If you will be looking after young or vulnerable people, for example helping in a summer playgroup, you will need to have a Disclosure and Barring Service  check as well.

Wages are often paid monthly, sometimes weekly and are worked out by an hourly rate. Depending on your chosen role, subsidised travel and lunches and attendance at in-house training courses may also be part of the benefits.

Once you have secured vacation work, make sure that you are given a written contract, detailing the terms and conditions of your employment. If you do not receive one, then ask.

Will it help my career?

The benefits of vacation work can include:

  • a healthier bank balance;
  • increased organisational skills;
  • development of people management skills; and
  • the chance to get to grips with day-to-day working life.

You will also have gained an employer referee for your CV, when the time comes to apply for graduate positions.

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Most vacation work does not attract academic credits, but the chance to learn valuable interpersonal skills will be useful in any career. For some courses, vacation work (in the form of work placements) will be compulsory and therefore formally assessed or accredited. Assessments vary and might include the completion of specific tasks or projects, writing a report or reflective log, or using the learning in another assignment or course activity.

Law vacation schemes

In some sectors, such as law, vacation work is necessary to improve your employability. Doing a vacation scheme with a large firm or government organisation gives you the opportunity to develop new skills and demonstrate your potential to the firm. These schemes can also form part of the selection process for training contracts. To find a vacation scheme in your area, search for law vacation placements.

Written by Editor, Graduate Prospects
January 2014

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