What is ‘critical thinking’ and how can I apply it to finding work experience?

Feeling unsure about your Summer plans? Or maybe a bit overwhelmed about the best ways to develop your employability during your degree? Wherever you go, people may have different advice to give. In this blog, we’ll discuss the skill of critical thinking to help you feel confident and how you can choose the right step for you, and reassure you with ideas to build work experience during Covid-19.

woman looking to her side thinkingWhat is critical thinking? 

You’ve heard it everywhere: from university to job applications and even careers services. Critical thinking is an essential skill you use and develop at university, and it’s also transferable to the world of work.  

But while we all like to use the term, what does it actually mean in practice?  

The term ‘critical thinking’ has many different contexts, for example evaluating and giving criticism to someone’s work, weighing up in your mind whether a certain research article is going to be useful to your next essay, or thinking about the positives and negatives of something (and there are many more examples beyond these!). 

By combining the various definitions, we can summarise that critical thinking relies on many things. When you use critical thinking, you are using skills such as research and processing information, evaluating the information by how valuable or applicable it feels to you and making an informed choice or summary about your next steps. You might see that sounds exactly like the process of essay planning. 

Did you know that the process of career planning is not much different from essay planning?  


Using critical thinking to find your next work experience 

Now that we are confident about the meaning and process of critical thinking, let’s see how you can bring this skill to your career planning in a small, manageable way.  

If you are planning for your Easter or Summer and hoping to land work experience, then this section is for you. At King’s Careers & Employability, we’re passionate about helping students build success and make the right choices for your personal career journey. There is no ‘best’ or ‘only’ way to do it  your interests, passions, personal situation and needs all matter when it comes to making the right decision on your next steps. 

So, this is where critical thinking skills come in. When you feel that work experience might be next on your horizon, remember that the most popular option you hear about might not always be the right one for you. Use the three steps below to help yourself through the process with critical thinking at the heart of your decisions:  


1) Research and process information

Just like essay planning, the research process for finding work opportunities might take you a little time so allow yourself time to look around. Find out what’s out there, read about different kinds of opportunities, and then some! You might find lots of different options, such as virtual internships, work simulations, part-time work or volunteering projects in your field of interest. You might even come up with an idea to create your own work experience, such as a creative or research project.  Add every opportunity you find to a list on your computer or notebook.


2) Evaluation

Again, just like in essay planning, you know that once you have done plenty of research, comes the time to see what looks useful and what’s not. At the evaluation stage, you want to find out whether certain opportunities have positives or negatives, and how each option fits your personal situation. So go through the list and ask some questions: is one opportunity very applicable to your career interests but really competitive to apply for? Is another opportunity a bit ‘out there’ and unrelated on the surface, but would help you develop the same skills as the more obvious choice – or enable you to be a better candidate for the more obvious experience at a later date?


3)Make an informed choice

Now comes the time where you make the choices of where to apply. It’s not always easy! Based on your evaluation and what feels right to you, it may be useful to choose a few work experience options to increase your chances and work through crafting yourself a great application using some of our KEATS resources. Remember, writing applications is also a bit like writing essays: it takes a while to refine your style. 


Group fist bump with five people working on laptops
Photo by rawpixel.com


If you would like further help in thinking what might be the right choice for you, you can also talk with a Career Consultant, by booking an appointment on King’s CareerConnect. Sometimes you might choose nothing and that is okay too – if you have other priorities in your degree or home life, then maybe the right choice for you is to delay work experience until later date. 


So what’s out there? A peek at King’s work opportunities 

We hope that you enjoyed thinking about how critical thinking skills from academia can be applied to your Easter or Summer planning, and you now know how to break down the process of finding work experience to small manageable chunks.   

King’s offers a lot of support and resources for students to find work experience, and the King’s Careers KEATS pages have a page dedicated to giving you ideas.

Some ideas from us: If you are from an underrepresented student group, you might be interested in the Advance programme for Easter holiday opportunities – opening February 2021 to eligible students who complete a learning Pathway before you can browse and apply to work opportunities.  The Springboard programme is Advance’s sister programme for Summer work experience. If working flexibly is your priority, then King’s Internships host plenty of opportunities on their Enrich Programme. Or you might be interested in academic research experience – and that’s where King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship, a funded summer opportunity comes in And don’t forget that every student and graduate has the ability to seek work opportunities freely through King’s CareerConnect, and connect with KCLSU volunteering seek for volunteering opportunities.  

bush house rooftop
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash