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Work Experience - What's in it for me?

Work experience is a fantastic opportunity to show what you are capable of doing, looks good on your CV and is valued by employers.

You need to decide what it is you want out of it:

  • Do you want to find out more about a particular career area or specific job?
  • Do you want a chance to enhance your CV when applying for a job or course?
  • Do you need to do work experience as part of your course?
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3 great reasons to do work experience

  • It builds your self-confidence and allows you to show an employer you have the right attitude to work and that you are flexible, enthusiastic and willing to learn.
  • It helps you decide if the career path you have chosen is right for you and you will have the opportunity to network with employers. 
  • It can give you experience of using skills which you can mention on your CV.

Types of work experience

Placements

Block placement, (Yr 10, 12 and college students) - Block work experience is a week of two with an employer where they will put a programme together for you and you will complete a work experience diary.

One day per week placement (Yr 12 and course related) - This type of work experience is generally linked to a specific course you are completing but does not have to be.  Again you will have a programme for your placement and will be asked to write a diary of your time with the employer(s).

Work shadowing

When there are specific reasons where you cannot actually do the job role work, for example if the job requires specialist skills, you might get to 'shadow' someone who is doing the job. This may relate to some jobs in medicine, engineering and construction.

Internships (paid and unpaid)

Internships can be a great way of developing your skills and adding experience to your CV – usually anything from a few weeks to a few months.

Traineeships

These are advertised on the National Apprenticeship Service website and last for 6 weeks to 6 months.  They are unpaid and are intended to support you with progression into an apprenticeship.  Although unpaid employers are encouraged to support your transport and meal costs if they are able.

Volunteering

There are many opportunities to volunteer to help you:

  • Try a different area of work
  • Learn new skills
  • Develop skills and experiences you can include on your CV
  • Show an employer you are proactive
  • Build networks to help you find the career you really want

To find out more visit the Volunteering page.

And don’t forget any part time work!

Always think of any part time work as an opportunity to develop your skills, build your self-confidence as well as earning some money. Employers do value these experiences as they show motivation, self-discipline and a willingness to work.

Where to find work experience

Start by speaking to people you know – teachers, family, friends, neighbours.  They could know someone who could offer you a placement or offer one themselves.

Contact employers. You can do this by going to jobs and careers fairs that are advertised or by getting in touch by letter, email, phone or in person. Make sure you create a good impression, always be polite and leave your contact details. If you are speaking to someone face to face smile and keep eye contact.

Many employers offer work experience through application processes on their websites so look out for these.

How to make the most of your work experience

Demonstrate and develop your skills

Use the opportunity to practice and develop your skills in a real situation. When applying for jobs or courses later talk about the skills you used on your work experience as employers will value your ability to demonstrate you have used your skills. Make sure you add your work experience to your CV ready for applications for jobs, college courses and university.

Help decide your career pathway  - is it right for you?

Work experience can help you decide whether a job area is for you. You might find your work experience confirms that job is exactly what you want to do in the future or if not, then at least you know and can look at other careers.

Build a network

It is good to keep in contact with employers you have worked with as there could be opportunities in the future to work for them or they could recommend you to another employer.

Finally, you need to be organised!

If you want to give yourself the best chance to find the right placement you cannot leave it to the last minute. 

For more information

Read the Fair Train Youth Handbook

Visit Success at School for work experience ideas and a link to Work Experience opportunities

Go to What Employer Want for further guidance