The benefits of work experience
If you're not sure whether to do work experience (especially if you've got to give up a week of your holiday to do it) then read this! Work experience is your opportunity to find out about the world of work from the inside. Here we list the benefits and some tips to make the experience work for you.
There are loads of great reasons why doing work experience is worthwhile:
Bring the working world to life
- You'll get to know how people work together, how things get done and how work differs from school or college
- You'll find out if a job is as you imagined, whether it would suit you and the training needed to get into it
- You'll find out which work activities you enjoy, and which you don't
- It can help you set some career goals
Relate your studies to the world of work
- You'll see how important good English, maths and ICT skills are in the workplace
- You may find out how things you have learned in science, design and technology or business studies, for example, are put into practice.
Learn new skills
- You'll develop useful skills such as communication, teamworking, planning and organising, timekeeping, problem solving
- You'll learn how well you can cope in a new environment, working alongside people you don't know
- It will help build your confidence and give you the opportunity to take responsibility for yourself
Improve your employability
- It will give you something to put on your CV and in job or course applications
- It'll show that you are motivated to develop yourself and learn new things
- It'll give you something to talk about in interviews, particularly if you haven't done any paid work
- It can give you the edge over other candidates
- If you get on well in your placement, you might get a reference
Convinced? Here are some tips for finding a placement and making the most of the opportunity once you've secured one:
Find the right work experience
- Your school/college may organise a placement for you. They will try to ensure that you get the opportunity to work in the career area that interests you, but this is not always possible
- You may need (or prefer) to find your own placement, perhaps through family contacts or just by 'knocking on doors' so be prepared to do some research on suitable organisations and make contact by letter, phone or email
- Note: if the placement is during term time, your school or college must give its approval
- You can also find opportunities online, for example: gothinkbig, studentladder, WOOP, LifeSkills, notgoingtouni and nuffieldfoundation
- If you're not currently in education, employment or training, you can get work experience on Prince's Trust programmes
Prepare for your placement
- Find out as much as you can about the organisation - if possible, ask previous students and look at the organisation's website
- Make sure you know all the exactly where to go, what time you start and who to report to on your first day
- Do a practice run - and time your journey to allow for any delays!
- Know what happens about lunch (there may be a staff canteen, local shops or cafes where you can buy food, or you may need a packed lunch)
- Wear an appropriate outfit; dressing in neat, clean clothes creates a good impression
Make the most of the placement
- Ask questions - don't be shy; people will expect you to be finding things out
- Look interested - people you talk to are likely to be more open if you appear keen
- Expect to do some fairly routine tasks such as filing or photocopying - the reality is that many jobs do have mundane elements
- If there's something in particular that you'd like to do or observe, do ask
- Keep a daily log of your experiences and thoughts - useful for future reference
- Get feedback on your performance
- Review what you have learned each day. What have you found most interesting, and why? What skills have you used? Which situations did you find difficult to cope with, and why? How could you deal better with such situations?
- If you have problems, don't just walk away! First of all, talk to your placement supervisor and if this doesn't resolve things, contact your school or college or the person who arranged the placement if you didn't organise it yourself.
Your time on work experience is likely to be something that you never forget. It could affect the decisions you make about your future! So, make the most of it, and enjoy it!
This blog is based on the ‘Work Experience’ leaflet in eCLIPS, our online careers information resource available on subscription and as individual leaflets. Find this and other leaflets on study, education and career options.
Originally published in October 2016
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