Bucks Employment Support

Bucks Employment Support

Supporting the Bucks community reach employment and learning goals

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The value of experience is vast and far reaching, of this there is no doubt, but what does it mean for you in relation to work experience? Isn't work experience just something that you have to do for a week (if you are lucky!) because your teachers tell you you have to? How can a few days work experience make a difference to your future? How can you make it a successful and enjoyable experience? We hope, that by the end of this section, you will be able to see the value in engaging with employers and work, and that you will start to see opportunities all around you! 

What is work experience? 

work experience is any period of time spent in a work setting, regardless of industry, acquiring firsthand, practical experience, while also learning new skills. People of different ages and backgrounds can benefit from work experience; it is not just for students or young people.

There are different types of work experience which can be listed on your CV according to the various factors like time period and the role you played. Most common work experience categories are:


Typically lasting up to a week at a place chosen by you or your school. This is an opportunity to learn about the world of work and experience it in action. This type pf placement is typically unpaid. This is what most young people think about when we talk about work experience . This may be the first time that you will have considered work experience as an option or thought of it as something that might be worthwhile. What we often find however, is that you may have already had experiences of work outside of school that you had not considered to be work experience, but that are just as valuable. 

Work Shadowing: 

You might get to "shadow" someone who is doing the job when there are specific reasons why you cannot actually perform the job-role task, such as if the position demands specialist abilities. This may be relevant to some engineering, construction, and medical placements. Just because you can't 'have a go' at the job, this does not mean that this type experience is worth less. You can still ask lots of questions, meet new people, learn about the role and network with the company. 


There are numerous volunteering opportunities available and many can be incredibly rewarding in lots of ways. Volunteering can help you to examine alternative career paths, master new abilities, learn things about yourself that you can put on your CV, help you to demonstrate your initiative to employers and expand your network to find the career you truly want.


A traineeship is an education and training programme which incorporates work experience, preparing young people for their future careers by helping them to become ‘work ready’.

Designed for people aged 16 to 24 who don’t yet have the appropriate skills or experience for an apprenticeship, traineeships provide work preparation training, English, Maths and work experience needed to help students to secure an apprenticeship or employment. 

Find out more about traineeships here...


An internship is a set term of work experience that can last anywhere from a week to a year and is provided by an organisation. They are generally taken up by college students and recent graduates who want to learn specialist skills. Internships and work placements are frequently confused, although they are two separate kinds of experiences. Work placements, sometimes referred to as a 'year-in-industry' or 'placement year' are an integrated part of a degree, as opposed to internships, which are typically taken over the summer or after graduation to obtain experience in a particular profession. Students who are undertaking a placement year gain academic credit for completing a module.

Part time work:

Don't forget your paper round! Any part-time job should always be viewed as a chance to improve your abilities and transferable skills, boost your confidence, and make some money. These experiences are valued by employers because they demonstrate drive, self-control, and a willingness to work.

Virtual work experience:

Virtual work experience, also known as online, remote, or digital experience, offers the chance to obtain experience from home. You may improve your employability, expand your talents, and explore different employment roles and industries by gaining virtual work experience.

The majority of virtual job experiences last between a few hours and a few days, while some may go longer depending on the type of experience.

Check out some virtual work experience opportunities, listed under different job sector headings, in our 'See Your Future, Be Your Future' section.

Why do work experience?

There are many excellent reasons to give work experience a go.

  • Work experience can help you become more self-confident.
  • Work experience demonstrates to potential employers that you have the correct attitude about work and are adaptable, energetic, and eager to learn.
  • Work experience helps you to see whether the professional route you have chosen is the best fit for you, and you will have the chance to network with employers.
  • Work experience might give you actual practical experience using skills that you can highlight on your CV.
  • You get an opportunity to experience what it's like to be at work rather than school/college. 

You may be worried that you might not be able to find the 'perfect' placement, but whatever you do there will be value to be had from it. If you go in with an open mind and a willingness to learn and try new things then there will be huge benefits. Even if you come away knowing what you don't want to do in a job then that will help you to make choices in the future. Embrace the opportunity and take away all that you can from whatever it is that you do. 

How do I decide what to do and make the most of my time?

Finding your own work placement can be a good experience in itself. It means you have more choice and control over where you go, and it’s a chance to show off your organisational skills. It’s okay if you don't have any ideas about what you want to do yet and we will cover that below.

Remember that there are people who can help you at every stage. They might be:

The school's Work Experience/Careers Coordinator
The school's Careers Adviser
Your family and friends

Often your school will help you to find work experience if you are going to be doing a planned placement through the school. However, if you are planning a placement yourself, you may have more contacts than you realise. Family and family friends will have many contacts that you could email or talk to, to to see if they may be willing to take you for a week or a few days. You can speak to local businesses directly or pop into places on the high street.  If you don't ask, you won't get!  It might be that you may not be able to do a full week with the company that you want, but they may be able to offer a day or two. There is no rule to say that it has to be a long experience, any experience, even a few hours, is useful. 

If you already know what kind of job you want to do...

You might already be aware of the career you're interested in; congratulations! The best course of action is to hunt for work experience in a field or area that is similar to the career you wish to pursue.

If you are certain that you want to become a chef, you can look for employment at a cafe, pub or restaurant.

You could try to locate a placement in a hospital or GP office if you're interested in a career in medicine. Hospitals usually have specific email addresses to write to apply for placements and often have long waiting lists so apply early!

If you enjoy travelling, you can look for a job as a travel agent or tour guide.

If you believe that a job in finance would be beneficial for you, you could try to get a placement at a bank, building society, insurance or accountancy firm. 

If you don’t know what kind of job you want to do yet...

If you're still unsure of what career you want to pursue, don't worry, this is very common. You can get some ideas about various careers and industries from the 'See Your Future' and the 'Which Career?' section of this website.

You can also begin by considering the things you are most interested in.

Here are some instances of how you favourite subjects might be useful for various jobs:

English: newspapers, magazines, publishing, writing, libraries.

Maths: accounting, banking, engineering, computer programming, and finance.

Geography: environmental sciences, town planning, and green charities.

History: museums, libraries, local government. 

Science: veterinary medicine, pharmacies, zoos, lab work, hospitals.

Art and Design: fashion, photography, graphic or interior design.

Design Technology: engineering, construction trades. 

Drama and Music: local theatre groups, record companies, radio stations. 

You can research these ideas further by using eClips to look up your favourite subject and find out jobs that relate to that subject.  

If you’re really stuck...

If you're having trouble deciding which subject you like most or what line of work you'd like to find a placement in, try asking yourself these questions:

What skills do I have?
What are my hobbies and interests?
What professions have I seen or heard about that seem interesting?

You might also just choose a path or apply for a position you know little about. The goal of work experience is to provide you with insight into the working world. It doesn't have to be in a career that you would chose in the future. Ask for advice from your family, friends, teachers, and Careers Adviser.

Now that you've got some ideas...                                       

Write down your ideas:

Try to develop a list of the top 10 positions you are interested in and then envision what you might do there. Try to be realistic; keep in mind that you won't be given a lot of responsibility; consider whether the placement is appropriate for a person of your age; anticipate performing some basic and routine tasks.

Start looking: 

Once you have your list of the kinds of placement you wish to apply for, it is time to look for one. Keep in mind that other students in your year group at school might also be looking for similar work experiences placements, so try to act fast and allow plenty of time to contact employers. 

Family: If someone in your family works somewhere interesting you can speak to them about who best to contact in the company about work experience. 

Friends: Ask neighbours and family friends if their work might take you on a work placement.

Web search: If you already know of an organisation that interests you, do a web search for their contact details.

Social Media: Use social media sites like Twitter, Instagram, Tiktok and LinkedIn to keep up to date with what companies are doing and, in some cases, contact employers directly. Make sure that you conduct yourself professionally online and only upload content that you'd be happy for an employer to see. For more tips see 'Using Social Media for Career Planning' on this website.

Local search: Find employers in your local area by looking on www.yell.com. Just type in your postcode and the kind of company you’re looking for.

Shop around: Read job adverts in the local newspaper or online to find employers in your area.

Look around: Think of companies you pass when you are on your way to school or out shopping. Many students think of shops and local hairdressers as good placements, so there may be lots of you trying to go to the same place. Try to think of some different companies too. You would be surprised by how many companies there are hidden away above shops, down side roads or on industrial estates!

How far are you willing to go?: Are you willing to travel to other areas? Maybe your parents/carers work in another town, or you might have relatives you can stay with for a week? This will give you more choice and open up other opportunities.

Get in touch...

Once you have a list of companies, the next step is to contact them.

If the company is small, and in the local area, you could drop in and speak to them. This is a good idea as they will get to meet you straight away and this shows enthusiasm and confidence. 
Larger companies may require an email and a CV. You will need to ring up the company and ask who best to contact about requesting work experience. Some larger companies (such as hospitals) put this information on their websites. Once you have the name of the person you should speak to, you may then need to phone them to introduce yourself.

Make the call: 

Lots of young people find it a bit scary to call somebody they do not know.  Even some adults get nervous phoning companies. Here are some tips that might help:

Think about what you want to say before you make the call. Write it down and keep it in front of you.

  • Have a pen and paper ready to take down any names or notes.
  • Always be polite and try to speak clearly.
  • Start by introducing yourself – give your name, say which school you go to and explain that you are looking for work experience.
  • Be prepared to say why you are interested in a placement with that employer.
  • Say what interests you about that company or the kind of work they do.
  • Try to sound keen and enthusiastic.
  • Don't be discouraged by employers saying no – it’s nothing personal.
  • Keep trying other employers – don't give up.

Practice makes perfect!

Email contact

The first step is to chose the best email address to use to send the email from. It might be a good idea to send it from your school email address. If you do not want to use your school email address, then make sure that the email address that you do use has your full name and is a sensible one. 

Instead of calling a company, or before you make a call, you can email them to introduce yourself and enquire about work experience. 

The first step is to find out who to contact in the company. As mentioned above, you may need to quickly ring up the company and ask who best to contact about requesting work experience. Alternatively, they may have an email address on their website for the person responsible for organising work experience.  You could contact the person in charge of recruitment or HR. Showing that you have out some effort into getting through to the right person will mean a lot. If all you can find is a general company email address, kindly ask them for the contact information for the right person in your message. 

What to write?

It is a good idea to try and keep your email as short as possible. Professionals and companies are busy and may not have the time to read a long email. 

  • First briefly introduce yourself; say who you are and what you're studying, e.g. GCSEs. Be clear about the type of experience you're looking for, but show your willingness to be flexible if you can be. This is important because organisations usually want to help but are busy and cannot always offer help on the dates that you may first suggest. While you might want a week long placement a day or two can be just as valuable. You may be able to share your time between two placements, or do some virtual work experience on the other days if your school is doing a week of work experience.
  • In the next paragraph explain your interest in the company and say how this relates to your career ideas and aspirations. Next, give some background information about yourself including your interests, skills, qualifications, any other work experience or relevant training and relate this to the work experience requested.
  • Include any additional information about your availability to work and how to contact you. 
  • Always use a professional tone and double-check for spelling and grammar mistakes. Close your message positively and politely, reiterating your interest, willingness to provide more information and your hope to hear from them soon.
  • You should also show respect for your contact’s busy schedule and thank them for their time when considering your application. 

Reed have a good example of a letter on their website and some tips and hint for what to write. 

Follow up:

It might be difficult to know when to follow up since you want to come across as enthusiastic and professional without being annoying or pushy. It is good to follow up if you do not hear back, as it might just be that the company has forgotten to reply or just simply is too busy and has not got round to it yet. 

Follow up with an email or phone call if, after two weeks, your initial request hasn't been answered. Use common sense and account for people's busy schedules. If you have been respectful and professional, you shouldn't be scared to follow up. If the answer is not what you hoped for, do not worry or take it personally. Not all companies have the time or capacity to offer work experience. You have now had some practice at asking and you can try elsewhere!

Keep trying!

It may take a while to find a placement but don't give up. If you follow all the steps above and leave yourself plenty of time to find a placement you will be sure to fine one eventually. Do not be disheartened if it's not your first choice or you feel that it isn't directly related to your career ideas. Every placement will have something to teach you and you will learn new things about yourself, your strengths and weaknesses that will, in turn, help you to make future career decisions. There is no such thing as a 'bad' work experience placement, even if you only learn what you really do not want to do as a job in the future, that is a very valuable lesson!

How to prepare for your placement...

Now that you have found your placement it is time to think about what you can do to prepare. 

By now you will have hopefully have done some research into the company that you will be working with. Knowing what the company does and a little but about their values will go a long way to helping you to feel ready for your work experience. The more research you do, the more you will have to talk about with other employees and with managers and it will also help you to think about any questions that you might want to ask whilst you are there. 

It is easy to research companies online and find out all sorts of useful information. Make some notes to help you remember key things. Larger companies will outline their core values on their website and you should be able to find out, how the company started, what they do and even who you might be working with, as some companies will have pictures of staff members on their websites. With smaller more local employers there may not be as much information on their website, but they may have a Facebook page you can look instead. If you have found your placement through a friend or a family member make sure to ask them to tell you all they know. 

Making contact with the employer closer to the date of your placement is a good idea. This will remind them you are coming and also give you a chance some key questions:

  • What should you wear? 
  • What time should you arrive? 
  • What will your working hours be?
  • Where can you park (if you drive)?
  • Do you need to bring anything? 
  • Is there a place to buy food or drink nearby or will you need to bring lunch? 
  • Is there anything else they need you do to prepare for your time there?

You can make contact by phone or email, whichever is best for you. 

To get the best out of your time at your placement, be proactive!

UCAS has 10 way to get the most out of your work experience placement. 


Enjoy yourself! It's exciting to do something different and try something new and you never know where it might take you! Here are some things that other students have said about work experience taken from a work experience guide for Barclays Lifeskills Program. 

In a focus group of Year 10 students, one spoke about the influence on school work that work experience had had, saying

"I’ve done an awful lot better in my English, Maths and Science since. I know what I had to do to be a lawyer [after the placement]. I talked to one of the lawyers who told me what grades I needed. And they were higher than I expected."

Another, speaking about the influence on future careers said:

"I will probably stay on at school now, because everyone I worked with said that they did. That was something new I learned."

On the subject of whether work experience had helped them get a job, two Year 11 students said the following:

"If I continue with architecture, they said they would give me a part-time job.’ And ‘I was told that if an apprenticeship came up, I would probably be first choice."

Have a look at what Kieran, who was in Y12, said about his work experience placement. 

Explore the Students page to help you research career ideas and start planning for your future.