What is work experience?
Simply put, work experience refers to a period of time spent immersed in a professional environment, learning more about what it would be like to work there full-time.
Placements can range from one day to multiple weeks, and school students often participate in work experience during the school holidays.
Does it cost money?
Although certain paid work experience courses do exist, it is unusual for a student to pay money to a company in order to gain work experience.
Similarly, you are unlikely to receive a salary when you participate in a work experience placement: you are there to learn, not earn!
What’s the difference between an internship and work experience?
Internships are also great opportunities to gain experience of working in a particular field, but they tend to be longer, paid placements: typically completed after A Levels or after graduating from university.
Why should I complete work experience?
You won’t have time to develop many job-specific skills when completing work experience, however, that does not mean that they are not useful!
Here are our top reasons for completing a placement:
- It gives you a better understanding of how the professional world works
- It’s a great opportunity to try a career you might never have thought of before
- It will help you to understand what you want (and don’t want) from a career
- You could learn key transferable skills like communication, teamwork and organisation
- It could inspire your university or A Level subject choices
It could be a great asset to your university application and your CV
When’s the best time to participate in work experience?
Some schools designate certain weeks of the year as ‘Work Experience Weeks’, when all students are expected to complete a placement.
However, if your school does not do this, identify some time when you will not be busy with studying or revision. The long post-GCSE summer holiday is a great example.
This means that you’ll need to start exploring opportunities and applying for placements from March onwards (the earlier the better).
How do I decide where to do work experience?
In reality, any work experience placement can be a valuable opportunity: so don’t get hung up on finding the ‘perfect’ placement in your dream job.
However, if you feel like you have too many options to choose from, try this quiz from UCAS to discover which career field you might be best suited to – then look for opportunities in that sector.
How do I find a placement?
Start by reaching out to your school’s Career’s Adviser: they should have plenty of suggestions and resources to help you find a placement.
Searching online is also a good idea, as numerous big companies offer up places to work experience students as part of their outreach and recruitment strategy. AllAboutCareers has some helpful suggestions for students looking for finance, engineering, architecture.
Over the past year, many companies (including the NHS) have launched their own online work experience schemes; for example, FutureLearn has a Virtual Work Experience course for vets.
Explore the SpringPod website or search online for the best opportunities for you.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of making a phone call or sending an email to the company or place where you’d like to complete work experience. You might be able to arrange a placement for yourself!
How do I apply for work experience?
Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, you’ll need to convince the company to take you on as a work experience student!
Some application processes are more formal than others, but it’s likely that you’ll have to submit a CV outlining your strengths and qualifications, as well as a cover letter explaining why you would be a good fit for the placement.
To increase your chances of being accepted, be sure to research the company and think carefully about why you are a suitable applicant. Ask a teacher or parent to check your CV and cover letter for you if you are not feeling confident!
Remember that some companies receive hundreds of applications from work experience students. You probably won’t be accepted right away, but keep being persistent and you’ll secure a great placement eventually.
That’s all of our expert wisdom on work experience; we hope it’s motivated you to start searching for a placement!
If you’ve got any further questions or you’d like to tell us about how you secured your work experience placement, get in touch with the Save My Exams team via social media (@SaveMyExams).