Likely, your teachers might have started talking about it and we bet your parents have dropped a few not-so-subtle hints on the subject too.
We’re talking about work experience, of course.
We know the concept is a daunting one, especially if you’ve never set foot in the workplace before. However, in our experience, school is the perfect time to find some relevant work experience as you’ll have support from a range of individuals who want to help you succeed. So, stick with us as we give you the heads up on all things work experience.
What Exactly is Work Experience?
Work experience is any experience that involves you getting stuck in with either a specific job role, finding out about a certain industry, or spending time within a company.
Work experience can include:
- Job Shadowing: Spending a day with someone working in a role you’re interested in.
- Industry Visits: Trips to companies in specific industries where you get a tour of the workplace and a chance to ask questions.
- Work Placements: The most common form of work experience! This is where you spend 1-4 weeks with one employer learning all about a specific job.
- Summer Programmes: This is where you spend a few weeks working in either a specific role or a few different roles to build your knowledge of a company or industry during school breaks.
Work experience rates highly amongst young people as one of the best ways to gain a practical understanding of a work environment and a hand-up to fast-track their career.
Five Benefits of Doing Work Experience
Personally we think there’s no end to the benefits of a great work experience opportunity - and our employer partners back us up on that too! Below we’ve picked our top five, just in case you need a little convincing:
1. Get a Taste of Your Chosen Industry
Got an idea for a job or industry you think you’d like but not totally sure? Work experience can help you dive in and find out if it’s really right for you.
2. Discover New Career Pathways
The world of work is changing every day, with new roles and career pathways popping up left right and centre! Work experience can help you find out what’s happening and new roles you might not have even heard of yet.
3. Find the Connections Between Study and Work
Sitting in a classroom is one thing, but actually seeing how those concepts are applied in a work situation is pretty exciting. It’s a great way to see how your studies can help you be a success at work.
4. Build Your Knowledge and Develop Practical Skills
Work experience is all about you developing your knowledge, and those elusive ‘soft’ skills you’ve probably heard so much about.
5. Get Future Career Ready!
The knowledge and skills you gain from work experience will set you up well to make future decisions around what you want to study and why. Every single employer we work with tells us they’re always impressed by students who’ve gained some experience.
Five Things to be Aware of When Looking for Work Experience
We love a bit of enthusiasm, but before you go blasting out applications for every opportunity you can find, make sure you’re aware of a few important things first:
1. Most Work Experience is Unpaid
Although more employers are offering paid opportunities, work experience is about your professional and personal development so keep that as your focus over financial incentives.
2. Health and Safety First
Some workplaces simply can’t offer work experience because of health and safety requirements and age restrictions - construction, mechanics, and engineering industries spring to mind. Every workplace needs to have proper insurance and safety inductions - your school careers team can help you with this if you need.
3. Location Location Location
Be prepared to do a little bit of travel - the right opportunity for you might not be on your doorstep. That said, don’t overdo it and commit to a placement that sees you commuting for hours each way. Be flexible and stay within your means!
4. Applications and Interviews
Some placements will require you to submit an application and attend an interview. For applications, make sure you get help on what to include and put together a stellar resume. For interviews, get some practice in with a mock interview!
5. Workplace Expectations
Put your best foot forward by understanding some basic workplace expectations. Punctuality means more than just arriving on time, it means attending meetings on time and taking your scheduled lunch break on time too! The dress code, language you use, and how you seek out help if you need it are all a part of this.
Where to Find Work Experience
- Your School Careers Team - They may already have a list of available work experience opportunities, and if they don’t, they’ll still be able to help you research finding some.
- Springpod - We have a pretty awesome network of employers who offer work experience (and other early careers) opportunities. Why not create a profile and take a look?
- Company websites - If you know the companies you’d love to get experience with, their careers site is a good place to see what they have on offer. Most large organisations do have a timeframe for work experience applications – so keep an eye on those deadlines.
- Your existing network - Parents, friends, friends of friends, grandparents, older siblings - Let everyone you know you’re looking for something and we bet they’ll be happy to help!
Three Top Tips to Make the Most Out of Your Work Experience
Set yourself up for success by following our top tips:
1. Be Proactive and Show Initiative
Really take an interest in the company, the industry overall, and what each person in your team is responsible for. Think about what you’d like to do and be sure to ask if you can get some experience doing it! Don’t just wait for things to do, ask for them!
2. Ask Questions
Speak to your team about their own career journeys. What did they study? How did they get started in their job? What would they do differently? Learn as much as you can!
3. Seek Feedback
We all have strengths and weaknesses - utilise your work experience to start finding out what yours are so you can work on them! Ask for feedback from everyone you work with, so you’ll be ready for your next opportunity.
So, there you have it. We hope you’re feeling motivated to get stuck in with some work experience.