Work experience is a short-term work placement designed to introduce students to what a typical day in their chosen industry will be like, putting theory into practice. This is an excellent way to prepare for a future career, add valuable experience to your CV and gain practical skills that can benefit you after graduation.
Here’s what makes work experience such an important part of your studies.
The Importance of Work Experience
Did you know that two-thirds of potential employers look for graduates with relevant work experience? These graduates are typically better prepared for the world of work.
One-third of employers feel that the graduates applying for available positions don’t have enough knowledge about their chosen career. This puts those with work experience at a distinct advantage when job-hunting.
Work experience doesn’t just improve your employability. It also has many other benefits, meaning you’ll get to:
- See how the workplace differs from school and university
- See how your studies can be applied in the “real world”
- Find out if your expectations line up with the reality of the job
- Start setting career goals
- Discover which work activities you enjoy the most
- Relate your studies to the world of work
- Learn soft skills, like communication, teamwork, planning, time management and problem-solving
- Build your confidence and learn how to work with new people
How to Get Work Experience
There are a few different types of work experience available for students.
- Job shadowing: Shadowing allows you to follow someone in their day-to-day work activities, to give you an idea of what your future job will be like. It’s usually an unpaid position, and lasts one to two weeks.
- Sandwich placement: This is a year-long job placement with an employer; it is usually paid, and makes up part of your course work as a student. It’s an excellent opportunity to learn on the job.
- Work placement: This is a formal work experience arrangement that includes specific tasks and training. It will run for a set period, depending on the training required.
- Volunteering: If there’s a cause or a project you’re passionate about, get involved as a volunteer. This will help you to develop your skills and learn more about your passion.
How to Ask for Work Experience
What’s the best way to approach a company to ask for work experience?
You can find contacts in your city by attending local networking events, and connecting with the appropriate people via platforms like LinkedIn to introduce yourself.
Apply via a letter or an e-mail, including the following information:
- Your area of study, and what level
- How you heard about the company
- Why you chose this company for work experience
- What you hope to gain from the work experience
- Your hobbies and extracurricular activities
- Your CV and contact details
Don’t write one generic application to send out to multiple companies – instead, be sure to tailor your application to each one. This will help you to make the best possible first impression.
Tips for Your Work Experience Placement
- Ask questions and pay attention to the answers
- Be prepared to do tasks like filing, coffee runs and office admin
- Speak up and ask if there’s a particular task you’d like to try or observe
- Keep a daily log of your experiences, and review your learning from each day
- Talk to your placement supervisor if you experience any problems
- Ask for feedback on your performance
Different cities offer different work experience opportunities. For example, London is a thriving hub of media, finance and tech businesses, while Glasgow has a reputation as the creative capital of the UK. Find work experience opportunities in your city, and take the next step in the career you’ve been dreaming of!