The benefits of work experience and finding opportunities
Rachael: I think work experience really is the best way of getting an understanding of a different career.
Paul: Anybody who's made the effort to find out something about the job that they want to do, by doing some voluntary work in that area, then I think that I would consider them, oh I don't know. a hundred times over before I would consider somebody who either hasn't or doesn't want to or hasn't made the effort.
Rachael: Part of my role is to organise for work experience students to come to our factory. The benefit for them is that they get to see as many different avenues within engineering as we can possibly show them, because within engineering you don't have to be grimy and dirty. There are the technical sides, there are the network sides, there is the CAD, computer aided design, and there are so many different avenues within engineering that are available to people.
Paul: I think it's critically important that people do take the advantage of finding out more about the work that they want to do by undertaking work in that area, before they've even taken a paid job in it.
Work experience can involve work you do before you start your career or as part of enhancing your existing career. It can take several forms.
Undertaking work experience can help you to
With imagination and planning it is possible to find useful opportunities for work experience. Consider these tips to aid your search.
If you are already working, you may find you can volunteer or do work experience in a different role with your current employer – many have schemes for their employees and some may pay for employees to undertake work experience elsewhere. Check with your HR department to see if this is possible.
Consider work shadowing other members of staff whose roles appeal to you. You will get a more realistic idea of the responsibilities, skills and challenges of the posts.
Work experience can be found in all sorts of organisations. Usually it takes the form of unpaid work, but you may find opportunities to gain paid work experience. Use the list of Useful websites to do some research. There is likely to be competition for work experience placements at the bigger, well-known organisations, so you need to plan ahead.
Attend careers and placements fairs to talk to employers directly about their work experience schemes, and try to talk to other students who have carried out a placement at the company.
If you want to teach, for example, it is important to spend time in the classroom before applying for teacher training. If you work full time you may have to use part of your annual leave to gain work experience in a local school. Contact schools in your area to see if you can arrange this.
Organise work experience that suits you and your career plans. Your time is precious, so spend it wisely and constructively and be realistic about what you can take on.
Good employers will provide quality experience that will develop and support students and graduates. You should be able to carry out ‘real’ work and projects to help you enhance your employability and academic skills.
Graduate Prospects has information on work experience, including useful contacts and resources plus advice on work experience for students with disabilities.
AGCAS Scotland has created an online careers seminar for students Making your work experience count. It has three stages:
All experiences count and are valuable and no one should push those aside. It really doesn't matter where that experience was gained. It's about what you learnt from it … don't devalue yourself. Recognise the importance of what you've done.Head of Recruitment and Resourcing, KPMG
Most employers look favourably on applicants who can show work experience that enhances their application. By demonstrating that you have already achieved a certain level of work-based competence, you are more likely to get the job you want. A degree on its own often isn’t enough. As well as indicating what organisation you worked in, it’s important to explain exactly what your responsibilities were, what you learned and what transferable skills you developed which could be applied to other work situations.
For more information, go to the Work Experience pages on the Prospects website. The Contacts and Resources section has links to different opportunities and organisations. You can also look at the Prospects Jobs and Courses digital magazine.
We welcome career changers who completed their degree some years ago and have some work experience. The Fast Stream welcomes diversity, as life and work experience will enrich the Civil Service. Work experience is important, and is one of the things that will make you stand out above others.Head of Marketing and Diversity, Civil Service Fast Stream
Work experience and vacation placements are often very difficult to secure and can often be difficult to commit to for someone who is studying whilst working full time. An alternative is to attend as many open evenings as you can. This can give you a good insight into a firm.
If you are a mature student, your extra experience will put you at an advantage to someone who has gone straight from school to university. Your commitment, ambition, and drive will be noted as long as you’re are prepared to talk about your choice/change of career path.Trainee Recruitment Officer, Beachcroft LLP
The Open University is an ideal way of combining the experience in academia and also the experience at work and that can be a really good combination.Graduate Recruitment Manager – CGI
If you plan to change jobs then some voluntary work or work experience on your CV will be useful to show commitment and enthusiasm for your new path. It shows you have tested the water and still wish to enter that career.Marketing Manager and TEFL Trainer, Travellers Worldwide