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.
What is work experience?
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.
- Work placement - a period of work experience, which can be paid or unpaid, that is part of your study
- Internship – a short-term placement in an organisation
- Work-based project – a specific set of assessed activities carried out on the employer’s premises
- Work shadowing – observing a staff member at an organisation to understand the nature of their role and responsibilities
- Voluntary work – unpaid work, usually carried out in your own time
- Temporary work - experiencing a variety of work in different environments can be a valuable opprtunity to 'taste' a range of jobs.
The benefits of work experience
Undertaking work experience can help you to
- develop a range of transferable skills
- enhance your CV
- gain useful contacts for networking
- explore possible career options and make a positive career choice
- pursue your personal and development goals
- make a good impression on a prospective future employer.
What employers say
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.
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.