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Work Experience

Work Experience

Work experience is incredibly important in the world of employment – it’s there for you to get a small taste of what your future career could be like. It can help you decide which role or industry you want to work in, or more importantly, don’t want to work in. Employers’ love work experience, so you’re missing out if you don’t have any.

If you’re struggling to get a job, and think the main thing holding you back is your lack of professional experience in the workplace, work experience could be perfect for you. Going into the world of work is a bit like meeting a partner’s parents for the first time, it can be daunting. However, once you know what to expect, it can make the process much easier which is why work experience is so important.

Work experience is something most employers consider in an application (even for apprenticeships), so it can be essential to getting a job. Whether you have great qualifications or not, it’s a fantastic way to support your application. Work experience involves:

  • Work preparation training – it gives you the skills and confidence needed for the first step in your career. Your experience will look great on a CV and give you that extra pizazz you need to appeal to employers.
  • Skills you need to find a job – employers are at the centre of work experience, so they focus on developing your skills to aid your future success in employment.
  • Professional experience – you’ll be working alongside employees at the company, giving you the chance to learn from others who have already gone through the same process.
  • An improved CV – work experience gives you great practical experience and a reference who can attest to your best skills and abilities.
  • Connections – these really are everything! Lots of people end up working at the organisation they had work experience, particularly if you make a great impression!

It’ll involve you joining a company for a few weeks or maybe a couple of months to really get you to learn the ropes of a role you may wish to have. During your work experience placement, you’ll have a manager and sometimes you’ll have a mentor or buddy too. These people will be there to help you get the most out of your work experience placement – think of them as the Yoda to your Luke Skywalker.

You’ll have the chance to network with colleagues currently working in that industry and job role, so you’ll get experience and insight in many different areas, or you could be involved in work shadowing where you shadow someone in a more senior role too!

If you’ve got work experience, you want to make the most of it. One way to do so is to discuss with your supervisor when you arrive at the placement what you want to get out of it. This includes your ambitions, such as what you want to achieve in your career and how the placement fits into your future job search and any particular skills you wish to gain.

Ask as many questions as you can – you’ll be working with experienced people so get it is the perfect place to ask for advice. Keep note of any work you do to build your CV, ask for feedback and say thank you to leave on the best note!

Work experience is often favoured by employers and can help you decide what career you want to have – or not want to have.


What are is work experience like?

As you’ll likely only be on a short placement, you’ll be given some duties and responsibilities other members of the team usually do, but you’ll have a lot more support. Whether you’re on the workshop floor, behind a desk in reception or in the office, you’ll be assisting the team with their day-to-day tasks. You could spend part of your work week shadowing someone in the business, working closely with someone in a role you could see yourself in!

Can I do work experience?

Anybody can do work experience, anywhere! You can get in touch with local employers and ask them if they have any current opportunities. But we do recommend looking at programmes ran alongside a training provider or overseen by an organisation such as Movement to Work. For work placements by Movement to Work, you need to be 18 – 30 years-old, currently unemployed, and registered with Job Centre Plus.

Why should I do a placement?

There are many reasons why you should do a placement, but here are just a few:

  • Clarify your career goals for the future
  • Learn what you do (and don’t) like about different jobs
  • Give you an insight into the way organisations operate and the challenges they face
  • Increase your skills and knowledge
  • Provide you with networking opportunities
  • Help you to understand a particular job or industry

What kind of work experience can I do?

You can do work experience in almost any job you can think of! There are no limits on opportunities, but some jobs are slightly more restricted than others. An organisation might process confidential information, require specialist training or work with children, which may cause problems or require you to get a DBS check. However, typically if you’re under 16 a DBS check this isn’t required or if it’s a longer placement the employer will help you with the relevant checks. The workplace you work at will tell you what you need!

How long is work experience?

Work experience can last anything from a few weeks to a few months, depending on the employer and the work experience programme that you apply for.

Does it cost me money to do work experience?

Work experience is a free opportunity. Employers offer you the experience to help you get on the career ladder, you don't have to pay for this. However, it’s important to be aware of some costs that may come with the opportunity, whether that is cost of travel or even making sure you can pay for lunch while you are there. Some work experience placements do offer basic expenses such as food and travel.

Can I apply for lots of work experience placements?

You can apply for as many work experience placements as you like, the more the merrier. However, you can only do one opportunity at a time. Applying for lots of opportunities will give you more to choose from!

What does an employer look for in my application?

An employer will be looking for your passion in the industry and the reason why you want the job. If you have ambitions to have a career in marketing and you’re applying for a marketing work placement that will put you ahead of the curve. Make sure you spend some time researching the company and industry to support your interest and prove you know your stuff!

What support do I get?

When you do work experience, you‘ll have a supervisor or manager at the employer you are working at. Some work experience programmes also give you a mentor or buddy to support you finding a job and with other aspects you may need help with.

Do I get paid?

Some work placements will pay you for your work, however, most often you won’t get paid. Many employers will offer you subsidised travel, travel cards or lunches.

How does this help in the future?

As well as all the experience you will gain from the placement, you will also get more practical help. You’ll get a supervisor or even a mentor who might be able to act as a referee for you in future job applications!

At the end of your placement, you’ll also get a reference that you can take with you to future employers when you’re looking for paid work.

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