Why should I do work experience?
This a great question to start off with. It’s important that you consider the reasons why you think work experience is a good move right now. For example, taking a random placement for ‘the sake of it’ may not be a great use of your time, whereas a week doing something relevant to you can be extremely beneficial.
A well thought out work experience placement can give you:
- Experience – and not just for beefing up your CV. You’ll meet new people, learn new skills and enjoy spending a day out of the classroom, which can be very refreshing!
- Connections – those new people you meet may just hold the keys to a new job. Hold onto some contact details and begin building your network.
- Proof of Initiative – not only does work experience look great on a CV, it shows prospective employers that you’re a ‘self-starter’. Someone who goes looking for opportunities is always more attractive than someone who waits to be handed them on a plate.
- Potential Employment – whilst there’s no guarantee, the next time your placement company is hiring, they might look to you- after all, you’ve already done the job once!
Where should I look?
When choosing a placement, it’s a good idea to look for something which complements your career ambitions. If you haven’t decided what you’d like to do as a career yet, think about what you’re studying and where your interests lie.
Maybe you’re studying to work with children– are any of the local nurseries or play groups offering work experience?
Try not to opt for the easiest option just because it’s available. So your aunt Pauline is offering a week in her salon– fantastic if you’re an aspiring beautician but if you’re dead set on becoming a vet, your time might be better spent elsewhere.
Make sure your placement isn’t going to get in the way of any paid work or studying. If you’re about to head into a busy exam period, focus on revision for now– you can always look into placements later on. Work experience should complement your education, not jeopardise it.
How do I find a placement?
These days there are lots of ways to find work experience opportunities. You could begin by asking family and friends if they know of anywhere appropriate. If you’d like to try working in an area related to your studies, speak to your tutors– you might be able to benefit from their experience and connections. Many schools and universities have careers advice services– swing by and pick up some free information.
If you’re feeling brave, make a list of any local businesses which appeal to you and pay them a visit. Politely ask if they would consider taking a voluntary student placement and see what they say. Worst case scenario– they say ‘no thank you’. Best case– they say ‘yes’ and are duly impressed by your ‘go get ‘em’ approach!
If you’d rather scope out the options first, try searching online for opportunities in your area. You can also use Wozedu.com to connect with local students, who may be able to offer some first-hand advice.
How do I get the best from my time?
Hurrah– you’ve scored a placement!
The No.1 rule now is to GET INVOLVED. You’re giving your time for free, so make sure you’re getting as much out of the experience as possible!
Don’t be afraid to step forward and volunteer to try new things. No-one will expect you to know everything– you’re there to learn and the best way to learn is by having a go.
If you’re lucky enough to try lots of new things, keep a log of everything you’ve done. Jot down a few notes in your lunch break or in the evening– they’ll come in handy when you’re updating your CV later.
Before you finish the placement, ask your ‘boss’ if they’d mind giving you a short reference. This’ll be helpful in proving what a great job you did to future employers, or even when asking for future work experience.