Work experience is an excellent way to find out what careers you are interested in and gain experience. It can be hard to find – see our guide to finding work experience - so it’s important to make the most of your work experience.
Planning your work experience
Before you even start to look for work experience you need to think: what do you want to get out of the experience? For example, if you want some experience working in an office, a placement that is not related to your degree or the sector you want to go into afterwards may still be useful.
How much time are you able to commit to a work experience placement – a few days, a few weeks or longer? Longer placements may only be available during vacation periods. You also need to consider how to fund any costs like travel or accommodation; it may be that virtual work experience allows you to build skills without incurring costs.
Applying for a placement
Before applying, you can ask for more information on what a placement will involve. Though employers may not provide much more detail, this could help you whether the placement will give you the experience you need.
If you are making a speculative approach to a company, include a CV and a cover letter outlining why you want work experience with the company and what you can offer them.
Making the most of your work experience placement
Talk to staff you’re working with to find out more about career paths and how to develop the skills you would need to work in that job or sector.
Keep some notes on what you’re doing and who you’re working with – this could be useful later should you need to ask for a reference.
Reflecting on your work experience and followup
At the end of the placement, take some time to reflect on what you’ve learned and decide what your next steps are – do you want to get some more experience in that sector, try something else, or develop your skills in another area?
Update your CV and Linkedin with the experience and the specific achievements and skills you have developed.
Finally, remember to write and thank those you were working with for the opportunity – you can even stay in touch as you start your career in an industry.