Work experience provides many benefits, giving you skills and experience that will allow you stand out to potential employers as well as helping you choose the right sector to work in.
To see virtual Work Experience opportunities listed on our website click here or visit the Speakers for Schools VWEX (Virtual Work Experience) website here to register and find out more.
Why do Work Experience?
Work experience equips you with certain soft skills such as team working, communication skills and commercial awareness, all of which are sought after by employers.
Differentiate yourself and make yourself more employable
Work experience also helps you to differentiate yourself, an important thing to factor in when competition for jobs is so fierce. There is evidence that employers look more favorably on candidates who have gained a basic understanding of their business sector and know what it's like to be in a work environment."
Enhance your application forms and interviews
Work experience also equips you with knowledge that will enhance your job applications and particularly your interviews. Because you've gained a better understanding of the sector you want to go into, you'll be able to talk more authoritatively and ask questions that resonate with the employer…
Road test a company/sector/role
One of the great things about gaining work experience as a student is that it gives you the chance to try things out to see if they suit you. Want to find out what a company is actually like to work for, or what doing a certain job is like? Well work experience gives you the chance to experience this - for a week, a fortnight, a summer or even a year.
The possibility of leading job offers
Some work can lead to employment.
But work experience isn't just about impressing recruiters, it is also about personal development.
Make the most of your work experience
To get the most out of your work experience, you should begin to plan ahead and consider what you would like to do. You may want to think about:
the careers you are currently considering
the sort of person you are, for example, what you like and dislike
what is important to you in a job, for example working with people / animals / computers or the money you would earn
the environment you would like to work in (outdoors / in a shop / hospital / office / lab)
if you want to try a job that interests you or one that is completely new
what distance you will be able to travel for your work experience
the top 100 companies to work for in the UK / Northern Ireland
Consider your subjects
If you are still not sure what to do, why not think about your favourite subjects?
Finding a Placement
Once you have decided what you would like to do for work experience, your next challenge is to find a placement. Below are some ways to find an employer.
On the Internet
Use the internet to search for companies in the sector you are interested in.
Speak to your school
Your careers teacher may have a list of contacts in a variety of areas or could offer advice about finding a placement ( Mrs S Phillips and Mrs V O’Connor)
Ask your family and friends
Family members and friends can also be a good source for finding placements. They may know someone who works in an organisation that you would be interested in and could give you the name of someone to contact about work experience.
Contacting an employer
Contacting an employer yourself can seem a little daunting at first. However, there are a number of things you can do beforehand to help you prepare:
practice what you are going to say - you could ask your parents for support and ask if they will do a practice phone call
if you are going to write or email the employer ask someone to proof read it
research the organisation on their company website
Remember to speak clearly and to be polite. Have a pen and paper ready to take notes.
The script below will give you an idea of what you should say. If you're calling a large organisation, ask for the human resources / recruitment section. Or else ask for the name of the person you should talk to.
Start your telephone call by introducing yourself and say why you are calling:
"My name is ............. from .....School and I am looking for a work experience placement. Can I speak to the manager or relevant person please?"
When the manager or relevant person comes on the line, introduce yourself again (as above) and provide further details such as:
"I am a Year 12 student looking for a work placement from ....(give possible dates) at your school / business / organisation"
Say why you are interested in the type of work the company is involved in and that you would like to learn more by doing a work experience placement with them. Normally the manager or relevant person would be able to give you an answer straightaway or will ask you to speak to someone else or call back. Make sure the employer knows how to contact you with an answer (telephone number, email or address) if they are unable to make a decision immediately.
If they are unable to offer you a placement, don't worry, there are lots of other places to try. Be polite and thank the employer for their time.
Contacting the employer by email or letter
Alternatively you can contact the employer by email or letter. You can use the script above as the basis for an e-mail or the alternative example below.
Dear Name or Sir/Madam,
I am a student from [School name]. I will be completing my work experience from [start date] to [end date] and have chosen to find my own placement. I am hoping that you are able to offer me a placement within your company/organisation.
The reason why I would like to complete my placement at your company is [explain why you have chosen to write to them , for example I am interested in finding out more about….. or I would like to gain experience in….. ). You can also use this section to show what you know about the company: [At school I am studying…. or my hobbies and interests are………].
Tell the company a bit about yourself; include any responsibilities that you have, both in and out of school.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Yours faithfully / Yours sincerely (if you know the person's name)
presentation is very important
double check you spellings
check the spelling of words that don’t show up on spell check
check names and addresses
get someone to check your email/letter before you send it
Preparing for your placement
Contact your employer to confirm the details of your placement. Speaking to your employer before your placement can make your first day less intimidating. Make sure you have a pen, your placement details, and some paper to write notes. Then find a quiet place to make the call.
Introduce yourself and say you are ringing to confirm arrangements for your placement or to arrange an interview.
During the phone call you will need to find out answers to the following questions:
where should you go on your first day, for example reception or a particular entrance?
what time should you arrive?
what time will you finish work?
who should you ask for when you get there?
what are you expected to wear?
do you need any special equipment?
what sorts of things will you be doing?
do they expect you to have any particular skills?
will you be able to go out to buy lunch or do you need to bring a packed lunch?
Don’t forget to tell them if you have any health problems which may affect your work experience, for instance if you have any allergies or asthma.
Make sure you keep your notes of the phone call in a safe place.
Many employers will say “smart casual” but what does that really mean?
Boys should wear dark trousers (not jeans), smart shirt (plain is best) and smart shoes (no trainers). Girls should wear a plain blouse / shirt, dark knee length skirt or / trousers (no jeans), smart shoes (a small heel is ok). Don’t wear anything too tight or revealing.
If you are going to a placement that involves manual activity then jeans may be fine. Remember to have layers and a waterproof jacket in case the weather turns bad.
During your placement
To make the most out of your placement, see the tips below:
have a list of questions for your employer
remember that you are there on placement, you won’t be running the company
talk to your supervisor about what your interests are and what you want to achieve
find out about employees’ jobs, how they got them and ask for advice
keep a note of any work you do and skills and strengths you’ve used
keep a diary of what you do each day
offer to help out as much as possible
ask for feedback when you’ve finished and if you can have a reference
keep a note of any computer packages you use
if you enjoy the placement find out about their future recruitment plans
talk to your parent(s) / guardian about what you have learned each day
Say thank you
Work placements can be difficult to find as employers have competing demands for their time. Be grateful for any work experience you can secure.