If you're in Year 10 at school and you're reading this post, then you're probably about to start looking for work experience ideas.
Doing a work experience placement is a great way to find out whether a certain type of career is for you. It gives you the opportunity to learn new skills, build contacts and experience what it’s like working in a real 9-5 job.
But that’s not all.
According to an employer survey carried out by Gumtree, some 90% of employers thought that work experience was essential for anyone applying for jobs in the current climate. The survey found that job applicants with good work experience were seen as more knowledgeable (67%), more confident (44%) and more committed (40%).
So, we know that work experience can do you the world of good when it comes to looking for jobs in the future, but how can you come up with the best work experience ideas?
All will be revealed…
Follow your passions
'Focusing on your passions is a great way to find work experience ideas'
Knowing what you want to do with the rest of your life when you’re 16 is no mean feat and unless you have a particular career in mind, finding good work experience places can be tough. We all have those friends who know whole-heartedly that they want to be doctors, lawyers and teachers, but what about the rest of us? What about those of us who just don’t know?
Well, as a starting point, we recommend that you follow your passions. What are you interested in? If you’re a music fan, maybe your perfect work experience placement would be in a music shop? If you’re an animal lover, then why not contact your local farm, zoo or stables for opportunities?
'If you’re stuck for work experience ideas, start by focusing on your passions'
Whatever it is that gets you out of bed on Saturday mornings, this could be the very thing that you’d love to do for work experience.
Once you have a general idea of where you’d like to work for your week’s placement, the next step is to go out and find opportunities.
Finding the best work experience places is all about reaching out to employers early.
Who should you talk to about work experience opportunities?
'Your school careers advisor is a great source of information'
In the first instance, your best resource for finding work experience ideas is the internet. We recommend that you start your search by looking for companies in your local area that do the kind of work that you’d like to try. A general Google search should provide you with enough information to get you started and you should also consider browsing through online business directories too.
If you don’t have any success with your online efforts, then the next step we’d recommend is speaking with your school careers advisor. Some careers advisors will have a list of contacts that they can provide you with, or they’ll be able to point you in the direction of the best places to look.
You should also speak to your friends and family. Tell them that you’re looking for work experience in a particular role and ask them if they know anyone who may be able to help.
We’ve all heard the six degrees of separation theory right?
The theory goes, that everyone is only six contacts away from another person, by way of introduction. This means that if you speak to six people about your work experience idea, at least one of them will be able to hook you up with an opportunity.
Before you do start making enquiries though, make sure that you have a really good CV and cover letter written and ready to send of. For more advice about how to apply for work experience, we suggest you read our post How to Find Work Experience.
Work experience programmes
If you find yourself struggling to come up with work experience ideas on your own, then you might want to start looking for structured work experience programmes.
A lot of the larger companies in the UK offer structured work experience placements to school students, however, competition can be tough.
Most large companies will ask you to complete an application form rather than just sending your CV, so you need to make sure that you take the time to write a really good job application – a half-hearted effort just won’t cut it.
You can check out our full list of companies offering work experience on our website here, or have a look at this selected list to see if anything catches your eye:
Most of these placements require you to complete an application form, so make sure you put your best foot forward and double check your application for spelling or grammar issues.
Popular industries for work experience
'Find out what placements previous students have done'
Another way to come up with work experience ideas is to look at some of the most common industries that school students have worked in previously. Because these industries are popular with school students, companies will be probably be used to receiving work experience requests and therefore should have processes in place for arranging placements.
Professional and financial services
Companies in the professional services industry give advice and support to other businesses, often in the areas of auditing, tax, accounting and management. In layman's terms, this means they help businesses run smoothly and efficiently. Many of these firms are very large and offer work experience opportunities every year.
The "big four" auditors, run work experience schemes for school students as well as for university students and graduates. As a school student, you will spend a week in one of their offices, getting a taste of life in the business and making valuable contacts at the same time.
With a little bit of Googling, you may find smaller professional services companies local to you which also offer work experience placements.
Career zone: Banking and finance
Primary and secondary schools often allow students to do work experience placements in their classrooms. Start by contacting some of the schools in your local area by sending them your CV and tailored cover letter. You may even be able to do your placement in your own school, working in classes with younger students. For more information about teaching work experience, check out the Department for Education’s Get Into Teaching website.
Career zone: Education and teaching
One of the most popular industries for work experience is marketing and public relations (PR). If you can see yourself working in a job that involves promotion, then this could be a good option for you. Start by contacting some local marketing and PR companies, then move on to contacting digital agencies or newspapers.
Career zone: Advertising, marketing and public relations
Places like television studios, radio stations, production companies and newspapers often take on work experience students. There are many different roles within the media but bear in mind that competition is high. If you live near to a major media outlet, then you could consider making enquiries about placements with them. Alternatively, you should think local and try contacting radio stations and newspapers for opportunities. If you live in London, then you might want to check out the Work for Sky website.
Career zone: Publishing and media
How do you fancy being the next Tom Ford or Victoria Beckham? If you’re looking for work experience in fashion, then why not consider looking for opportunities in retail, merchandising, hair and beauty or photography studios? For more fashion work experience opportunities, check out the Fashion Workie website.
Career zone: Fashion and beauty
Art & Design
If you’re a creative type and enjoy working with different mediums, then you could look into doing work experience in an artist’s studio, design agency or art gallery. Art & Design is a wide-ranging field and includes a lot of different job roles that you may not have thought of before.
Career zone: Art and design
The finance sector is huge and there are various different jobs within the industry. Places like banks, building societies and accountancy firms regularly take work experience students. This sector is particularly competitive so again, make sure your CV and covering letter is tailored specifically towards a career in finance.
Career zone: Banking and finance
Other useful websites for work experience ideas:
Provides practical advice and a list of work experience opportunities from large companies.
Skills, support and work experience opportunities for school students aged between 16 and 25.
A full list of media, marketing and advertising agencies that accept work experience students (this list is awesome).
For some more work experience ideas and for a first-hand account of the benefits of work experience, check out this useful video made in 2013 by a group of Year 10's from Tiverton High School in Devon:
Hopefully after reading this post, you’ll have an idea of the best places to look for work experience ideas. Our parting advice is to cast your net far and wide, particularly if you’re applying for placements in competitive industries.