Work Experience Ideas

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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%).

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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?

Here are a few ways to get started:

1. Follow your passions

Record shop
Focusing on your interests 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'

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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.

2. Know where to find out about work experience opportunities

Careers advisor
Your school careers advisor is a great source of information

In the first instance, your best resource for finding work experience ideas is online.

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 give you enough information to get you started.

Check out our work experience listings too. You can also read our Career Zones for more info on the different work sectors out there.

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 give you, 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 ready to send. For more advice about how to apply for work experience, we suggest you read our post How to Find Work Experience.

3. Apply to work experience programmes

If you're 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. Read our list of things to boost your CV.

You can check out our full list of companies offering work experience, or have a look at this selected bunch to see if anything catches your eye:

  • EY
  • Playstation
  • NHS
  • National Trust
  • Royal Botanic Gardens
  • ITV

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.

4. Focus on popular industries for work experience

Media filmcrew
Film and TV is a popular industry for work experience

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 are used to receiving work experience requests and therefore should have processes in place for arranging placements.

Here are some of the most popular industries:

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 & Finance

Teaching

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 & Teaching

Marketing/Public Relations

One of the most popular industries for work experience is marketing and public relations (PR). It's a really varied field that involves using creativity to sell products or services. Start by contacting some local marketing and PR companies, then move on to contacting digital agencies or newspapers.

Career Zone: Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations 

Media

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

Fashion

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 & Beauty

Art & Design

If you’re creative and enjoy working with different artistic 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. Read our post on arts jobs

Career Zone: Art & Design

Finance

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. 

Career Zones: Banking & Finance, Accountancy, Insurance & Pensions

Check out this video for tips on how to find work experience:

Other useful websites for work experience ideas

Go Think Big

Provides practical advice and a list of work experience opportunities from large companies.

The Prince's Trust

Skills, support and work experience opportunities for school students aged between 16 and 25.

The Admission

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:

Work experience ideas for Year 11s

If you're in Year 11, you could think about doing an apprenticeship as a way to gain valuable work experience. Apprenticeships let you study towards a qualification while learning on the job and earning a salary at the same time. They are a good alternative to university. You can do an apprenticeship in everything from digital media and sports to accountancy and beauty

If you're planning on going to university, you could consider doing a working gap year placement. Learn more about gap year jobs.

Gaining work experience through an apprenticeship or a gap year placement will help you develop skills that employers love - such as teamwork, communication, commercial awareness and taking initiative.

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.

You might also like...

How to prepare for a work experience placement

What to wear for work experience

Image credits

CD store from Flickr

Careers event from Flickr

Boom mic from Flickr

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