You probably know that work experience is a crucial way to build up your key skills, as well as your confidence. But if you're wondering how to get work experience, we've put together this guide to finding a great placement.
A lot of big companies offer structured work experience programmes - but not all, so you need to know where to look for other opportunities.
First, a quick recap of the upsides! A work experience placement makes for a really valuable addition to your CV. It shows employers you're dedicated, and that you have the key skills they're looking for — like working in a team and knowing how to communicate effectively. You'll also be able to see what different jobs are like to get a feel for whether a particular career is right for you.
Work experience usually lasts between one and four weeks. It can be completed all in one go or over one or two days per week to fit in with your school or college work.
So here are a few places you can begin your search for work experience...
Start with your school
Depending on what year you're in, or what stage you're at, your school or college could be the idea place to begin your hunt for work experience.
Many schools include a week or two in the Year 10 curriculum for students to complete work experience placements. The summer holidays after Year 12 or Year 13 are also an ideal time to arrange your own placements.
Many schools and colleges will help you find work experience. Talk to your teacher or careers advisor.
You might also be able to arrange a placement somewhere as part of your course if you are studying a practical subject like IT or design.
Some qualifications have work experience built into them, like BTECs and NVQs. Check with your teacher if any of these options are on offer at your school.
Ask friends and family
Another good approach to find work experience is to ask friends and family. You'll be surprised at how many opportunities there might be in your immediate social circles. You could even try a friend's parents - perhaps they own a business or company that offers work experience? Consider family members or friends of the family who work in the Career Zone you're interested in.
You don’t have to go somewhere that has done work experience placements before, but it helps if they have, as they will understand what to offer you.
Try your local area
First off, write down a list of jobs you are interested in, then get online and search for local
businesses that offer these kinds of jobs. Big companies sometimes have a section on their
website that will tell you how and when to apply for work experience. With smaller companies you will
need to track down their details and call them or send an email to see if they have anything on offer.
Remember, you should look for a placement near your home or school. If you want to go for something further away, make sure your folks are happy to give you a lift or let you travel by bus/train.
Contact companies directly - even if they don't run an official programme
A lot of the larger companies in the UK offer structured work experience placements to school
students. Most large companies will require you to fill out an application form rather than just sending your CV, so make sure to write a great application (we've got tips on that very thing right here).
But even if businesses don't advertise work experience programmes, they may still be able to offer you a placement. So you should reach out to companies (ideally in your local area) to enquire. They'll certainly appreciate you taking the initiative. Send your CV with a short cover letter. This will show that you are making the effort and will give a great first impression.
Make sure to say in your letter why you would like to work there in particular, which demonstrates that you've done your research.
Bonus tip: Find out the name and email address of the company manager to write to. Don’t send your email to a generic address like firstname.lastname@example.org unless you are told to, as it might go straight in the spam bin. Give them a call if you can’t find the info online.
When it comes to knowing how to get work experience, patience is key. Some companies have lots of students applying for work experience, so you might need to wait a while before you can start. You can apply to more than one place at a time though, as long as you arrange the work for different dates.
And finally, check for opportunities right here on Success at School
We have work experience placements listed on our website. Just head over to our Jobs & Courses page.