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How to prepare for a work experience placement

For many students, a work experience placement is their first taste of what it’s like to be in a real workplace. Understandably, you’ll be excited, maybe even a bit nervous and not knowing what to expect on your first day only adds to the uncertainty.

Whatever your feelings are towards your work experience placement, rest assured that you’ll be great. Here's our guide to how to prepare for work experience. 

Make contact ahead of your placement

This is an obvious one right?

True. But you’d be surprised at how this might slip your mind as you’re preparing other things. We recommend speaking with your contact at the company to confirm that you have the correct starting date and time.

Talking with your employer beforehand also gives you the opportunity to ask about dress codes, parking spaces, typical working hours and whether there’s anything specific that you need to bring with you on your first day.

You should also ask the name of the person that will meet you when you arrive. If anything, speaking with your employer by phone will help put your mind at ease and confirm that they’re expecting you as planned.

Research the company before you start

A big part of knowing how to prepare for work experience is doing your research beforehand. Having a good idea of what the company does before your first day will help you make sense of things when you’re there. It’ll also help you prepare some questions that you might want to ask during your placement.

The more research you do before your work experience, the more you’ll be able to engage in conversation with your colleagues. Trust us, your research won’t go unnoticed and if nothing else, it’ll help you create a good first impression with your manager and fellow employees.

In many cases, work experience placements often end up resulting in full-time jobs, so if you enjoy your time there, bear in mind that your efforts could help you secure a job with the company in the future.

Make sure you're dressed for the occasion 

What to wear to your work experience placement will depend largely on the type of work you’ll be doing. If you’re going to be based in an office, then you may need to wear a shirt and tie or blouse, whereas if you’ll be working outdoors, you’ll need to bring warm clothes and suitable footwear. 

Your employer should give you an indication of the workplace dress code before you start, but if not, make sure you ask if you’ll need to buy any special clothing. By dressing in the same way as the rest of the workplace, you’ll feel more comfortable and feel a part of the team quicker too.

Gather the resources you’ll need

Being organised with resources before you start your placement will enable you to begin working straight away. If you’re going to be working in an office, will you need to bring your own laptop? If you’ll be working in a research role, is there any special equipment that you’ll need to buy beforehand?

Also, think about the equipment that you might need on a daily basis. If you’ll be working as a tradesman, you’ll probably need to have your own tools, or if you’ll be working in a school, for example, you may need to have lessons prepared beforehand.

Do you have a work experience placement coming up? How do you plan to prepare for your first day? Perhaps you’ve just completed your first placement – how did it go and what advice would you give other students about to start theirs?

For more information on work experience placements, check out our post about how to get the most out of work experience.