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A Quick Guide To Work Experience

If you’ve just left school or college, you may think that you don’t have the experience that employers are looking for.

Why work experience?

Doing some work experience is a great way to plug that gap, giving you the opportunity to:

  • Demonstrate your existing skills and abilities in a real workplace.
  • Develop new skills.
  • Try out a particular type of job, which can help you decide whether it could be your best next step.
  • Build up your network of contacts, which could be useful for future job opportunities or getting references.

Most work experience is unpaid, but there are some opportunities where you can earn money. Most importantly it will give you more to add to your CV and make you stand out from the crowd.

Don’t worry if a work experience opportunity isn’t the exact type of job you want. Focus on what you can gain from it, whether it’s new skills, meeting new people or even finding out more about yourself. Doing any work experience will show a potential employer that you are keen to work and have a healthy attitude to self-development.

What is work experience?

Types of work experience include:

  • Work placements means doing a job with an employer for a short period of time. This could be full time over a 1- or 2-week period or longer, or going into a workplace for 1 or 2 days a week.
  • Job shadowing provides a chance to watch someone doing a job for a day or a few days to help you find out more about a job role.
  • Internships are paid periods of work experience lasting 2 to 3 months in the summer. They’re usually aimed at undergraduates and recent graduates but can include school leavers.
  • Hybrid or virtual work experience. More placements now include ‘hybrid’ working. This means working some of the time remotely using digital technology, and some going into the workplace. Some employers also offer wholly ‘virtual’ placements where you work remotely and don’t have to go into the workplace at all.
  • Training courses that offer work experience placements built-in might be an option. Find out more on our skills for work page.
  • Volunteering is a great way to get experience while giving something back to your community or supporting a cause you’re passionate about. Find out more on how to get into volunteering.

How to find work experience opportunities?

Ways you can find work experience opportunities include:

  • Talking to your family and friends – they could have ideas or contacts.
  • Approaching businesses you use or recruitment agencies to ask for advice, or even offer them your CV.
  • Getting in touch with your teachers or tutors if you’ve just left school or college.
  • Contacting employers you’ve worked for previously, for example, if you had a part-time job at college, or a short stint of work experience at school.
  • Checking out local employers’ websites to find out what they offer.
  • Getting advice from a careers adviser at school or college.

How can my local Jobcentre Plus help?

If you’re on benefits and looking for work, Jobcentre Plus can also help you find opportunities, including work experience, volunteering and work trials. You might also be able to get help with costs like childcare and travel.

If you have a work coach, they will be able to tell you about any benefit rules that might apply. Ask them about the Youth Offer (external website). Support can include:

  • Work experience – if you’re getting Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) or Universal Credit, you can get work experience through Jobcentre Plus. This can last between 2 and 8 weeks, and you’ll normally be expected to work between 25 and 30 hours a week. You’ll carry on getting your JSA or Universal Credit payment as long as you continue to look for work.
  • Volunteering – if you’re unemployed and looking for work, your work coach will help you to find a volunteering opportunity.
  • Work trials – give you the chance to try out a job and keep getting benefits. It can last up to 30 working days, and you might get offered a job at the end.

Find out how to contact your local Jobcentre Plus.

Go to next page ‘Volunteering: the ‘secret sauce’ for getting a job’ →

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