Getting the most from work experience

If you want to maximise your chances of finding employment in your chosen field, focused work experience can really help you on your career path.


Whether you are a graduate or have just left school, using your initiative and picking the right place to volunteer for work will pay dividends.

Students will often be required to take temporary (often unpaid) employment as part of a course and their tutors will play an active part in the assessment of the whole experience.

But if you go it alone, make sure that you have clear objectives set out when you approach an employer.

Write a speculative letter and enclose a CV, emphasising that you are willing to work hard in return for supervision, assessment and a reference.

Be clear from the beginning that you are there to learn about their business and are keen to make an active contribution to the team.

Tea making skills might come into the role but these are by no means the only skills they should expect from you or that you should offer, so don’t undersell yourself.

Offering work placements with a constructive outcome requires a degree of commitment on behalf of an employer.

Ask whether you will have a structured programme to follow, including an induction.

Will you be assigned to different departments during your stay? If so, will each department offer you relevant experience?

It is important that you have someone to report to and organise your day-to-day work. This person will be your mentor and act as a referee and assessor.

There is little point accepting a work placement with a company that seems less committed to the idea than you are.

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