Work experience gives you a taste of what it’s like in the world of work. It’s a great chance for you to:
- get out of the classroom and learn in the real world
- build your confidence and communication skills
- get some experience to put on your CV
- try out different jobs to help you decide what to do in the future.
If you’re thinking about doing some work experience or have already found a placement, you may be wondering what to expect and what help and support is out there for you. Don’t worry, you’re not alone! We have put together this handy reference guide to help you through the process.
What can I expect from my placement?
Don’t expect to go in straight at the top! Everyone has to start at the bottom to learn the ropes and work their way up. This means you might be expected to do filing, photocopying, and even make the occasional cup of tea! It's important that you see how the company works at all levels.
The hours you work during your placement will need to be agreed between you, your employer, your school and your parent or carers. They can be flexible and fitted around your school or college work, but you could be expected to do a full working day (normally 7 to 8 hours, with breaks).
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Finding a placement
Your school or college may have a work experience co-ordinator or teacher who you can chat to and who will help you find a work experience placement. You will also need to get permission from your parent or carer and give any medical information. If you are at school then the school will need to approve the place you want to work, to make sure that you will be safe and supported.
If your school or college have given you a user id and password, you can search for work experience placements on the Aspire database
If you are not at school or college and you have an idea of where you want to work or what you would like to do, you can organise work experience yourself. You will need to contact local employers and find out if they will take you on.
Hints and Tips
Before you begin your work experience placement
Call your employer to introduce yourself, thank them for offering you a placement and to check some details:
- What time should you arrive and when will you finish?
- What are the lunch arrangements – is there somewhere to buy lunch or should you bring a pack lunch?
- Dress code – is it smart, casual or is some sort of protective clothing needed?
- Local transport – is it near a station or bus stop?
- Is there parking available?
- Do you need to bring anything extra along?
- Would they like to meet you before the placement begins?
Plan your journey in advance, arrive early, bring your own lunch and be presentably dressed.
What is a ‘smart’ dress code?
A ‘smart’ dress code usually means:
- Either smart trousers or a skirt. Skirts should be dark coloured and not be above knee length and trousers should be a dark colour, not skinny fitting and not jeans. Your school uniform trousers would be fine.
- A shirt or a smart top. Shirts should be ironed and clean. A smart top shouldn’t be too tight or revealing. You could always wear your school shirt or polo shirt if you don’t have alternatives.
- Wear black or dark sensible shoes. Not trainers and not stilettos.
- You should either remove or cover up any facial jewellery. One pair of stud earrings is fine. Other jewellery should be discreet but if you are handling materials such as food, photos or fabric, check if it’s okay to wear rings on your fingers.
What is ‘protective clothing’?
Protective clothing could include:
- a hard hat
- steel toe-capped boots
- a high-visibility jacket
- ear protectors.
If the employer asks you to wear any protective clothing that you don’t have, your school may be able to lend you something, so talk to your teacher.
What will I get after work experience?
- Hopefully you will have learnt about the world of work and have a clearer understanding of it.
- You may be able to use your new contacts to get summer or part-time work or a reference.
- Hopefully, you will see how what you learn at school fits into the world of work.
- You may have a better idea about what type of work you want to do, or don’t want to do in the future.
It is a good idea to keep a diary of your experiences while on placement and any feedback from your employer as you may be able to use this at college or job interviews. The employer may also be willing to provide you with a reference when you are applying for jobs, so make sure you give a good impression!
What happens next?
After your work experience, ask yourself a few questions:
- What did I enjoy about my work experience?
- What did I learn? Think of generic things like time-keeping and meeting deadlines, as well as the specific tasks of the job.
- What didn’t I enjoy?
If you didn’t enjoy the experience this is also a positive thing! Now you can investigate other areas of work which may interest you.
Talk to your friends who may also have been on work experience and found out what they did.
Above all, use the experience to help you make informed choices about your future.