What is Work Experience?
Firstly, it may seem obvious, but what exactly is work experience? Work experience is any time spent in a work environment, in any sector, learning new skills on the job and gaining first-hand, real-world experience.
Remember, work experience isn’t just for students or young people but can be beneficial for people of all ages and backgrounds. You’re never too ‘old’ to keep learning!
The Benefits of Work Experience
So, how can work experience help you in the future? Taking on a work experience placement can help impress employers and open up endless career opportunities for you. Here are just a few more of the benefits of work experience:
- Learning new skills or develop existing ones
- Getting a feel for the work environment if you’ve never worked before or have had an extended break from work
- Finding out more about an industry you’re interested in
- Testing out different careers to see what you like best
- Boosting your confidence and people skills
- Meeting new people and improving your communication skills
- Building relationships and growing your professional network
- Work experience looks great on your CV and can help you secure your dream role in future!
8 Types of Work Experience
Depending on your age and level of education, different types of work experience will be most useful for you. Here are some of the most common types of work experience to consider:
1. School Work Experience
Taking two weeks out of school to take part in a work placement is common practice across the UK. This typically takes place in Year 10, 11 or 12. Although you are still quite young at this stage, school work experience helps you develop key transferable skills to bring with you into future roles, such as communication, time management and adaptability. It can also be useful for pupils who do not wish to go to college, sixth form or university, and who would rather jump straight into an apprenticeship programme or full time employment.
2. Course Work Placements
When you enrol on a course, such as BTEC or T-Levels, you may be required to do part-time work experience alongside your studies. Usually, you will have a support team or tutor to help you find suitable work to complement your course. This is particularly useful if you already know what sector you would like to work in as you can gain useful experience in your chosen career and acquire job-specific skills.
3. Work Shadowing
Job Shadowing enables you to observe a professional while they do their job and ask any questions you may have throughout the experience. It is an immersive type of work experience that allows you to understand what ‘a day in a life’ is like in a particular job role. Typically, a job shadowing placements only lasts a few days or weeks and, as such, can be useful for exploring lots of different roles to find out which is best suited for you.
Internships are any form of paid periods of work that typically last around 1-3 months, ideal for summer or Christmas holidays. Usually, university students or graduates sign up for internships in order to gain some experience before leaping into a full-time career. Many employers even use internships as a gateway into their company. However, again, it’s important to note that internships can be for anybody, of any age, helping you develop and refine your skills.
5. Sandwich University Courses
Some university degrees (usually courses that are 4+ years or more) require you to complete a year in industry placement to help you gain real experience, understand the profession you are studying for and support your grades. The key benefit of choosing a sandwich course is that you will gain highly specialised skills that are relevant to your degree.
6. Insight Events or Open Days
Insight events are usually hosted by large organisations or universities, either face-to-face or virtually. They enable you to learn more about specific sectors through presentations or conferences, ask questions and network with like-minded individuals. Here at FDM, we have a list of upcoming events aimed at helping you develop new skills or deepen your subject matter knowledge.
7. Workshops and Classes
Employment workshops and classes can teach you a great deal about your chosen industry. This can include online resources, such as Barclays Lifeskills, which give you the opportunity to gain work experience in no time at all. We recommend that you do your research and find online courses related to your chosen career path. Speak to your careers advisor who can help you find ones relevant to you.
8. Gap Year or Year Abroad
While it may not be classed as formal work experience, a gap year or year abroad can provide you with unique life experiences and learning opportunities that you would not get in a classroom or work environment. Helping you brush up on your interpersonal skills and widen your horizons to different ways of thinking, or even giving you the time to learn a new skill or develop yourself, a gap year or year abroad can be a great adventure, a real eye-opener and an interesting talking point for job interviews.
For more career advice and career opportunities, check out the FDM Graduate Career Programme, Returners Programme and Ex-Forces Programme.