How to get the most of your work experience placement

Time and time again we hear employers say that when they’re recruiting it’s not just about the grades that you’ve got, it’s also about the experience you have as well. That’s why work experience is so important. By doing a work experience placement you’re in a stronger position to enter the workforce.

Here are my some of my top tips that will help you to secure a placement and get the most out of it:

1.    Do your research

Research some different companies that offer work experience placements – preferably in the industry that you’re interested in. This will help you to make a decision around if this is really the route you want to go down. Ask organisations about the placements they offer and try to find out if they have a clear structured programme that will help you to learn lots of transferrable skills that you can talk about at your next interview. 

2.    Make it worthwhile

Get stuck in! Two weeks of un-paid work experience can feel like a drag unless you make the most of the opportunity. Let your new colleagues know that you are available (and willing) to help. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can get involved in something. And don’t forget to speak to people about their own experiences – it’s a great way to learn.

3.    Get noticed

Remember you can add value by sharing your ideas and views. If you land yourself a good placement, the company is likely to value the views and ideas of young people. If you’re in a meeting or just have an idea in general, don’t be afraid to share your opinions on how you think things could be done better / differently.

4.    Ask for feedback

All feedback is important – good and bad. One of the worst things you can do is finish your work experience placement and not know what your strengths and areas for development are. Talk to people that you have worked with and ask them to provide feedback to you on your performance, so you know how you can improve.

You should also take some time to reflect on what you enjoyed the most about your experience, and use that insight to shape any of your future career decisions.

One question you might be asking though, is how do you even go about getting a good work experience placement in the first place? Well the good news is that although work experience isn’t compulsory on the national curriculum any more, most schools do offer students the opportunity to do a placement for one or two weeks as they see real value in it. And if your school doesn’t, then don’t be afraid to ask.

Quite often though, the world of work can be a case of who you know and not just what you know. And that can be scary if you don’t know anyone who can help you – or if you don’t know where to start. One thing you can do is start to build an account on LinkedIn that will enable you to showcase your skills and connect with people who might be interested in offering work experience placements. You can also go along to careers fairs and work experience events and then connect with the people you meet on LinkedIn to keep in contact and organise a placement.  Finally, don’t be afraid to write letters to companies that catch your eye – there is no harm in asking. Just remember to tell them why you’re a great fit for their company and what skills you bring with you.

Tiana Locker - Youth Engagement Executive

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Tiana Locker is Youth Engagement Executive at City & Guilds Group. She has worked at the Group since 2012 and currently leads the youth engagement programmes.