Work experience

Explore the world of work first-hand. The right experience will help you build the skills you need for the future.

Top five reasons why work experience is important

There are lots of ways work experience placements can help you in your career. Here are our top five.

    Decisions

    You’ll get a taste of what a job or workplace is like, so you can figure out if you’re interested in that kind of career.  

    Self-confidence

    Working with other people and doing your tasks well helps you build your confidence

    It looks good

    On your CV, UCAS form, or college application. Work experience shows you’re enthusiastic and ready to work hard. You can pick out particular achievements to show off

    New skills

    Working with other people helps you build the skills employers love to see on your CV

    Networking

    You’ll meet people at work and might attend meetings or events. You’ll make contacts that could provide a reference or help you in the future.

    Types of work experience

    School work experience placements. For S4 school students mainly 

    Usually a week with an employer during 4th year. Your teachers will help you to arrange your work experience. If you have a particular company in mind, contact them at the beginning of the school year. 

    Some schools also run work experience schemes for older pupils. This helps them prepare for college or uni applications or to move in to a Modern Apprenticeship or job.

    Work shadowing. For everyone, but particularly school students

    Shadowing someone at work to understand what they do and how they do it. It gives you a taste of what a job is like. Work shadowing is usually unpaid and lasts no more than two weeks.

    Work placements. For everyone

    This can mean any formal work experience scheme. It usually runs for a set period of time and includes specific tasks and training. 

    Sandwich placement. For college and university students

    Some courses include a year-long placement with an employer. The placement forms part of your course work and you will generally be paid a wage. It gives you a chance to learn on the job.

    Volunteering. For everyone

    You can pick a project you care about and give as little or as much time as you can. While it’s unpaid, volunteering can help you develop your skills, learn new things and meet lots of people.

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    Internships. For college and university students, and recent graduates

    Lots of companies offer summer internships to college and university students. Many also offer graduate internship schemes. These give you the experience you need to back up your qualifications.

    In the video, interns at Skills Development Scotland explain what their experience was like.

    Unpaid work placements and internships

    Strictly speaking, no placement or internship should be unpaid unless it’s with a voluntary organisation or is short term work shadowing. In a competitive job market this isn’t always the case. Don’t let someone exploit you. 

    Making the most of your work experience

    Whatever type of placement you’re on, follow these tips to make sure you have a good experience.

    When you arrive, talk to your supervisor about what you want to get out of the placement. Explain what your interests are and why you wanted to get work experience with this company

    • Ask lots of questions. Talk to people about their jobs and how they got them, and ask about the company. Ask about the industry and what advice they have for getting in 
    • Keep a note of any work you do, and the skills and strengths you used to do it. This will come in handy when you update your CV to include your experience. It’s also a good reminder for application forms and interviews in the future 
    • Ask for feedback at the end of your placement. Find out how you did, and what their impressions of you were
    • Get a reference. Ask if you can add them as a referee on your CV or request a recommendation through LinkedIn
    • Say thanks. Pop your supervisor a quick email or thank-you card to say you appreciated the opportunity and ask that they keep you in mind for future jobs

    Why get work experience?

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    Teacher Rachel advises anyone thinking of doing the career to get some work experience first. Find out about her career in the video.