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Work experience – the first step towards the job you want

Everything you need to know about work experience, why it’s so valuable and how to get involved.

This article was produced by Skills Development Scotland’s team of Foundation Apprentices. As part of their qualification, they each completed 6 months of work experience.

What is work experience?

Work experience is a short-term placement with an employer. The aim is to give you an understanding of what working with them would be like.

If you get a good feeling for an employer or type of work, great! You’ll then know what you’re working towards in your studies or training.

And even if you don’t get a good feeling – it’s still been a useful experience. It’ll help you make decisions around your future and may take you in a different (and better) direction!

Don’t take our word for it — listen to people who’ve been there and done it

I really enjoyed my work placement at Skills Development Scotland. It’s nice to be in a different environment and get out of school for a while. I got to meet lots of people, make connections and learn new skills. For example, I’m now comfortable using Microsoft OneNote and Excel. Those are tools I’d never used before I started my Foundation Apprenticeship.Hannah BurrFoundation Apprentice, Skills Development Scotland

Here are our top tips to bag yourself some work experience

  1. Ask your teacher. If you’re still at school, this is a great place to start your search. A guidance or class teacher may be able to link you up with local businesses.
  2. Foundation, Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships. Get the best of both worlds – work and a qualification. You can do a Foundation Apprenticeship while you’re still at school. Whereas, Modern and Graduate Apprenticeships are full-time jobs and you’ll get paid. Discover apprenticeships.
  3. Use your network. You’ll have met loads of people throughout your life, use them! If you know someone who has their own business or is high up in a company, ask if you can come in and see what it’s all about.
  4. Go to open days. Thinking of applying for college or uni? Some courses may offer work placements as part of their programme. Go to open days, scope out the courses you’re interested in and investigate ones which include work experience.
  5. Volunteer your time. You may not get paid, but you’ll earn plenty of handy experience. Volunteering doesn’t just benefit the charity or organisation you give your time and efforts to. It helps you as well.
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Work experience gives you an opportunity to find out more about the world of work.  And even if the work experience isn't related to what you want to do, it's still useful. You'll develop new meta-skills and increase your confidence.Rebecca StokerCareers Adviser, Skills Development Scotland