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The benefits of completing work experience are endless. Now more than ever it is so important to start getting experience on your CV and getting your foot in the door of the world of work. There are a number of different types of work experience, all of which are just as important but differ in length; some are also more appropriate for certain age groups:
Traditionally, work placements last anywhere between a day and a few weeks, during which a young or inexperienced person is immersed in a specific working environment in order to learn how things work. Work experience placements are most commonly unpaid and are designed more for people who don’t really know what line of work they want to end up in, so they can experience the industry before deciding whether to pursue qualifications or a job within it.
Most state-funded secondary school pupils are required to undertake a period of work experience as part of the GCSE Curriculum.
An internship in the proper sense of the word is a training programme designed to give people, particularly graduates who already know what career path they’d like to follow, the opportunity to put their academic or theoretical knowledge into practice, in a working environment. Internships of varying type and duration exist across almost all sectors, except for those in which very specific qualifications are required.
Organisations that provide these types of structured internships frequently end up offering full-time work to interns who have performed well, learned quickly and have brought positive attributes to the organisations. Some internships are unpaid, some organisations only pay expenses such as travel and food, some programmes are paid.
Some universities offer ‘sandwich courses’ which involve a year out, typically the third year of a four-year course, during which students work in a chosen industry.
Small companies will begin taking on students for a week of work shadowing. This enable the students to get an insight into a role or a company whilst they are still at school or university. This is a fantastic way to explore the working world and create a dialogue with a company. A couple of weeks shadowing within a company will put you in good stead if you want to secure a longer placement.
During school and university you have an enormous amount of holiday. Use these as productively as possible and try and gain an insight into a range of different industries. Talk to members of the company you are working in and get their advice. Ask how they got into the industry, what qualifications helped and do they enjoy their work. Getting as much information is crucial and shows that you are keen to learn.
Having some kind of volunteering work on you CV can really put you ahead of others. It shows employers a lot about your character such as your passion and commitment for an industry, and a desire to help others. Ideally choose a company that is close to your final goal, for example working in the PR or finance department of a major charity or non-profit organisation. Work can also involve volunteering for schools, hospitals and community centres.
Not only will volunteering make your CV stand out, but it is also a positive contribution to society and can help you gain a number of skills needed for the future. It will increase your personal development, organisational skills, help you meet some new people and give you a chance to do something you actually care about. Some people may decide to take a year out after school or unviersity and decide to volunteer abroad. For more information on taking a gap year click here The Independent reported their top give gap year organisations:
These placements will often last between 12-15 months and will take place between your second and third year of university. They are often integral to your course and count towards your final degree. Taking an industrial placement is a big commitment so you must take into consideration what sort of role you would like, the industry you want to enter and the skills you want to develop.
Placement years are one of the best ways to gain a huge level of experience as you are effectively a full-time employee in a company for a year. Many year-long placements will give you real responsibility and are at the same level as a graduate job.
Having real world experience of managing clients and working in a professional environment will help you learn real maturity and will certainly put you ahead of other candidates when you are searching for full time employment after university.