The Benefits of Work Experience
Skills Development. Work experience is primarily about developing skills, particularly employability skills.
Helps to secure a graduate job. Employers state time and again that the more experience you get the more chance you have of landing the graduate job you want.
Helps with planning your career. Gaining some work experience can help you make informed choices about your future career path.
Gives a better understanding of the working environment. It's important to know and understand what your working environment is going to be like as you will spend at least a third of your day at work!
Money. Many work experience opportunities are paid, which has obvious benefits. However, work experience is not always paid, some opportunities with charities or in the media operate on a voluntary basis.
Helps make future contacts. Gaining work experience is a great opportunity to make contacts whether for future jobs or for future clients.
Business acumen and commercial awareness. Employers often comment that having an understanding and experience in this area will put you head and shoulders above the competition. Work experience is one of main ways this can be gained.
Putting theory into practice. Depending on your degree, your work experience may be directly relevant to your course, this will help you see how the theory you have learnt works in practice. It will also give you renewed confidence when you return to your studies and can help put theory into context.
Various things are commonly covered by the term “work experience”, and different organisations use the terms in different ways. The common types include:
Confusingly, “work experience” is also commonly used to mean an unadvertised opportunity, which you have organised yourself. These tend to be shorter than internships, and are less likely to be paid.
There are many opportunities to help charities. Voluntary work could be a couple of hours a week, or several weeks during a vacation in an area which is central to career pathways. For example many students have undertaken voluntary work in the Elderly Care Sector.
Work shadowing normally lasts one or two days, where you observe a particular employee and learn about their job and the organisation. These are typically opportunities you have organised yourself, and are always unpaid.
Internships are normally advertised, organised schemes, which last a few weeks or a few months in vacation time. They can be paid or unpaid, depending on the sector. Investment banking and management consultancy, for example, normally pay generous salaries, whereas PR and Media are likely to be unpaid.
Gap Year Placements
Typically one year in length, and often abroad. These tend to involve a cost to you but can be hugely beneficial in developing experiencing of an industry. This path is usually followed by students either at university or if a student chooses to have a gap year.
Part-Time Work and Vacation Jobs
Naturally work experience can be attained through part time work. This often gives an insight into the basic skills required in the work place. Whilst often providing some financial support it may be more limited in helping to identify higher level skills in relation to careers.