Work Experience

On average, around 60% of students who undertake work experience will be offered a role with the company at the end of their scheme

What's good about work experience?

Work experience is essential for getting a job. Whether it's a short work placement or a longer internship, work experience is always viewed favourably by employers and can help you decide your future career. Work experience tells you what it is like to work for an organisation, in a professional environment. Work experience offers you a taste of what it is like to work for different businesses in various industries. 

Work experience placements, even if they only last for a few days, or a week or two, are a great way for you to open your eyes to the world of professional work. 

Anything you can do to gain some new skills and insights into what it is actually like to work for a company will be useful in the future.

Additionally, you will be able to put all this great experience down on your CV, and the better the CV, the more likely it is you'll attract the eye of recruiters when it comes to looking for job. For ideas on how to build a great CV take a look in our resources section.

Different types of work experience

Work experience doesn't just come from organised placements.

All of these are examples of work experience:

  • A part-time job
  • A summer job
  • A short placement with a company, which gives you a taste of what the work is like
  • A longer placement or 'internship', in which you have specific duties
  • Volunteering for a charity or community group
Different sources of experience have different benefits. For example, a part-time job usually won't be as relevant to your future career as an organised placement, but it will get you used to the basics of having a job. 


What skills are employers looking for?

Hertfordshire has done a study which has looked at the skills employers look for in young people aged 16-24. The results have been produced into something called the Hertfordshire Skills Framework. 12 skills have been identified in the framework which will show an employer your work-readiness. 

Your aim through your work experience is to gather as many of these skills as you can so you are able to demonstrate this experience in your CV, in your interviews and assessment centres. For more information and advice on how to gather these skills go to Skills that employers value - Hertfordshire Skills Framework

How to decide on work experience

You may already know what career you are interested in

The best thing to do is to look for work experience that’s related to the job you want to do, or in the same sector or industry as your chosen career.

Here are some examples:

  • If you know you want to be a chef, you could try to find a placement in a restaurant or canteen. 
  • If you’re interested in a career in medicine, you could try to find a placement in a hospital or GP surgery. 
  • If you like to travel, you could look for a placement with a travel agent or tour company. 
  • If you think a career in finance would suit you, you could try to get a placement in an accounts office or at a bank. 

If you are unsure about what career you want to do

Don't panic! The sector pages of HOP tell you where employment is growing in Hertfordshire. 

All the time new jobs are created and some are lost. Watch the video below telling you about Hertfordshire's changing world of work. 

Or you could start by thinking about what subjects you are interested in. Here are some examples of how different subjects can help with different jobs:

  • English – newspapers, magazines, publishing, writing, libraries, teaching
  • Maths – accountancy, banking, engineering, computer programming, finance
  • Geography – green charities, local borough town planning, environmental sciences 
  • Science – vets, pharmacies, zoos, laboratory work, hospitals, teaching
  • Photography – local, news, fashion, portrait and nature photography, processing film.    

Still unsure - go to our Guide Page 'I've no idea what career I'd like, how do I find out?'

How can you find work experience?

It isn't always easy to find work experience and not all placements are advertised. We have provided you with a list below of some of the activities you could be thinking about to enable you to get in touch with employers.

1. HOP's Employer Spotlight 

Go and look through our Employer Spotlight pages - these describe some of the key employers in Hertfordshire who are offering great work experience opportunities within their organisation. Research their organisation and their sector and look at what they are looking for in terms of the type of person they are looking to recruit.

2. Remember that there are people who can help you at every stage.

They might be:

  • the work experience/careers coordinator 
  • the school careers adviser 
  • your family 
  • your teacher. 

Use your contacts!

3. Social media 

You can use social media sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn to keep up to date with what companies are doing and, in some cases, connect directly with employers. You also need to make sure you're conducting yourself professionally and only posting content that you'd be happy for an employer to see. Find out more about more about how to promote yourself on social media. 

4. Small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are a great option when it comes to hidden opportunities.

While big companies tend to advertise formal internship and work placement schemes, SMEs generally rely on word of mouth and speculative applications.

5. Contacting the employer

Addressing your application to a named person will show that you've put in some effort and aren't just blanket emailing lots of companies. Someone in HR or the recruitment team will usually be the contact, but a quick phone call will give you a name.  Once you have a contact, you should email your up-to-date CV and a targeted cover letter. Use the body of the email to briefly introduce yourself, explain what experience you want and describe what you have attached, before politely signing off thanking them for their time.

6. Follow up your letter with a phone call, if you have not had a response within a week.

7. Once you’ve got a place, congratulate yourself!

And make sure you know what your role will be and what hours you will be working.

8. Read our top ten tips for your first day at work!

After your placement

After you’ve completed your placement, sit down and make a list of what you enjoyed and what you didn’t like about your experience.

This should help you make a decision about your future career. If all of your feedback is positive, thank the organisation. You could also ask the organisation if you could do some more work experience, or even part-time work, at a later date.


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