Work experience and internships
63% of Welsh employers said that having relevant work experience is a critical
or significant requirement for people applying to join their company.
(UK Commission for Employment and Skills, 2015)
What is work experience?
Work Experience is gaining experience of what the working life is like.
This could include experiencing the:
- Work environment - being in the workplace and seeing what happens in work
- Work activities and tasks - trying out the job, being given tasks and activities that are involved in a job, and learning new skills
- Work skills - using skills you already have in a real life workplace or setting
Work experience is usually unpaid and short term.
Why is work experience important?
Work experience is important because:
- Employers often ask for relevant experience. Sometimes this can mean employment. But sometimes gaining the relevant experience in other ways can be just as valuable.
(Note: Relevant experience means experience and skills that are useful for the job you are applying to.)
- It is an opportunity for you to find out what it’s like being at work and for you to understand the skills that are needed in the workplace.
- You can find out more about a career that interests you, and see if it suits you.
- Some courses require you to show that you have done some relevant work experience.
How can I get work experience?
Read our step by step guide to getting work experience, including how to find employers:
1. Decide what kind of work you are interested in
Job Matching Quiz can help you get ideas for the kinds of jobs that might suit you if you are not sure.
2. Ask your contacts
Ask your family and friends if they know of anyone that would be willing to give you work experience in their company. Ask your family and friends to ask people they know. In this way you will widen out your search.
3. Prepare a CV and covering letter
Although not a job, employers are likely to want to know about you. Preparing a CV in advance means that you won't get taken by surprised if asked for a CV. You will need to prepare a covering email/letter if you approach employers to ask for work experience. Get help with covering letters and CVs.
4. Approach employers
Find employers that offer the kind of work experience that interests you
- Use online job websites in a slightly different way. Put in the keyword and location of the jobs you are interested in. When the results come back make a note of the name of the company. Use the internet to find out more about the company including their contact details. Write a covering letter/email explaining that you are seeking work experience and also send them your CV.
- Some careers and jobs have associations or organisations that have a directory of employers. These are a valuable source of information to find employers in specific sectors. (Note: not all directories are available to access if you are not a member, but there are still many that do have open access to their directories).
- Use local directories such as yell.com to find companies in your area to approach.
- Some larger companies such as the BBC and BT have work experience programmes. If you are interested in a large organisation visit their website to see if they offer work experience, or get in touch with their Human Resources Department.
It’s not easy to approach companies directly, and not all will reply. You may have to approach a number of companies before you get a ‘yes’.
Keep calm. Remain polite at all times.
Remember by approaching employers, you are showing that you are self-motivated. You are also using your initiative and these are great qualities to have.
What other ways could I get work experience?
- If you are in school or college ask your teacher or tutor - they may find or know of work experience you can do as part of your year group or course.
- If you are between 16-18, unemployed and not in education -Traineeships are a way of gaining new skills, work experience and an allowance.
- If you are in university or a recent graduate - you may be able to get work experience through an internship. Internships are usually unpaid placements with an employer. Usually specific projects will be given you to complete. Search Graduate Talent Pool for internships in the UK. Some general job sites also advertise for internships. Your university may also advertise internships on their website.
Remember: Seasonal, part time and temporary jobs all count as work experience. Voluntary work also counts as work experience.