Getting the best from your Work Placement

With the jobs market becoming more competitive it is worthwhile doing anything that will give you a head start when looking for a job. Not only does a work placement add value and a reference, it’s a great opportunity to speak directly to people who are already doing the job providing an excellent taster for your chosen career

How to go about getting a work placement?

  • It makes sense to look for a placement in the area of work you are looking to enter.
  • As with job applications, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, apply to a few companies
  • Consider the quality of the placement being offered, is the company/position right for you.
  • Update your CV, tailoring it to the company you’re applying to. If you’re applying for different types of work experience – or for totally different placement roles make sure you send employers the right one
  • Set up a LinkedIn account with a well thought-out profile (provide a professional photo) making sure you are linked to relevant groups, employers and people.
  • Visit your Employment/Careers Consultant as they may be able to advise you on available placements in your area. You can also discuss your strengths, weaknesses and experience and work out which placement would best suit your ability and your interests.

…Or you can apply directly on your own…

  • Employers and people who take on work experience candidates like it when people show initiative. A great way of applying for work experience is to find out who organises work experience or a senior manager in the organisation you are interested in, and ring them up to ask if they have any opportunities left. If you call them rather than just sending off a cold-email, they’ll get a better idea of your personality (and phone manner!) and they are more likely to remember you.

It’s a really bad idea to sign up for a work experience placement and work from home. A big part of work experience is absorbing the workplace, so get out there and be seen!

Getting the best out of a work placement?

  • You will benefit the most from an established, structured placement, so investigate the organisation thoroughly and find out exactly what it can offer and make the most of it. If they are an organisation that offers regular work placements and a number do have ex-military placements. It would be helpful you can speak to previous candidates and find out how useful they found the experience.
  • Arrange a meeting at the start of the placement to set clear terms and goals. Good quality work placements usually offer set objectives for you to achieve and provide an appraisal or other feedback at the end.
  • If you haven’t been given set definite start and end dates, agree these with the organisation and do not over-commit. It will not take long to prove how good you are
  • To get the most useful experience you need to learn from a professional. Arrange to shadow someone experienced during your placement and watch how they work.
  • If you are working for free, what exactly will they offer in return?

How to behave on a work placement 

  • Start and maintain your placement with enthusiasm and positivity – and enjoy it. After all, this is what you want to do, however be aware you will be observed most of the time. Ask lots of relevant questions, there is no such thing as a stupid question!
  • Ask for an appraisal at the end of the placement to discuss your best work and the areas that you need to improve. Learn from those mistakes!
  • At the end of the placement, and this is very important, thank your placement provider before you leave, make sure you provide them with your feedback letting them know whether you enjoyed the experience indicating that you would like the opportunity to work for them now or in the future.
  • And finally follow up your parting thank you with an email in the next day or two. This will also give you time to reflect on your experience, formulate any further questions you may have, and keep the lines of communication going.


Posted on 24th October 2014

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