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How to make the most of your work experience

Eimear gives her advice on learning and having fun during your placement

Written by Eimear Flannery and posted in opinion

This is an opinion of a young person and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of It is one person's experience and may be different for you. If you'd like to write something for please contact

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Work experience, a work placement or volunteering are the best ways to find out what sort of work you enjoy. Most school students get a few weeks of work experience and many university or college degrees have work placement opportunities. A work placement can be a fantastic opportunity to sample different jobs that you find interesting. Maybe you think teaching sounds great, but after one day in a classroom with thirty screaming children you might (or might not) change your mind!

Work experience can make it easier to decide what you want to do after school (in college, training or work) as you will have more of an idea of what you like, what you want to learn more about and what is most definitely not for you.

Getting started on work experience

  • Make sure to find work experience in the type of job you are interested in. There's no point spending two weeks of work experience in your part-time job if that's not what you want as a career.
  • Apply to lots of different companies and organisations when looking for work experience. Tell them what type of job you're interested in and when you're available for work experience.
  • Some work placements are paid, some aren't. It depends on the job.
  • Before you start work experience check the hours you're supposed to work, what you should wear and who your contact person is at the company or organisation.
  • When you start, ask about exactly what tasks they expect you to do. Clarify what is expected of you and if you have any questions about the work, don't be afraid to ask, as the employer will be happy to have you ask a question rather than do something wrong.
  • Don’t accept expectations for you to work very long hours or run yourself ragged. You are supposed to be doing work experience, not partaking in enforced servitude.

Young people's tips

  • See what placements the school or college offers. What links already exist?
  • Go out and look yourself, see if you can find something you want to do.
  • Look at all potential options.
  • Talk to other students who have gone through it, and find out who has done a placement in your field, and then go talk to them.
  • Remember, go with something you want to try out, do what you want to do, not what your friends or everybody else in the class wants, because it's all about you.
  • It's a great opportunity if you want to travel abroad: see if you can get a placement that way.
  • Have a clear understanding of what the school or college course requirements are.  For example, do you have to keep a diary, write a report or give a presentation on the experience once it is complete?
  • Meet with your employer before you begin the placement if possible.
  • Ask about job hours, lunch, bank holidays, holidays, dress code, sick days etc. If you are getting paid when do you get the money? Do you have to do a week in hand? What is the method of payment? (Cheque/cash/bank account) Are you liable for tax? Have you weekends off? Is overtime a requirement? Will you get the time back or paid for it? Travel expenses? These are just some issues that you should be clear on with your employer before starting the placement.
  • Any training days, workshops, meetings, conferences, trips, etc. that you can get involved in, do. Think of that CV!
  • Don't take on too much.
  • It's all about flavour and variety, hands on. Get involved.
  • Ask questions.
  • Always remember you are being graded on it.
  • Punctuality – always be on time.
  • And remember, have fun: after all, you are still a student!
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Published January 21st, 2013
Last updated July 30th, 2018
Tags work school work experience
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