5 Things You Should Know Before Completing Work Experience

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Work experience is an essential stepping stone in many career paths. Not only does it boost your CV and demonstrate commitment to a particular career path, it’s also crucial to your own understanding of whether a certain discipline or career is suited to your strengths and ambitions.

Here are five things you ought to know before completing a work experience placement.

1. A basic knowledge of the company will be expected

Those that you’re working with and for will expect you to have a basic knowledge of the company, essentially constituting everything that the company website can tell you. If you’re looking to impress, make sure that you do further background research. Looking on Companies House can fill you in on the directors and shareholders (i.e. who really holds the power in the company), but can only inform you to a certain extent when it comes to numbers. Use LinkedIn to research key individuals and those you are working with in the company, and get learning those names!

2. There may be days when you have very little to do

A company is using up its time and resources to have you into their offices for work experience, and is likely getting little benefit from having you there. Whilst on some days you may have fascinating conversations and projects to complete, remember that those around you are busy with full time jobs, and any time given to you is generous. Respect existing schedules and be grateful when these are altered to accommodate you.

3. Your tasks are likely not representative of actual jobs

Whilst reading through a load of manuscripts or creating graphics or PowerPoint presentations may be an entertaining way to spend your day, do be aware that when on work experience you may be given a host of the most fun – and potentially easiest – tasks to keep you occupied which may not be representative of the jobs of those around you. For example, if working with an in-house marketing or PR team, writing your own original article from scratch and selecting images and infographics for this may well not be a daily occurrence, with more time being spent editing, dealing with emails and managing clients.

4. You may spend some time on menial tasks

Whilst some work experience may be unexpectedly fun, some time will likely be spent on menial tasks. Remember that you are there at the company’s generosity and at their own convenience. Do, however, judge according to individual situation. If you feel you’re being used, or if an unusual proportion of company tasks are being completed by unpaid interns and those on work experience, consider how long you’re staying with the company, and whether to say something. Also remember that if you are observing all day – rather than actually completing any work of your own – this can be very valuable and will give you the insight into the job, whilst still boosting your CV.

5. Be prepared to absorb lots of information

Those you’re shadowing or working with will likely have busy schedules, and won’t have large amounts of time to explain things to you. You may well have to process large amounts of information quickly. Ensure that you always have a pen and paper to hand, and be prepared to write down everything that your superiors tell you. Asking for repeated clarification can be annoying, and may make you seem incompetent. Conversely, if you competently complete a task after being asked just once in a throwaway comment, this may well impress those around you. If you are given the responsibility of a larger piece of work, make sure that you put in the hours to complete it to a high standard. This will help you make an impression, and may result in your being invited back to the company in future for interview.


Alexandra Jane is the writer and editor of graduate careers advice for Inspiring Interns, a graduate recruitment agency. Check out their website to see which internships and graduate jobs are currently available. Or, if you’re looking to hire an intern, have a look at their innovative Video CVs.

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