Is Work Experience Worth the Time?

Tips for Students
Mary Lonsdale
Is work experience worth the time and effort? Read our blog for more.

At this point in the summer holidays, many students will be finishing up – or embarking on – a work placement. But is there any point doing work experience, or is it just a box-ticking exercise?

If you believe work experience is only valuable in terms of what it adds to your CV (after all, what will undertaking menial tasks like data entry do for your future career?), the advice from the Mentor Education team is simple: think again. Not only does a work placement represent – for many students – the first real experience of the professional world, helping to shape ideas and thoughts about a potential career, it can also offer the chance to take on interesting new challenges.

If you’re debating how to spend the last chunk of your vacation, here are some of the reasons to consider doing work experience:

Reasons to do work experience #1: broaden your horizons

If you’re not sure what your dream job is, work experience is the perfect chance to try new things and experience all different forms of work – without actually committing to anything. It also helps demystify particular companies or industries, allowing you to make informed decisions about whether a certain role would be right for you, what qualifications you’d actually need, and how you might go about applying.

Reasons to do work experience #2: get close to the action

If you have always been curious about a certain profession but don’t have a connection to that industry, a placement offers a valuable chance to get right into the thick of it. You’ll be able to make valuable connections whilst speaking to employees to get a real sense of how it all works.

Reasons to do work experience #3: discover a hidden passion

If you’re feeling a little directionless, a work placement can unlock hidden potential – and passion. Working in a thriving organisation can be both inspiring and motivating, and might even help you decide what you’d like to do with the rest of your life. Pretty cool!

Reasons to do work experience #4: learn workplace etiquette

Whilst there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach in the world of work, embarking on a work placement will teach you some valuable ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ and hone your skills in a way that only practical experience can (such as improving punctuality and work ethic). This will make you more confident in all different areas – from going to a job interview to starting a role in an office.

Reasons to do work experience #5: increase understanding of career paths

There’s a big difference between reading about a particular profession and actually living it. It might be that you dream of leading a team in a big organisation, but aren’t quite sure how you’d go about achieving that goal. If that’s the case, a placement in a related field would be very useful, as you’d gain real-world understanding of the practicalities: what the path to your chosen position might look like, and whether there is anything you should do along the way (getting involved in a training programme, for instance, or starting off in a particular role).

Reasons to do work experience #6: improve future prospects

Doing work experience can improve your prospects in more ways than one. First of all, it looks great on your CV, which will be attractive not only to admissions offices (if you’re considering university or further training) but also future employers.

In fact, research shows that young people’s chances of a successful job hunt are dramatically improved if their CV includes at least one good work experience placement. In a recent annual review, research company High Fliers found that, according to a third of recruiters, ‘graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes’.

Work experience isn’t only about refining your CV, however: it’s also a chance to impress. If you apply yourself, work hard, and show commitment and intelligence, you may get noticed by the right people – making valuable connections and potentially even securing yourself a future job offer.

Finally, work experience in the right industry proves your dedication to your chosen field as well as demonstrating passion and interest. It’s a clear sign to both educators and employers that you’re motivated and hardworking enough to go the extra mile (particularly if you come away with a great reference!).

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