How to choose the right work experience for you
14 May 2021

We believe passionately at F4S that young people are our future but sometimes they need support and guidance on their journey into the workplace.  As a charity, we offer this support in a number of ways, one of which is virtual work experience.  Together with our partner Workfinder we help connect young people to opportunities within exciting growth companies.

We asked one of our interns, Annie Lennam, who has taken part in a couple of work placements what questions she asks herself before she commits to a project. Here's what she had to say...

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By Annie Lennam, Social Media Intern, Founders4Schools

There are many different things to consider when deciding what type of work experience is right for you. These are the top 5 things I find the most important to think about when looking for work experience opportunities.

How long should the work experience be?

How long do you want the internship to last and how many hours a week are you willing to commit to it? Do you need something that has more flexible hours that you can fit around a busy schedule or do you have the availability to take on an internship with a fixed working week?

Work experience comes in all different shapes and sizes from one week of work shadowing to a full year placement and everything in between. Consider whether you want something part time that you can do alongside your studies or another job or whether you’re looking for a full time placement, perhaps over the summer or as a means to a long-term position with the company.

Location can also be an important aspect to consider when you’re thinking about the time you want to put into this placement. At the moment many available work experiences are remote. Remote internships are often a lot more flexible than traditional ones and can be easier to fit around other commitments. If you are thinking of doing an in-person internship, then remember to consider the commuting time as well.

Why do you want to do the internship?

Think about why you want to undertake work experience and exactly what you hope to get out of it. What skills are you hoping to gain and what kind of internship will allow you to gain these? Which industry or sector do you want experience in and how will that help you to start a career in the future?

Consider which industry or profession you may be interested in pursuing and what skills the job could require. Even if you can’t find work experience that matches your interests exactly, it is still worth taking up something that will allow you to develop a specific skill or give you insight into a similar work environment. Work experience of any kind can help you to understand what you want in life and the type of career you might enjoy.

What does the work experience require from you?

As well as understanding what you want to get out of a work experience placement, you also need to look at what the work demands from you and whether you already have the skills to fit the role. For instance, many internships require you to be at a specific stage of education or to have industry-specific knowledge. For example, to work as an analyst, companies often ask for programming skills and experience using Python or another programming language. If you’re keen to go into a specific field but you’re struggling to land work experience opportunities because you lack a certain skill then think about how you could gain that skill, for example by taking an online training course.

What size of company do you want to work for?

It’s important to think about what size of company you’d like to do work experience with as this can have a big impact on the type of experience you have.

A big firm is likely to have an established work experience programme. There will probably be a number of other interns there at the same time and managers who are used to training interns. This can mean that you meet others that are in the same position as you and get the opportunity to network with many people who can help you as you advance in your career. Internships with bigger firms can often have very lengthy and competitive application processes, sometimes with psychometric testing, multiple stages of interviewing and tasks.

A small firm may be able to offer more flexibility in its work experience. Sometimes there is the opportunity to take on more responsibility at an earlier stage and smaller companies tend to be more open to innovation and new ideas. That being said, because small firms usually have a less structured training programme, the work experience may require you to be more proactive and independent in order to get the most out of the experience.

Paid or unpaid?

Consider whether it is important to you that you get paid for your time. Are the skills you gain from the work experience going to be valuable enough to you on their own without additional monetary compensation? Remember that unpaid work experience can lead to a paid position later on so it can be well worth taking on unpaid work at the beginning. Paid work experience is harder to come by and generally more competitive. Work experience can be hard to find at all and sometimes it is necessary to take whatever you can get, even if it doesn’t match all your preferences exactly.

>> Think work experience is right for you? Take a look at some opportunities available right now.

>>Does your business have a project that 18-24 year old would benefit from an extra pair of hands?

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