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Succeed in the workplace
Succeed in the workplace

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1 What is meant by ‘work experience’?

Image of 'Get your FUTURE started'.
Figure 1 Get your future started

Work experience includes work you do before starting on a career path, or as part of enhancing your existing career. It can be part of a formal work experience scheme or from the work you have done, or are currently doing. Whatever form it takes, work experience can be useful whether you are:

  • trying to join the workforce for the first time
  • aiming to make a change in your current career direction
  • building up to taking on work after a break from it
  • looking to progress or develop your existing career.

Work experience can take several forms:

  • previous or current employment – the experience you get from being employed
  • work placement – a period of work experience, paid or unpaid, which forms part of a period of study
  • internship – a short-term placement in an organisation, often unpaid
  • work-based project – a specific set of assessed activities carried out on the employer’s premises. This might be your own employer, of course, but in a different field of work than you usually do
  • work shadowing – observing someone do the work you want to do, in order to understand the nature of their role and responsibilities.

Voluntary work is a particular kind of work experience, with different features and benefits, so this is considered in latter part of this week.

The first activity this week will help you to update your skills profile from Week 2 by identifying past work experience.

Activity 1 My past work experience

Timing: Allow approximately 5 minutes

In Week 2, you considered the work experiences you have already, and the skills you gained from them. The definition and examples above may have reminded you about work experience you might so far have overlooked. For example:

  • Did you undertake any work experience placements whilst you were at school?
  • Were you ever part of a project team at your place of work?
  • Have you taken a course of study in which you were given a work placement?
  • Have you ever observed the work of someone who was already an experienced practitioner as part of your training?

Find your notes on work experience from Week 2 and add any other experiences you may have missed. Remember to include any skills that you've gained.


You may well not have needed to add anything to your previous notes, if you have already covered all your previous work experience. Or you may find that something pops into your mind later in the week, when least expected – if so, remember to go back to your notebook and update this section then.

So, let’s think about what the benefits of work experience are.