Succeed in the workplace
Succeed in the workplace

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Succeed in the workplace

2 What are the benefits of work experience?

Photo of a toes being dipped into the sea.
Figure 2 Dipping your toe into work experience

You may have noticed that some of the options identified in the previous section could involve taking on work in addition to existing commitments, such as a project on top of your ‘day job’. Others involve working without pay. You might be unsure about the benefits of doing this. If so you are not alone. Only you can decide whether you have the energy and motivation to invest in gaining work experience which may put you under pressure in other aspects of your life. However, the short video in this next activity may help you to see the benefits of doing work experience.

Activity 2 Why is work experience useful?

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Watch the following video in which two Open University students explain the value of work experience. Make notes below on what arguments they put forward for gaining work experience.

Download this video clip.Video player: value_of_work_experience.mp4
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Transcript

Rachael:
I think work experience really is the best way of getting an understanding of a different career.
Paul:
Anybody who's made the effort to find out something about the job that they want to do, by doing some voluntary work in that area, then I think that I would consider them, oh I don't know. a hundred times over before I would consider somebody who either hasn't or doesn't want to or hasn't made the effort.
Rachael:
Part of my role is to organise for work experience students to come to our factory. The benefit for them is that they get to see as many different avenues within engineering as we can possibly show them, because within engineering you don't have to be grimy and dirty. There are the technical sides, there are the network sides, there is the CAD, computer aided design, and there are so many different avenues within engineering that are available to people.
Paul:
I think it's critically important that people do take the advantage of finding out more about the work that they want to do by undertaking work in that area, before they've even taken a paid job in it.
End transcript
 
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Answer

  • It is the best way of understanding a particular career path
  • It allows you to see many different routes within a career path
  • It might challenge some of your ideas about a career path – for example, that engineering is always dirty work
  • Employers would consider you more favourably if you had gone to the trouble of getting work experience
  • It is important for you to find out more about what the work entails before you take a paid job.

Discussion

Most employers look favourably on applicants who have work experience that enhances their application. It might, therefore, help you to get the work you want to do but that is not the only reason to do it. It may also benefit your personally.

  • You can show that you have developed a range of transferable skills
  • When these skills match what an employer is looking for, they make you a more attractive proposition
  • The fact that you have sought out work which gives you insight into the career you want to pursue, helps persuade employers that you are committed and understand what the job requires
  • It makes a positive impression, shows that you can initiate and follow through on things independently
  • You will develop a number of useful contacts.

So, work experience is both pleasing to a prospective employer, as well as helping you to achieve your goals, whether that is in your current employment or a new direction. It can also test out whether some of the ideas on your ‘what next’ list are really would be as enjoyable as you imagine.

Whatever your reason for wanting to gain new work experiences, the obvious next question to ask yourself is ‘where might I find them?’

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