What is a work placement and is it right for me?

Trying to gain experience before embarking on a career post-graduation can be difficult, but there are options out there. Depending on how far you are into your course and how far ahead you are planning, there are options for everyone in the form of volunteering, internships and work placements. Work placements can be a great way to get hands-on experience in a field which you are interested in and to improve on certain skills to give you that edge before applying for graduate jobs.

What exactly is a work placement?

Think of your work placement as an introduction to what may lie ahead for you in the world of work. These placements allow you the opportunity to learn about yourself in a work environment; what do you excel at, what do you find difficult? What skills are your real strengths and where do you have to improve.

Like most internships, most work placements have some payment, though this will likely be less than that on an internship programme. The placements are normally between one and three months in duration. On some courses, placements are part of your course. This may, and in some cases does, mean that some of your final grades are dependent on tasks completed while on work placement.

Why is work placement beneficial?

Work experience or a placement as part of your course is a valuable opportunity to learn from professionals at work and put the theory you study into practice. A placement helps develop personal and interpersonal skills, fosters self-motivation, sharpens analytical skills, enhances subject knowledge and subject-specific skills, and provides an insight into what makes businesses function.

Being in a real situation also provides an enhanced understanding of the practicalities of the work environment and encourages you to consider future career paths. The importance employers attach to work-related learning is evident by the number of students who are offered a permanent job after graduation based on a successful placement.

Why choose a work placement over an internship and voluntary work?

Before deciding on how best to proceed on finding a graduate career, make sure to book an appointment with the careers service at your university. They will be in the best place to offer advice on which avenue is best for you. Deciding on where and how to get experience comes down to many factors, including personal circumstances.

If you are in first or second year of college and you have a part-time job which is providing you with valuable skills you will need in the graduate workplace; skills such as a good work ethic, determination, patience and time management, then you may feel that you are honing your skills in the best possible way for you. If you don’t have a part-time job and are in the early years of your degree and looking for experience, then volunteering may be the route for you. If you’re thinking about volunteering or have any questions about this method of gaining experience, you can read our blog on volunteering here.

Internships often provide a direct pathway for a graduate into a career post-graduation. An internship will suit you if you are sure you know what sector you would like to work in and what company. If you have already decided who the company is you would like to work for and they have an internship programme, then the decision is already made for you.

If you are mid-way through your degree, still unsure who you want to work for and have gone beyond a stage where you can work without getting paid, then a work placement could be ideal. It is an opportunity to gain valuable experience in your chosen industry whilst getting paid, unlike voluntary work, but without committing to a company long-term like some internships.

If you’re looking to boost your CV and want to stand out from the crowd, then take the National Student Challenge today!

You can read about last year’s National Student Challenge winner and how the challenge helped him to land his first graduate job here!

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