Work experience is an essential part of making a decision about a future career. It can provide:
- an opportunity to see a possible career of interest from the inside
- a chance to discover more about styles of working: small and large businesses, jobs with high levels of ‘people skills’, creativity or pressure
- an opportunity to develop workplace skills that will be useful in all aspects of working life and will add value to a CV.
Work experience also strengthens applications for UCAS, Gap Year employment and, later, internship or graduate schemes. It is also essential for some careers such as medicine, veterinary science, journalism and the law.
Work experience can also take many forms, from spending a day per week volunteering, to a week of insight and work shadowing, or a longer paid role over the summer months or longer. Some pupils choose to work during their Gap Year, and others just during the summer holidays. Whatever the length of experience, pupils at Shrewsbury School are encouraged to gain as much as possible, whether that is through community service activities during the Lower School, or employment-based opportunities after their GCSEs, with the aim of beginning a process of regularly gaining insight into the working world over the next few years.
The School is developing a range of contacts to service various popular areas of professional interest, such as medicine, business, finance and so on, but it is important that pupils get into the habit early of taking responsibility for securing a work experience that interests them. Pupils may benefit from the professional and social networks their parents have, but it is essential that they write their own letters of application or enquiry, and make the effort to meet potential employers themselves. Guidance is given on identifying valuable work experience, and on preparing a CV and cover letter for this purpose, and printed Guides on these topics are also available from the Careers Library.
It is also important for pupils to know what they want to gain from the experience, in terms of knowledge of the sector, new skills, developing their network of contacts and so on. While much work experience in the early stages can be more about gathering information, it is important that pupils are enthusiastic, interested, engaged and energetic during their work experience, as this will encourage an employer to give them more responsibility. Then, a work experience will be a learning and developmental experience that not only teaches the pupil about a job but also about themselves.
There is further information on all these issues in the Shrewsbury School Careers Guide entitled 'Work Experience'.