Preparing for work experience

Get Experience, Be Ready

Before starting your work experience or internship, it’s a good idea to do some preparation in order to help you get the most out your time at a company.

The following information offers advice and tips on how you can prepare for your upcoming work experience.

How to get the most out of your work experience 

  • Think about your current skills, along with your strengths and weaknesses. How might the work experience enhance your existing skills and help you develop new ones? 
  • When assessing your skills, consider your transferable skills such as team building, presentation skills, leadership, communication, etc, as well as more occupational-specific skills like knowledge of processes, activities and cultures which are specific to a particular career. 
  • To get started, try Making Career Choices Canvas course.

Commuting and dress code

  • How will you travel to your work experience? How much will this cost? 
  • What time do you need to get to your work experience on your first day? How long will it take to get there? 
  • What should you wear? Some organisations or sectors will expect you to wear business dress; whereas in others people dress more casually, and so it’s a good idea to check on the culture of the organisation before you start.

What to expect during your work experience

Depending on the sector, length and general nature of your work experience placement or internship, you can expect a variety of things, and of course the unexpected!

Training: an internship or placement should provide you with experience and training not only for the length of your time with the organization, but also for future roles and your graduate career. If you’ve not been shown how to do something, just ask – the vast majority of organizations are friendly places, and if they’re not, ask yourself is it really the sort of organization you want to work for?

Responsibilities: your responsibilities as an intern or work experience student will largely depend on the type (and size) of organization and your particular workload. Some interns find themselves working on particular projects, either on their own or as part of a team, and this often means a high level of responsibility for the tasks and outcomes. Some interns however may be working on a particular function of the business and just be responsible for this, although this isn’t a bad thing as quite often this is a crucial cog in the machine that ensures overall success!

Who you’ll work with: this very much depends on the size of the organization, it may just be one other person, or it may be hundreds! Be prepared for both – you may need to be able to build a strong working relationship with just one other person, or maintain relationships with several. Communication is key. 

Other expectations: don’t expect to make the tea and coffee (well, not all the time) - this is a very outdated representation of interns, so just join in with the rest of the team and take it in turns, but always offer so that you create the right impression.

Networking advice

Networking isn’t as scary as it sounds; it’s about meeting people, and you do that every day. Starting a new work placement is a great way to build your professional network. A professional network is important, it can support your future development - it may be that one day the person you met in the staff room becomes the person recruiting for your dream job.

Before you begin your work placement - be prepared. Savvy networkers know who they are going to meet. Check out the company website, is there a ‘meet the team’ section? If so, have a look! These people will be your work colleagues. Social media is a great networking tool - set up a professional LinkedIn account and use this to introduce yourself.

How can you network at work?

  • Introduce yourself to everyone once and offer your assistance. This may sound daunting, but it’s a good way for people to know who you are and what you can do to help them.
  • Look out for any social/sports events and sign up. It’s a great way to meet other people in the company. 
  • Be open, make eye contact with others, smile at people when you can in the hallway, lift or in the kitchen and say hello. 
  • Arrange to go for a coffee with a person whose career you are interested in. Call/email them and ask to meet; people will be flattered that you are interested in them. 
  • And that’s important - be interested! Make sure you ask open-ended questions, and then listen attentively to their reply. An open-ended question needs more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. If you listen to their responses, people will warm to you. 
  • When you finish your placement, send an email/card or bring in cake to say thank you, and connect with them on LinkedIn and ask your manager for a recommendation.

And don’t forget, the best way to network and get yourself known is to do a good job!

Student Skills Zone

The Student Skills Zone is an online tool that provides you with the resources to develop skills for the future. It includes:

  • Academic Skills Zone - Learn and develop the skills you need to succeed in your degree
  • Professional Skills Zone - Develop and refine the skills you will need in your graduate career
  • Entrepreneurial Skills Zone - Discover the skills and approach you need to be enterprising
  • Global Skills Zone - Learn what you need to succeed in a global society

Internship responsibilities – yours, and those of the organisation for which you’re working

Whether you’re undertaking voluntary work on an unpaid basis for an organisation, or you’re in a paid, contractual position, there are commitments and responsibilities of which both you and your host organisation need to be aware. Some of these responsibilities have legal precedents, whilst others are may be less official and more based on an awareness of what will reflect well on you and will be likely to result in a glowing reference. The information cited below is specific to the UK. Please be aware that different countries will have different legal requirements regarding responsibilities and if you are planning to undertake work experience overseas, you may wish to undertake additional research on the Internet.

Your responsibilities

Professional etiquette and personal conduct – be aware that your conduct, the way you integrate into the existing team, the personal responsibility that you exhibit, the way in which you communicate, your appearance and attitude all contribute to the perception that your supervisor(s) and others in the workplace will have of you. Whatever the environment in which you’re undertaking your placement, you have ultimate control of these factors. You have a responsibility to yourself to create a positive impression.

Your host’s responsibilities

Shared responsibilities

  • Health & Safety Executive - Employers have responsibilities for the health and safety of their employees. They are also responsible for any visitors to their premises such as customers, suppliers and the general public. Similarly, whilst on-site, you have a responsibility to others to ensure that health and safety guidance is followed at all times.
  • Discrimination: your rights – All employees have the right to equal treatment in the workplace. Whilst employers have an obligation to ensure that the policy is in-place, it is the staff who help to ensure that the policy is followed and acted on.

If you’d like to find out more about responsibilities, also look at:

Finding the latest opportunities

Find the latest opportunities on Careers Connect sourced for you by your Careers Network.


Professional Services