Work experience is one of the best things your teen can do to prepare themselves for their future careers. Whether it’s for university applications, to get a better idea about what they might like to do in the future or to stand out to employers after finishing their education, work experience is a great way to develop their skills, knowledge, and confidence. However, finding work experience can often be difficult for teenagers, especially if they don’t know where to start. So this blog gives you and your teen six tips for finding the perfect work experience.
Use School or College Resources
If your teen is still at school or college, it is worth finding out about the support offered there, as they can be a great source of work experience opportunities. Many schools and colleges have partnerships with local businesses that offer placements to students or may be able to point them in the direction of businesses that have taken on students before.
If your teen is looking for a placement as part of a school’s or college’s work experience week, then they should receive at least some guidance about local opportunities. Many schools also work with organisations that focus on finding work placements, and your teen might be able to apply for possible placements via a dedicated online platform. Check with their school if this is available, and if so, get the login details.
Approach Businesses Directly
Speaking to businesses directly can be a great source of work experience opportunities. Your teen can approach businesses in their local area, or even further afield if they are able to get there, and ask if they have any work experience opportunities available. Even if nothing is available right now, they could leave their CV and contact details with the business in case any opportunities become available in the future. Making this direct contact can make a great first impression, as it shows they are keen and are prepared to “go the extra mile”.
It’s of course important for them to be professional when approaching businesses directly. Remind your teen to dress appropriately and be prepared to answer questions about their interest in the company or care of work, as well as any relevant experiences and skills they might already have. It is also really helpful if they have an idea of what they want to gain from the work experience.
Network with Family and Friends
Networking can sound a bit scary, but it is really just talking to people. And talking to family and friends about possible work experience leads can also be a useful way to find opportunities. Encourage your teen to talk to family members or friends who work in industries they are interested in and ask if they know of any opportunities. But also encourage them to ask people if they know someone, who might be able to help. We tend to give up easily when we don’t have a direct link to the career we want to explore. But it’s actually worth speaking to lots of people about what they are looking for. It can be amazing who’s uncle’s, mate’s dog walker might be just the person they should speak to.
Networking can of course also involve attending more traditional career events or conferences related to the industry they are interested in. These events provide opportunities to meet professionals and learn about potential work experience opportunities. This is particularly relevant if your teen is already at university or working and wants to widen their experiences.
And of course, you can support them by having conversations with people and seeing what connections you might find. I have also seen social media shoutouts work quite well for people.
Use Online Resources
The internet can be a great tool for finding work experience opportunities. There are a variety of websites to help your teen find work experience that suits their interests and skillset. Alongside “in-person” experiences, it can also be useful to search for virtual work experience opportunities, which can be a good starting point. Some are more like online insight courses, but some are effectively working remotely.
Your teen could try:
Indeed – This job board does occasionally include adverts for internship opportunities across various industries.
LinkedIn – Your teen could create a LinkedIn profile and connect with professionals in the industry they are interested in. This can help them learn about opportunities and get advice on how to approach potential employers. Many employers also advertise work experience opportunities via their social media channels, so it is worth following organisations they are interested in on the social platforms they use.
A good old Google search – This does of course bring up “everything” and can mean a bit of sifting through, but in some cases, it can bring up some useful options.
Sometimes this option gets overlooked, as it doesn’t have the “work experience title”. But volunteering can be a great way to gain work experience and develop skills. There are many organisations that offer volunteering opportunities, and it can be a great way to build experience and make useful contacts.
Besides looking at local opportunities directly, your teen could also try websites like: vinspired.com which lists volunteering opportunities specifically for young people.
Encourage your teen to start looking for work experience early, not just a few weeks before they want to do the work experience. Some schemes can be so popular that they fill up a year in advance. If your teen is looking for something for their school or college work experience, it is also worth remembering that there will be a lot of other students looking at the same time. The busiest time tends to be at the end of the summer term, when they might well be competing with half the schools in their area. If they are looking for their own placement, it can be worth thinking about timings. Maybe they couldn’t get a place at the local vet at the end of year 10, but could they ask for a placement in their own time during the summer holidays? The time after year 11 or 13 exams can also be useful, particularly if they are interested in doing something in education but are still in education themselves. Finally, if a longer placement isn’t an option, consider asking about a few hours on a Saturday for a few weeks or going in for just a day for some work shadowing.
It might be tricky, but it’s worth it.
Finding work experience as a teenager can be challenging, but if they do the leg work and use the resources mentioned above, they should have good chances. And work experience is really one of the best things your teen can do for their future career and education. Not only does it look great on applications and develops skills and confidence, but it can also be a way of testing if they feel ready to be in fulltime work and it can teach them so much about what they might or might not like in their future.
If you would like some personalised support to help your teen to explore their future options, have a look at the individual careers guidance sessions I offer here. And if you feel they could do with some inspiration for careers ideas (or work experience ideas of courses) linked to their interest so far, have a look at my career inspiration booklet here.