A step-by-step guide to getting work experience

Applying for work experience is very similar to applying for a job. Follow these steps to gain valuable work experience:

Applying for work experience is very similar to applying for a job. Follow these steps to gain valuable work experience:

Step 1: Decide what job you would like to try

When considering what type of workplace you’d like to do a placement in, ask yourself these questions:

  • What subjects do you like doing at school?
  • What are you good at?
  • What would you like to be?

If you aren’t sure what you want to do, talk to your school careers adviser. They can help you come up with ideas, and give you information about the work experience programmes, such as Gateway, at your school.

Use these interactive tools to help you figure out some more job ideas:

Step 2: Prepare a CV

If you don’t have a CV, this is a good time to create one.  An employer will be impressed that you have organised yourself and this will make a really good first impression.

Step 3: Find a helpful contact in the industry or meet with the Gateway co-ordinator

How to set up your own work experience

To find a contact, you can:

  • Ask family, friends and teachers if they know anyone who works in this kind of job or industry. Church, clubs, sports teams and other community groups you are involved in may also have useful contacts. Ask them if they can help you get in touch with someone in your chosen job or industry.
  • Talk to your careers adviser at school to see if they can help or if you can do the Gateway programme.
  • Do some research on the Internet, on this website, or by looking through industry magazines. You could also look in the Yellow or White Pages for companies or organisations working in the area you're interested in.

  • Workplace training and industry training organsiations - find contacts to help you set up work experience

Once you have a contact ask them who would be the best person at their workplace to talk to about work experience. Then you should:

  • Contact that person by letter, email or phone to ask them about work experience.
  • Be prepared to tell them why you are interested in their company, and why you want work experience. You could offer to post, email or fax a CV.

You may not hear anything back straight away, but if you haven’t heard anything within two weeks, give them a follow-up phone call, or try another company.


To do this work programme, you'll need to talk to the Gateway co-ordinator. Their role is to match the right student with the right employer, so be honest and tell him/her what you would really like. They will check your CV for you and offer suggestions.

They will also use this time to discuss which unit standards you will be expected to achieve, and how to go about completing them.

Step 4: Meet the employer

The person you make contact with may like to meet you first before they agree to work experience. Treat this like an interview.

You will need to be prepared to:


With Gateway your career adviser will talk to the employer to set up your placement. You may not get to meet the employer before you start, but if you do follow the tips above.

Step 5: Plan and write down the details

If the interview went well and you have been offered some work experience, you need to talk to the employer about what you will be doing.

Things you need to cover are:

  • what day/s you will work
  • how long you will spend with them
  • what kind of tasks you might do
  • some goals you’d like to achieve from being there
  • transport options to and from the workplace.

If you are unsure about anything, it's best to ask now.

Step 6: Survive your first day

The first day of anything can be nerve-wracking. Things will be new and you might not know where to start. Remember to take one step at a time, and that it is a learning experience. Here are some tips to help the first day go smoothly.

  • Be there on time.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially as this shows the employer you are interested.
  • Have the right attitude – treat it as you would a real job. This could be your next employer.
  • If you have any problems or misunderstandings, speak to the person looking after you.

Step 7: Make the work experience counts

Try to make the most of your work experience. If there are parts of the job or organisation you want to know more about and haven’t had a chance to try, ask if you can include them in your programme.

If you are doing Gateway make sure you complete your unit standards assessment workbook. You may need to ask the employer to sign it, so make sure you understand exactly what needs to be done.

When you reach the end of your experience find a time to talk to the supervisor. Things you should cover are:

  • whether you are interested in working for the company in future. Be enthusiastic if this is the kind of job you would like. There could be openings you don’t know about!
  • paperwork - check if you have what you need for the Gateway programme, so that you can earn credits for your work
  • whether your supervisor is willing to act as a referee for future job opportunities.

You should also leave them a copy of your CV that has up-to-date contact details and stay in touch with your employer. This will make sure they remember you in the future.

Step 8: Update your CV

Update your CV while the things you did and learned are fresh in your mind.
You should also consider if the work experience made you want to carry on with that career or try something different. Things to think about include:

  • What did you learn from your experience?
  • What did you particularly enjoy?
  • Is this an area that might interest you in the future?

Updated 4 May 2016