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Career Planning

The pitfalls to watch out for on work experience


Work experience can be a great thing to add to your CV and your practical experience, but sometimes things are too good to be true. What should you look out for or be aware of when you’re looking to do some work experience?

Read reviews before you go

UK-based website ratemyplacement.co.uk encourages people who have been on placement to review their placements and rate them out of ten. This is a great resource for checking out if that placement advert was too good to be true, and to get an idea of the environment you’ll be working in and what you’ll be doing.

Are you actually gaining anything?

Usually work experience placements are unpaid (though some do pay expenses and others will pay per day). No one would choose to work for free if they got nothing out of it, so while you are on placement, consider if you are really learning and gaining contacts, or if you are just making tea and doing the jobs nobody else wants to do. You are under no obligation to be there.

Know your rights

The guidelines at Direct.gov.uk for people carrying out work experience or interning state that some people on work experience may be eligible for National Minimum Wage. If interns who are classified as ‘workers’ are not paid, this is against the law and you can report the company you’re working for to HMRC.

It’s also worth noting that you can leave a placement whenever you want and have no obligation to complete the stated time. If you are asked to do really unpleasant jobs and not being paid, for example, then you have every right to refuse to do the work. You can choose to leave the placement early, though you are obviously unlikely to get a good reference from the company.

Expenses and payment

Some companies will pay you expenses for work experience, some will pay you per day, and others will not pay you at all. Read carefully what is expected of you and for what pay (if any) – then make a decision.