Work experience, insight weeks and volunteering

There are plenty of ways you can get hands-on experience without having to get a full-time job. We'll talk about three of the best options for doing this.

When it comes to applying for a new job, even your first job, you may be asked for a CV. Even if you don’t have to provide a CV, chances are your new employer will want to know something about you and your skills and experience. But it’s hard to get experience if you’ve never had a job, right? Work experience, volunteering and insight weeks are a great way to get experiences whilst you’re still in education. Let’s explore each one in more detail.

Work experience

Work experience is a great way to learn more about a company or job before you commit to applying for a role or go into further study. Work experience is not just for young people. It can be useful for career changers and people looking to get back into work. It can help you to gain skills and decide what to do.

Work experience may be unpaid, but some employers offer paid placements. What you get paid will vary depending on the employer, the role and the location.

Volunteering

You can also gain valuable work experience through voluntary work. There're many ways that you can volunteer your time through charities or voluntary organisations, or potentially even where you work if you're currently in a job.

As well as supporting something important to you, volunteering can also be a way of gaining valuable experience in an area that you may be interested in for your next career move, or to help you build a specific skill. And you'll be helping others too.

Insight experiences

To help you decide about the type of role you might want or the sort of company you'd like to join, insight experiences are something to consider. Many employers offer insight days and insight weeks

An insight experience is designed to help you see typical roles in an organisation, and what they do on a day-to-day basis. It's a great way to learn more about a company's purpose and values, and to help you decide if they match yours. A key part of job hunting is to find the right company as well as the role itself. You'll get to meet with a range of people that work in the company, some may by graduates or apprentices, others who've joined straight from school, or those who have worked for the company for a while. And you may get to work on mini projects during your experience, all valuable for adding to your CV and using in interview examples!

What's right for you?

What to consider
  • How much time can you commit, and how long is the commitment for?
  • How far can you travel?
  • What sort of volunteering or work experience would you love to get involved in? Perhaps something you have a connection with like climate change, poverty, homelessness, caring for animals or supporting young people
  • What skills can you offer and what skills do you want to develop?
How it can help
  • Give you more of an idea if you want to work for a small, medium, or large company
  • Give you an insight to the type and amount of learning and development you'd get
  • Show you what your team might be like
  • Help you explore what activities you enjoy doing and what skills you want to be using and developing
  • See if companies have similar values to your own

Next steps

If you're currently at school, your career advisor should be able to give you some guidance on where you can get insight or work experience, you could also ask your friends and family if where they work offer work experience placements too. Some companies may advertise directly on their website, others may work with partners to manage the applications.

You can also look for opportunities through organisations that support employability for young people, such as The Prince's Trust or other sites like My World Of Work (Scotland), Careers Advice (England), Careers Wales and NI Direct (Northern Ireland).

NatWest Group work with a number of partners who support our various CareerSense insight weeks and work experience for pupils at school, usually ages 16-18, and you can apply via them:

  • The Sutton Trust and Social Mobility Foundation are suitable if you plan to go to university and are from a less advantaged background
  • CareerReady connects pupils with the industry through paid work experience and mentorships. Regardless of what pathway you're considering, or even if you've not decided yet, CareerReady provides support if you want to go straight into work or further education

Once you've explored all the options and found one, or even a few, that interest you, it's time to apply. The process will vary between organisations. Some will ask you to simply sign up - more likely in volunteering or work experience, whereas others will have a more formal application process with CVs, cover letters and interviews required. If you're looking for any advice on the application process, we've got you covered. Check out our resources to help you build or improve on your CV and make sure you've seen our top tips on how to ace that interview.