It may not sound like the most appealing idea in the world, but if you're in further or higher education and you have a good idea of what industry you want to get into, unpaid work placements can be a great way of getting hands-on experience in your chosen industry.
You'll also get a real understanding of how a particular industry works, find out what the key skills are that those particular employers are looking for and get to know people who you can contact once you've finished studying and are looking for full-time paid work.
If you're still not sure what career you want to follow, unpaid placements can be a good opportunity to try out a number of jobs to help you make that decision.
Some companies and organisations offer paid placements, but you shouldn't expect to receive any money during your placement. However, some companies may give you some cash to cover your travel costs.
You shouldn't decide to do a placement just because you'll be getting some sort of financial reward. Remember that competition for jobs in some industries such as the media or fashion design is incredibly strong and employers often expect you to have completed a voluntary placement before they'll consider you for a full-time job.
Any experience you can get will be a lot more valuable in the long run than a short-term cash boost.
If you are receiving any benefits, any money that you may receive from a voluntary placement could affect your benefit payment or credits. You must check with your local Jobcentre Plus office, Jobcentre or Social Security office before you begin.
It depends. Sometimes a company or organisation can only offer placements for a week at a time, whilst others offer more structured ones that can last for six or eight weeks.
Make sure you've done your research into a number of different companies in your chosen industry. This will help you decide which company is offering the most suitable placement for you.
Once you've found a company that you would like to work for, you should contact them directly. It's a good idea to phone the main reception and ask to talk to the person who deals with work placements or someone in the human resources department. Make sure you ask for their email address as well in case you need to send over a CV as part of your application.
Alternatively, you could write to the company enclosing your CV and a covering letter explaining why you'd like to do a work placement with that company, how you feel you would benefit from doing a placement with them and the skills and ideas you can bring to the company during the period of your placement.
If you've organised a placement, do some preparation before you start. Find out as much as you can about the company, their history and the work they're doing at the moment.
Make sure you know what you want to get out of your time with the company. By doing this, you'll be less likely to be sitting around doing nothing.
You'll probably be given a mentor who will look after you during your placement, so talk to them about the sort of tasks you'd like to do and what you'd like to get out of your time with the company. Your mentor will also be the person to go to if you have any problems, or if you need any help or advice.