PER: ways to get practical experience

A variety of techniques can be employed to gain practical work experience. If opportunities seem limited in your own workplace at first, use your imagination to increase your options. We provide some useful guidance.

Job rotation

A job rotation involves temporarily swapping roles with a colleague. After receiving clear instructions, a job rotation will allow you to perform new tasks yourself, allowing you to gain valuable insights and acquire new skills. People who have undertaken job rotations often develop fresh ideas and feel a new enthusiasm when they resume their original role.

A secondment is a transfer to another post (or department) for a fixed term. This is an excellent opportunity to gain increased responsibility and really challenge yourself, which, in turn, can increase job satisfaction. When trying to find a suitable secondment, look for opportunities to provide extended cover, for example for staff on maternity or long-term sick leave, or on a sabbatical. Your workplace mentor, or those that can authorise such moves, may not have considered a secondment to be an option for you, so make sure you proactively present the secondment in a way that benefits everyone.

On-the-job training
On-the-job training involves being supervised while performing tasks, allowing you to build your skills and confidence. When planning on-the-job training, consider the activities for which you would like to be responsible, and for which your training would be welcomed and supported by your colleagues. This type of training also gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your skills to your workplace mentor and to colleagues who can influence your career progression.

Workshops involve taking part in a group session to discuss pre-agreed work-related topics. If you are given the opportunity, make time to attend workshops in which senior colleagues participate. You may be able to suggest running specific workshops on your own areas of expertise – perhaps for more junior employees – as these are excellent ways of encouraging your colleagues to voice and share valuable ideas away from the confines of the office.

Project work
Project work involves participation in team or inter-departmental projects. It is generally a good idea to volunteer for project work as it might lead to opportunities you had not considered when originally planning how to meet your performance objectives. Tasks such as negotiating, writing reports, hosting meetings, planning ahead, and coordinating the activities of others will develop the personal effectiveness skills which are mandatory practical experience requirements.

Shadowing involves observing the working practices of a more experienced colleague, usually for a task for which you cannot yet be given sole responsibility. You can learn a lot by watching and listening to fellow employees – provided they have the time to explain their actions as they work. Shadowing keeps disruption to colleagues to a minimum, but don’t forget to ask questions as many people respond well to the opportunity to demonstrate their own specialist skills.

Making the most of opportunities
As you can see, there are often many more opportunities to gain practical experience than you might think. You simply have to think creatively and be proactive with your workplace mentor and colleagues.

There’s also more to practical experience than simply meeting ACCA’s membership criteria. As you witness first-hand how different techniques can be applied to different tasks or business areas, you’ll improve your own job satisfaction. You will also equip yourself with the skills to become an effective manager or workplace mentor in the future.