Work experience is a fantastic way to learn more about different career sectors and job roles and to really get a ‘birds-eye view’ on how different companies operate.
Work experience is proven to be a vital stepping stone to longer-term career success, as it helps you to develop job-ready behaviours and can be a magnificent boost to your confidence in getting on in the workplace.
But not all work experience is created equal, and it pays to spend some time thinking about what opportunities will offer you the best next steps. It’s easy to think you should just grab onto any opportunity that comes your way, but you can – and should – think more carefully and make sure whatever experience you gain adds value to your career growth.
Below are our top five tips to help determine which work experience opportunities are right for you:
1. Think about what you LOVE doing!
First and foremost — what do you enjoy doing? What career plans do you have in mind? If you don’t have any, what aspects of your studies are you enjoying at the moment?
Having a good reflection on these thoughts will help you start building a good profile of what you want to do. Think about the skills you’ve got and the skills you want to build to do the role/s you want to pursue a career in. You can then start using this as a basis when reviewing different work experience opportunities and making sure there’s a good match.
2. What do you want from a potential employer?
What makes an employer ‘good’ in your opinion? Think about the type of company you would like to work for and what that looks like. This can be anything, including the type of work environment you see yourself in: a traditional office or travelling around more? A creative space or something more formal? Do you want to wear a suit or thongs to the office?
Thinking about this can help you make sure you seek out opportunities that match your ideals so you can keep making further decisions about your work preferences. It’s something else to add to your list when thinking about where you want to do work experience and the insights it will give you.
3. Do your research
Spend some time doing your own research to help you better understand and manage your own expectations for what the work experience will involve. Your research should take two things into account:
- The company itself and what they do.
- The work experience and what it will involve.
For example, you’ll probably want to know how many people you’ll be working with and what they do. It’s also good to find out what your work experience will cover: will you be working in one department or get the opportunity to work in a few different areas? What will your day look like? What else will be on offer to help you learn about the industry?
You can speak directly to the employer or even other students who have completed work experience at the company to see what they have to say about their time there.
4. Remember to factor in practical considerations
When choosing a work experience opportunity, you also need to think about a few practical things. It’s easy to get swept up in a potential opportunity that sounds great, but if it’s a two-hour bus ride away and you need to start at 8 am, it might not work out as great as you hope!
Location, travel time, and how you’ll get there are all important considerations. You might not mind doing an extra commute, but factor in how tired this will make you to begin with and what you might have to miss out (socialising, team sports, etc.). Even though it’s usually only short-term, it’s worth preparing yourself for this at the beginning and not halfway through.
5. Be prepared to WORK
Work experience can be your first step on the ladder into the industry of your desired career, but only if you’re prepared to go the extra mile and do the work. Employers are always keen to meet and get to know potential recruits. Work experience can be a great way to show them what you’ve got to offer – we’ve seen many students secure part-time or future work out of work experience opportunities!
Even if you aren’t successful in securing a paid role afterwards, you will still have the opportunity to put your name to various work projects that you can refer to at future prospects — and never underestimate the power of an excellent reference!
Taking ownership and responsibility for your work experience can be empowering – and it also helps others around you know what you want so they can help you do it!
Above all, make sure you know what you want to get out of it. Be proactive and articulate about any ideas or skills you have to offer and the work ideas or skills you want to develop. Employers love someone who has a plan and can articulate what they’re hoping to achieve — so they can help you do it!
Ready to start applying for some work experience? Read our blog on where to find the right opportunities for you!