Work experience is a great way to learn in a real workplace setting while connecting with others and working towards your career goals.
Anyone can undertake workplace experience – including young people planning their career, older people looking to change careers and people who are returning to work after a long break.
In this guide, we explain the benefits of work experience and how you can find work experience opportunities in your area.
Why do work experience?
There are many benefits to doing work experience. Whether you are in your final years of school, having trouble finding a job or thinking about returning to work after a break – work experience is a great step to take.
Reasons to do work experience:
- Gain experience in a real workplace – learn what to expect when you get a paid job in the future.
- Grow your confidence – gain experience and practice your skills in a supportive environment.
- Improve your resume – stand out from other candidates by showing employers you have previous experience.
- Learn new skills and get feedback – gain practical skills in a field you’re interested in and get advice from people already working in that field.
- Try out different types of jobs – find out what workplaces and job types interest you as you plan for your future.
- Connect with others – be part of a team, meet new people and strengthen your network.
- Do something meaningful with your time – work towards your future goals, even if you can’t do paid work at the moment or are taking time off for health reasons.
- Give back to your community – use your time, effort and skills to do something that benefits your community.
What kind of work experience should I look for?
If you already know what type of job or industry you want to work in, look for work experience opportunities that will help you work towards your goals. Ideally, it should be something you can include on your resume when applying for jobs in the future.
Also think about the connections you can make during the work experience placement. If you can make a good impression, it may help you get your foot in the door with further work opportunities.
If you don’t know what kind of work you want to do in the future, work experience is a great way to try out different options. Start by brainstorming what you’re good at, what you like doing and what interests you. You could even speak with an employment consultant about what types of work would be a good fit for you.
Then look for work experience in those areas. During and after your work experience placement, take time to reflect on your experiences. What did you like about the job? What was challenging? Even if you decide that type of work is not for you, you can take the skills, confidence and self-awareness you gained with you as you take your next steps.
How to find work experience opportunities
There are many ways to find work experience opportunities, including through your school, your network or the internet.
1. Through school, university or TAFE
If you are currently a student at high school, university or TAFE, your institution may be able to organise work placement opportunities related to your studies. Speak to the careers coordinator, careers advisor or your teacher about what’s possible.
2. Use your network
Many people find work experience opportunities by word of mouth. Talk to people in your network and mention you are looking for work experience – you might be surprised what opportunities come up. If someone you know can put in a good word for you, it may help you secure a placement.
3. Approach businesses in your area
Consider approaching local businesses or organisations directly and asking if they can offer work experience opportunities. Approach them with a friendly tone, and be ready to explain why you’re looking for work experience. Don’t forget to thank them for their time.
4. Search online
Many work experience openings are advertised online, either on job search websites or on specific organisation websites. You often need to apply for these like you would apply for a job. You may need to write a cover letter explaining why you want work experience with the organisation and why you’d be a good choice.
Volunteering is a great way to gain experience while giving back to your community. You can find many volunteering opportunities online, including short term volunteer positions and long term positions. Although you might not get the same level of supervision and feedback in a volunteering position, many organisations will be willing to write you a referral letter. Volunteering is a great thing to put on your resume when applying for work.
Get help from employment services
Finding the right work experience opportunities can take time. If you need help finding work experience opportunities in your area, support is available. You could be eligible for a government funded disability employment service in Sydney or your location.
If you’re having trouble finding work, contact a Workforce Australia provider. Or speak with a Disability Employment Services provider about jobs for people with disability. These services are funded by the government which means if you’re eligible, you can access them at no cost to you.
Employment service providers can help you prepare you for work, connect with employers and find job opportunities that are a good fit for you. They can also help with organising work experience opportunities and gaining relevant skills to make you more employable. When you transition into work, they’ll make sure you have the right supports in place to succeed in your job.
After you complete a work experience opportunity, you may be ready to apply for paid jobs in a related field. In some cases, the organisation you did your work experience with may offer you ongoing work.
If you’re not ready to start work, or are having trouble finding a job, speak to an employment service provider about finding more work experience opportunities, undergoing training or accessing job search support. Whatever your goals are, support is available to help you achieve them.
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