Offering a first-hand insight into a career while also allowing you the opportunity to shine as a potential employee, work experience remains a valuable avenue into employment.
In fact, the right work experience at the right time can directly result in a job offer.
Here are our top tips to embrace the opportunity and get the most out of work experience.
What is work experience?
Organised through your school, TAFE, Uni or an employment program, work experience, or work placement, involves spending a short stint of time (usually about two weeks) at an organisation.
This time spent on the ground within a business or industry allows you to see what’s involved on a day-to-day basis, gain some skills and start or expand your job-seeking network.
But like anything, the opportunity is what you make of it, so here are some things to bear in mind.
Know your role
Chances are you know a little about the industry or business where you have lined up work experience, but it pays to further acquaint yourself with what they do.
Just a little research will familiarise you with their ethos, their customer base and give you an idea of the type of roles their business offers.
This “research” also involves having a chat or correspondence with the business contact responsible for your placement to ensure you know what to wear, what time to arrive and what to bring with you.
Dress for success
Regardless of whether the role is in the great outdoors or at an inner-city office, dress appropriately.
That may mean wearing closed-in shoes, tying back your hair for jobs in the food preparation and hospitality, and paying attention to personal grooming.
Basically, work experience is a bit like an extended job interview, so treat it accordingly by putting your best foot forward every day.
On the note of placement being like an interview, show commitment for the role you have the opportunity to experience. The time you spend with an organisation is the chance to acquire skills and showcase your employability, so be prepared to help out, do what’s necessary and play a role in what they do.
That means listening to instructions, asking relevant questions, arriving punctually each and every day, and stepping up to the challenge if you’re asked to.
After all, it’s work experience, not a job site tour, so get in and get a feel for the industry you may one day find yourself in.
Attitude is everything in the workplace, and a good, positive, helpful disposition allows you to stand out from what could be a crowd of work experience candidates.
Wear your enthusiasm for an industry or business on your sleeve, showing interest in the people, the business and the operation.
Meanwhile, even if it turns out this is not what you expected and it’s an employment avenue you’re unlikely to pursue, still show your appreciation and enthusiasm for the opportunity.
In many ways this is about respect – respect for the people who have taken the time to give you an insight into what they do, and respect for the fact this is the industry they work in every day.
End on a positive
The upshot of work experience is that it gives you knowledge, skills and broadens your job seeking network. And there are couple of things you’re looking for as the end result. These include:
Feedback – Most work experience placements result in written feedback that encompasses your appearance, your attitude and your employability.
A reference – This feedback may also become your reference for future positions. In addition, you can seize the opportunity to request a formal written reference or ask that someone within the business becomes your verbal referee (the person a potential employer rings to learn more about your workplace suitability).
A job opportunity – In some cases, work experience may result in the ultimate prize – a job opportunity.
Contacts – Time spent in a business or industry allows you to acquire valuable contacts. These are people you have the potential to draw on in the future for advice, recommendations, or further experience.
The Father James Grant Foundation offers willing young job seekers four-week programs aimed at providing the workplace and life skills you need to find a job. To learn more about our Mission Engage Programs and the renowned businesses we work with, see here.