Getting value from work experience


Lack of workplace experience can be a big barrier for young people getting a job. You can build your workplace experience through paid work, work experience or volunteer work.

Good quality work experience can help you:

  • learn about the world of work and understand the day-to-day realities of working in a particular job
  • understand what employers look for in workers
  • challenge your ideas about careers in particular roles
  • work out whether you are suited to a particular job
  • build and demonstrate your technical and employability skills and
  • increase your professional networks, including finding possible referees for future job applications.

Top tips for getting the most out of work experience:

1. Make a good first impression. Turn up on time, dress well and be enthusiastic. If you are friendly, reliable and conscientious, more opportunities may come your way. 

2. Pay attention and ask questions. Listen carefully to any instructions. If in doubt, ask.

3. Get involved/offer to help. The more you get stuck in, the more experience you’ll gain. Be enthusiastic about any task (big or small) and show initiative. Come up with new ideas and discuss them with others in your team.

4. Ask for feedback from your host employer. Ask for ongoing feedback, rather than waiting until the end. This will give you a chance to improve your skills during your time in the workplace.

5. Add it to your résumé. On-the-job experience is workplace experience - it doesn't matter whether you were paid or not. Include relevant periods of unpaid work experience on your résumé especially if you haven’t had a paid job. This shows you have workplace experience and can demonstrate the skills that all employers value. This includes things like punctuality, team work and reliability. If you have done a good job, your supervisor may be happy to act as a referee.

For more information, check out our tip sheet Get the most out of work experience.

Before doing any kind of work experience, make sure you know you know your rights and responsibilities - review these articles for more information:

These tools can help you: