Getting value from work experience

Illustrative representation of Getting value from work experience

Employers often say that lack of workplace experience is the main barrier for young people getting a job. You can demonstrate 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, industry or occupation
  • understand employer expectations for workers
  • challenge your ideas about careers in particular occupations or industries
  • help you work out whether you are suited to a particular industry or occupation
  • build and help demonstrate your technical and employability skills and
  • increase your professional networks and gain referees who you can ask to provide references for future job or study applications.

Top tips for getting the most out of work experience:

1. Make a good first impression. Turn up on time, dress appropriately and be enthusiastic. If you show you are friendly, reliable and conscientious from the start, chances are more opportunities will come your way.

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

3. Get involved/offer to help. It might sound obvious but the more you get stuck into the work allocated, 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. Try and get informal feedback as you go, 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. It’s important to 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, like punctuality, team work and reliability. If you have done a good job, your supervisor may be happy to act as a referee.

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:

…Or you can browse Job Jumpstart for other ideas and suggestions of what to do next.