To have a successful career, it’s important to take any opportunity you can to increase your awareness about the world of work and your place in it. Work experience provides a chance to add to the knowledge you develop while at University, gain insight into an occupation and industry, develop your professional and personal skills, and set you apart from other job candidates. Undertaking work experience relevant to your degree can provide you with both personal insight and a competitive edge.
Personal insight & development
Work experience allows you to experience and observe the realities of life in an organisation, and enables you talk to people within your chosen industry and profession. You can compare the job duties, working conditions and industry practices against your initial expectations, and use the insights you gain to reassess your career goals. Is it what you expected? Have your career goals been confirmed, or do you want to modify them? Have you discovered a new area of work you hadn’t considered before?
You may also find you develop on a personal level as well, once you’ve been subjected to the challenges and responsibilities of the professional workplace. A work experience placement can give you an opportunity to grow in self-confidence, initiative, maturity and self-management. You’ll gain a greater sense of self-awareness, and be able to identify your personal strengths and weaknesses.
To compete successfully in the graduate employment market, you need to be proactive and take responsibility for developing your skills and attributes. Remember, you may be competing against your peers from universities across Victoria, around Australia and from around the world; so you need to set yourself apart from the rest of the graduate market.
Graduate employers are looking for candidates with demonstrated general skills in areas like communication, teamwork, problem solving, self-management, initiative, planning & organising, using technology and the ability to adapt & learn. All these skills – known as ‘employability skills’ – are crucial in the workplace.
In your course, you have developed knowledge and skills in an academic environment. Now you have to apply this theoretical knowledge to real life situations. How would you use these skills in the workplace? Work experience enables you to test out how these skills are used in a work setting. Employers value greatly any experience you’ve had in what they might call “the real world” of work. They will especially value experiences directly connected with their industry or profession.
Supercharge your resume!
Resumes stand out if they can demonstrate experience in the professional workplace. If you’re a student who hasn’t had the opportunity to gain any paid or voluntary employment in your chosen field, then undertaking work experience means that you can still include examples of industry experience and knowledge in your resume.
Work experience is also an opportunity for you to network and build business contacts. Through the people you meet at the workplace, you may get access to industry events, information seminars, or the chance to join an industry body. All these activities will help you develop industry knowledge, contacts, and awareness of any opportunities that come along.