Getting relevant work experience while you study is a great way to get ahead in the graduate job market. Working on a paid or voluntary basis introduces you to the realities of the workforce, enables you to develop your employability skills and helps to build your professional networks.

Many large organisations offer a range of work experience opportunities including cadetships, internships or vacation work. To learn more about these programs check out CareerHub, browse company websites or visit Graduate Opportunities. There are also a number of courses within La Trobe University which offer subjects involving work placements and/or industry based learning, so ask your faculty about what programs are available.

However, keep in mind that many opportunities are never advertised, so it’s important that you explore the ‘hidden’ job market. Use strategies such as networking and informational interviewing to find work experience. Ask your own contacts such as family, friends and lecturers if they can recommend any organisations for you to approach. In addition, talk to professionals working in your industry to gain insight into potential career paths and ways to get your foot in the door. To help you generate some further ideas about finding work experience related to your studies, talk to a Careers Consultant or visit the Career Development Website

Another great way to gain experience and practical skills in your field of study, or a field in which you’re interested, is Volunteering. When choosing volunteer activities, think about the specific outcomes you’d like to achieve and the activities you’re interested in undertaking. Alternatively, part-time and casual work while you’re studying – even if it’s not specifically course related – can help you develop transferrable skills (eg. ability to communicate effectively, negotiate, think strategically, solve problems and work well in a team). This will put you in a much stronger position when applying for graduate jobs.

Gaining relevant experience through formal programs, part-time/casual work or volunteer positions will not only increase your employability skills and professional network, but will also give you greater insight into potential career paths. Just remember that many occupations are open to graduates from a range of disciplines and, in many cases employers are more interested in the skills you’ve acquired through work experience than your choice of major.