Improving employment prospects with unpaid work experience

by Elizabeth Harmon
Posted: July 20, 2015

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Have you been considering doing some work experience to bulk out your new resume? Up to 33% of all available jobs will go to people with at least some work experience. 

Gaining work experience is becoming increasingly important. In fact, during our recent research, it was revealed that a large portion of employers felt work experience or volunteer work, especially while at school, is an effective way for Australian youths to improve their employment prospects, whilst learning valuable skills.

We therefore decided to take a deeper look at how unpaid work experience can improve your job prospects, as well as sharing our tips on how you can secure a placement and how you can extract the most benefit from it. At Open Colleges, we have created a helpful infographic with 7 key tips. However in this week’s blog post, we’re focussing specifically on the benefits of doing unpaid work experience.

What are the benefits of work experience?

The first question many people may ask is “why do work experience”? At Open Colleges, we believe work experience can provide you with a huge range of benefits. In many cases the experience you gain is worth more than the monetary value of the tasks you’d be doing. Some of the benefits include:

Gain skills and practical experience

Work experience helps you to gain valuable skills that are sought after by employers, such as team working, communication, deadline management and email etiquette. You can also gain experience of working in a business, something that can’t be taught in the classroom.

Explore your career path

Work experience can help you to decide whether a particular career path is the right fit for you. Not only can you experience different roles, but you can speak with people on the team to find out more about their own experiences. If you find that you are on the right path, you will be able to talk more confidently in interviews. If however you realise that the particular career isn’t for you, this isn’t a negative, as you then have the opportunity to be re-directed along the right path.

Differentiate yourself 

The job market can be extremely competitive. Whilst your qualifications are important, work experience can help to differentiate yourself from other candidates. It can also demonstrate to future employers your commitment to a certain field, helping you to get further ahead of other candidates.

Make contacts

During work experience, you have the opportunity to network with people and build up a list of contacts. You never know how useful they could be in the future, as a mentor, or when you’re looking for a new job!

Build confidence

Starting your first job can be daunting, yet taking on unpaid work experience can help to build your confidence, a quality that many employers will appreciate at interview.

Relevance

Work experience can help you see how the skills you have learnt at school can be applied in a real work situation. However, many students also find that when they return to education, the experience motivates them to work even harder to achieve their dream career.

Future job

Although unpaid work experience is normally only a temporary placement, if you perform well, it may lead to a full-time job after you have completed your education.

Interview practice

Applying for your first job after education can be a little intimidating, however, applying for work experience helps to give you experience of writing CV’s and going to interviews.

Finding work experience

If you’ve decided to find a work placement, whether it’s for a week, a fortnight, the summer or an entire year, there are various ways you can get started. With technology, it’s now easier than ever. Firstly think of relevant businesses you would like to work at, then look at their company website to see if they have any unpaid work experience opportunities. You could also expand your search to Google, Twitter, LinkedIn as well as signing up to various recruitment agencies.

Although many people may start by looking at larger organisations, don’t forget that you can get excellent experience at smaller companies too. However, whatever company you apply for, make sure you tailor your application for each one. If you need help writing your resume, take a look at our guide here.

How to get the most out of your work experience

Once you have secured a work placement, make sure you get as much benefit from the experience as possible. Here are a few suggestions to consider:

Get feedback

At the end of your placement, ask your supervisor for feedback on your work. This can not only give you a confidence boost, you may also see areas that you can work and improve upon. You could even ask for a written reference, which can be helpful to show employers when applying for another job.

Ask for more work

If you enjoyed your work placement, why not ask for more opportunities? You already have your foot in the door and so even if they do not have any roles at this particular time, they may be happy to consider you in the future.

Get connected

Once your work is completed, don’t just lose touch of the people you worked with. Consider adding them on LinkedIn, as they may have opportunities for you in the future, whether they remain at the same company, or move on themselves.

We hope this guide has helped you to understand some of the many opportunities work experience has to offer. As you can see, it can not only help develop your skills, but can also get you noticed by employers, improving your overall job prospects.

Have you enjoyed unpaid work experience? We’d love to know some of the benefits you experienced from the process. Let us know in the comments box below!

Are you ready to launch your new career? Then check out our 7 Tips to Landing Your First Job infographic!

 

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Elizabeth Harmon

Elizabeth Harmon

is a Social Media Consultant with a number of years of experience in the field. She has worked with a growing list of clients around the world, helping to build successful social media strategies, create effective content and much more. She is a writer and journalist for the Open Colleges Careers Blog.

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