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CareerChick's Work Experience Guide 27 August 2008 | by Elise Snashall-Woodhams and Annemarie Cross
Work experience is invaluable, whether you’re at high school wanting to get a taste of the workforce, or currently employed and looking for a career change. We spoke to career consultant Annemarie Cross about how to get the best work experience and impress on the job.
Try before you buy.
 
Work experience is a great way to develop and enhance your skills within an actual workplace setting, as well as learn what to expect if you have never worked before.
 
If you’re unsure about your career direction and have a curiosity about a particular role/industry, work experience can also allow you to see if it’s the right move for you.
 
It’s not just for high school kids.
 
Work experience allows people to gain valuable transferable skills and experience. Voluntary work opportunities are valuable for anyone, particularly if it allows you to get your foot in the door to a new industry/role.
 
Be organised and apply early.
 
If you are interested in a particular company try sending a brief resume and cover letter introducing yourself. Call the company before you send your resume to find out whether they have any opportunities and to find out the name of the person to whom you should send your details.
 
Some companies do not offer work experience placements so remember not to take it personally if you get a knock back.
 
Use your contacts.
 
The best way to score great work experience is to contact companies directly. Ask people in your network of contacts to see whether they know of any companies or people you could speak to. You can also go to your local council website and see whether they have listings of possible voluntary work experience opportunities.
 
Work experience opportunities will probably not be advertised so these methods are probably the best.
 
Make sure you fill in the paper work.
If you are doing a work placement through school, generally there is paper work and various instructions that are given that have to be followed (legalities etc). Make sure everything is filled out properly by you and your temporary employer or you may not be properly covered by important things like workplace insurance.
 
Work out the details.
 
Generally work experience is unpaid. But remember that the work experience you are gaining is valuable and will support you in portraying relevant and transferable skills to a future employer.
 
If you are doing your work experience through school then your placement shouldn’t run for more than one or two weeks. If you seek voluntary opportunities outside of school, the placements will probably be determined by the organisation.
 
Make a good impression
 
Work experience is your chance to impress. Listen carefully to instructions; work diligently; show initiative and the ability to learn quickly; perform tasks promptly. If you do all these things you should wow your supervisor and score a good reference while you’re at it.
 
Many big companies offer specialised work experience opportunities. We’ve collected a few of the best in each area. Make sure you apply early to avoid missing out; most programs have already opened applications for next year.
 
Accounting
CPA Australia (Australia-wide)
 
Arts
The Odeon Theatre (South Australia)
Actors Centre Australia (NSW)
 
Astronomy/Science
Sydney Observatory (NSW)
 
Hospitality/Tourism
Warner Village Theme Parks (Queensland)
 
Media
Pacific Publications (NSW)
 
Nursing and Healthcare
UNSW Rural Clinical School (NSW)
The Royal Women’s Hospital (Victoria)
Epworth Healthcare (Victoria)
 
Politics
 
Science/Engineering
CSIRO (Australia-wide)
 
Vet Science/Zoology
RSPCA (Victoria)
Zoos Victoria (Victoria)
Taronga Zoo (NSW)
Guide Dogs (NSW/ACT)
 
Author: Elise Snashall-Woodhams and Annemarie Cross.
 
(c) Annemarie Cross is a Career Management Specialist with Advanced Employment Concepts, supporting clients in accelerating their level of success in the job market and the workplace. How much success can YOU handle? www.a-e-c.com.au
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