Work experience and internship placements can be an exciting way to find out what you like (or dislike) about a job before you commit to pursuing it further. In some cases, you’ll just be observing what people usually do in their jobs. In others, you can get ‘hands-on’ experience by completing different tasks in the workplace. These opportunities may be paid or unpaid, and can occasionally lead to ongoing employment. Other benefits include:
Your school or education provider (e.g. university, TAFE, or other training college) may organise a work experience for you. However, there are many other ways to find work experience or internships, such as:
If you want to search for opportunities online, some good places to start include:
You’re allowed to be selective about which opportunities you pursue. However, there are some cases where it’s reasonable to do an unpaid internship or work experience opportunity. For instance, work placements that occur as part of a university course will usually contribute to your course grades instead of your wallet. Work experiences that are observation only (this mean you watching others doing their jobs) tend to be for a few days or weeks and are unpaid. These types of work experiences are still very valuable because you get a chance to see how the job is done, what is actually required of workers to do the job, and what the physical and sensory environment might be.
In some cases, you may choose to volunteer for a specific organisation simply because you want to support them, or to benefit from learning a particular skill. While volunteering is a great thing to do, both for the community and for yourself, try to not only do unpaid work across a long period of time, especially if you are doing a job that other workers are getting paid to do. Be wary that some employers try to use ‘unpaid internships’ as a way to get work done without paying for it – especially if the unpaid opportunity has no end date or clear boundaries about what tasks are done.
Seek.com has some information articles about good internships versus not-so-good internships that may be helpful to you when deciding on what is the right opportunity for you. If you are unsure, talk to a family member, friend, or another trusted person who is supporting you in building your employability.