Work experience and volunteering are great ways to improve your resume and get real life experience in a work environment. Find information about registered volunteering organisations, workplace health and safety, choosing an experience and much more below.
Why try work experience?
Work experience and volunteering means spending time with an employer in a real workplace. You may watch others perform a role, get hands-on experience yourself, or both. Work experience and volunteering are great ways to improve your workplace skills and experience, boost your resume, find out about new jobs and industries, and increase your chances of getting a new job.
There are many more reasons for having a go at work experience or volunteering:
- It can improve or demonstrate your employable skills;
- It provides experience for job applications;
- It helps to build a network and form relationships in a specific sector; and
- It helps you decide whether a particular sector is a good fit for you.
You can also get workplace experience through volunteering. Volunteering is generally organised through community services or charities.
Finding work experience and volunteering providers
Work experience is often conducted through a registered educational training organisation like a school, TAFE or university. Work experience is usually included in training courses and can vary in length, so you may wish to look into doing some additional training too. Go to the Get some training page for more information on how to find a training course that suits you.
Becoming involved in your community or local organisations as a volunteer can make a big difference in your job search too. Volunteering shows that you are proactive, willing to learn and can help you develop many general employability skills such as team work, communication and problem solving.
You can find opportunities by directly contacting organisations such as large companies and organisations, your local council or local businesses in your area. The best unpaid work experience placement will provide you with the chance to explore new interests and your suitability for a new job or industry.
Some good questions to ask your potential work experience or volunteering provider are:
- Does the organisation have a structured work experience program?
- What supervision/mentoring arrangements will be available to me?
- How does the programme ensure that I am exposed to as much of job/industry as possible?
- What skills will I be working on and developing?
- What training/induction will be provided?
Looking for opportunities online
The internet is a major resource to help you in securing work experience, volunteering, cadetships or internships in a particular location, industry or role. If you don't have access to the internet at home, your local library will usually have computers that you can use, or your friends, neighbours or family members may let you use their computer.
Each state and territory has a volunteering centre and website where you can find current opportunities. They also contain information about your rights as a volunteer and the legal requirements in your state or territory. Click the link below for your state’s volunteering page:
Other websites that may advertise opportunities include:
- Volunteering Australia
- Palms Australia
- Workforce Australia
- Seek Work Experience
- Graduate Opportunities
- Australian Government website
Company websites will usually have a specific jobs or human resources page. These are usually called something like “Join the team”; “Jobs”; “Working for us”; “Careers”; or “Current vacancies”. You can try searching for volunteer or work experience opportunities on these jobs pages. You may also see opportunities posted on company’s social media pages, including Facebook and Linkedin. You can also try contacting the human resources team of a company directly.
Preparing for the experience
Finding a work experience or volunteering placement, internship or cadetship is similar to finding a job. You may need to formally apply for a position and go to an interview, so make sure your résumé is up to date. Go to the Looking for a job page for help on improving your résumé and covering letter, interview tips and more.
Before you accept any offer, make sure the position meets all the legal requirements. Legal requirements vary in each state and territory and for different types of work experience. Check with the Fair Work Ombudsman or refer to the volunteering page to make sure you and the employer meet the right legal requirements, including whether you should be paid for your time.
You may also need to organise your own insurance to protect you and the employer if you have an accident. Your state or territory workplace health and safety authority can tell you if you need insurance:
- NT WorkSafe
- SafeWork SA
- WorkSafe NSW
- WorkSafe Queensland
- WorkSafe Tasmania
- WorkCover WA
- WorkSafe ACT
- WorkSafe Victoria
Making the most of your experience
After your work experience placement, make sure you formally thank the organisation for the opportunity. You should also ask for a written reference and the contact details of a person who you can use as a referee on your résumé and future job applications. These will be very useful when applying for a job and will act as evidence of your attitude, new skills and experience.
It's also useful to spend some time thinking about what you might have achieved from the experience. It’s a good idea to write down your answers while they are still fresh in your mind. Include as many specific examples as possible from your experience as you can. This way, you can use them as detailed examples of your skills in future job applications, without worrying that you have forgotten something.
Some questions to ask yourself that can help you get started are:
- What skills did I use?
- What motivated or demotivated me about the work?
- Which bits did I find interesting or boring?
- Did the organisation and work fit with my values?
- Did I enjoy the work?
- What was the culture of the organisation like?
- How would I have changed the experience to make it just right for me?
- What does this mean for my future career choices?