What is work experience?

Students or graduates are often encouraged to participate in 'work experience' but what is it and why is it important?

While academic qualifications are critical to your career, work experience is equally important.

In the video “23 work experience benefits” the term work experience is defined as the, “short term, unpaid industry-based placement that enables students and graduates to broaden their understanding of the world of work.”

Work experience can form part of an academic programme. As a student or young person this aspect of the course can help you make informed career decisions.

If you haven't had the opportunity to join an internship or work experience programme here are some reasons to pursue work experience on your own:

It is a safe and supportive learning environment. Work experience allows you to explore the operations within an industry or organisation without the pressure to perform. Working amongst more experienced employees will also give you the opportunity to learn from those who have been in the industry for longer.

It allows you to practice your skills. This is crucial for individuals who only have a theoretical understanding of a job or field of work. You will also grow in your skills as you exercise them under supervision.

It allows performance feedback. Managers and colleagues can help you identify your strengths and also provide valuable feedback on how to improve in your weak areas.

It addresses industry expectations. There are some things you will only learn when you start working. Students might have ideas about what a job entails only to find that the day-to-tasks are not what they imagined and not what they want to spend their time doing.

It adds to your resume. Any experience or exposure you gain in your chosen career is beneficial to you. It is advantageous to have career-related work experience on your CV.

“You need to treat the work experience with same respect and professionalism you would a paid job.”

It is also important to know why you are there and what you want to achieve during your employment. Start by making a list of all the tasks and competencies you would like to complete during your time at thecompany.

Work experience can be valuable if the goals and expectations are properly negotiated between the employer and the worker.

Watch the video for more insights

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