How To Find The Right Work Experience And Prepare For It

Are you struggling to find the right work experience? Are you unsure of what to do in your work experience? Well, you're in the right place! This article will explain everything you need to know about work experience.

Written by:
Matrix English Team

Work experience, are you excited about it? Are you wondering how to find the right work experience and prepare for it? In this article, we will identify the pros and cons of work experience, guide you to find the right work experience and provide tips to help you make the most out of your work experience.


What we’re going to discuss in this article:


What is work experience?

Work experience is an opportunity where High School Students (usually in Years 9-11) are given a week (sometimes 2) off from school to go to work instead!

In this week, they learn about the industry and the workforce and gain a rough idea of what this career is like.

Be mindful, though, it is important that we don’t confuse work experience with work placements or internships.

Let’s see the differences.

Work ExperienceWork in an industry/business
  • It is 1 week long
  • Offered to any student from Years 9 – 12 (usually Year 10)
  • Not paid
  • Not part of any course requirements (but is compulsory in some schools)
  • Students often don’t have any industry skills before they begin
  • It is a taster of the real workforce/career
Work PlacementWork in an industry/business
  • Spans a longer period of time (a term or longer)
  • Offered to students doing vocational studies (Year 11 or 12, or TAFE)
  • The host can choose to pay students (but this is uncommon)
  • The placement is part of the student’s course requirements
  • Students learn skills that are necessary to complete their courses
  • Work placements enable students to understand how classroom skills translate to a workforce setting
InternshipWork in an industry/business
  • Can range from 2 weeks to 6 months
  • Offered to University or tertiary students
  • Internships can be paid or unpaid (If an internship is part of a course, it will be unpaid; If it is not part of a degree or course, it should be paid)
  • It is optional for students
  • Students gain skills that are essential to their future careers
  • It is similar to working a part-time job

There are laws surrounding wok experience, work placements, and internships that you should be aware of. To help you get a sense of your rights and what you can and cannot be asked to, you should read the relevant articles from the Fair Work Ombudsman.



How to find the right work experience and prepare for it – Step-by-Step

Unfortunately, many students never get a chance to do work experience during High School.

Maybe they hated the sound of missing 1 week of school (think about all the catch-up work you have to do). Or maybe their school just didn’t offer it.

But most commonly, students miss out on work experience because they either didn’t find the right placement or got rejected from the one they applied for.

So, to help you find the right placement, we’ve put together this step-by-step guide!


Step 1: Look at your interests

The first step to finding the right work experience for you is having an honest look at your interests!

Even if you already know which industry/fields you want to work in, it doesn’t hurt to explore your other interests.

Often in life, things don’t go to plan. So, it’s essential that you have other options.

Okay, let’s see how we can look at our interests to figure out the right work experience.

As we mentioned in our Subject Selection for Work Experience Open Day Panel Article, you should pay attention to your emotions when you do different activities.

Make a list of different things you enjoy doing and makes you feel good.

Here are some things you can explore:

  • Hobbies
  • Passions
  • Activities you enjoy
  • Something you’re curious about
  • Favourite subjects.

Now you have a list, you can do some research and find the jobs and careers that fit!





Step 2: Research

Now that you know what you’re interested in, you need to research for possible places to do your work experience!

You should begin looking at industries or fields that relate to your interests.

For example, if you enjoy Maths, you can look at the finance industry (things like trading or insurance), education or even coding and User Experience (UX)!

There are so many choices.


If you already know which industry you want to go into, then you’re ready to begin researching specific businesses and places of work.

You can:

  • Look at job-search websites like Indeed or Seek
  • Look at universities like USYD, UNSW and UTS (Type a university and your chosen field in Google to find more)
  • Google work experience by typing in your chosen job/industry/field and “Work Experience Year 10”
  • Contact local businesses (including Matrix! Scroll down for the EOI form)
  • Contact big players in the fields you are interested in and write to them and see if they take work experience candidates.

If you are calling or visiting local business, make a list of questions and ensure that you ask them! You must get a feel for what the job requires.

Honestly, finding work experience is not easy. So, you’ll need to search for a variety of different jobs that interest you.

For example, if you enjoy acting, then you can look at film, animating or acting studios (like AIE or Actors Pulse),  theatres (like ATYP or Capitol), or media organisations (like ICE Org).


If you are struggling to find a place, ask your parents, family friends, siblings, cousins, neighbours and anyone else you know!

See if their workplace is willing to accept work experience students.


Before you make a formal application, you’ll need to sort out your resume.




Step 3: Make a good resume

It’s time to write up a good resume!

A resume is a document that describes your skills and experience. Employers use resumes to see who will be a good fit to have in for an interview or trial.

A good resume will set you apart from other candidates.

Remember, work experience is very competitive. Employers will be selective about who they choose.

So, you need to make sure that your resume stands out from everyone else.

One of the challenges that face work experience students is that High School students often don’t have an employment history.

So, if you haven’t had a job, how do you do this?

  • Describe your skills, strengths and attributes
  • Identify your past experiences (eg. volunteering, work experience, jobs, extra-curriculars etc.)
  • List your achievements (eg. academic, sporting, volunteering etc)
  • If you have a job – a newspaper round or weekend work at Maccas – list your position and see if you can get a written reference from your supervisor.

Remember, a resume is supposed to convince employers that you are the right candidate. So, sell yourself in your resume!

For suggestions on how to format a resume and the tone that you should use, read this article from Youth Central.


Step 4: Apply to LOTS of places

Work experience is very competitive.

So, a good way to ensure that you get work experience is to apply to LOTS of different places.

Send out your resume to any businesses or companies that are taking in work experience students.

Call up or visit local businesses to see if they accept you.

Don’t be afraid to contact firms that interest you. Write them a polite, but detailed email asking if they take work experience students and what the application process is.

Matrix Education offers limited work experience placements each year – submit your interest, [InlineContentDownloadForm].

And, if you’re ever stuck, ask someone you know! See if your mum’s, siblings’, neighbours’ or family friends’ workplace is willing to take on a work experience student.


Step 5: Know your goals

Once you get accepted into your work experience, it’s time to prepare for it!

The first thing you need to do is to set out your goals:

  • Do you want to learn some industry skills?
  • Do you want to see if this is the right job?
  • Do you want to gain connections?
  • Is there a specific outcome you are hoping for?

It is important that you set out your work experience goals so you know what you are looking for when you are on your placements.


Step 6: Research the company or organisation you’ve been accepted by

You can’t show up to your work experience knowing nothing about the company or organisation you’re working for!

So, it’s time to do some research.

Spend some time online and have a look at:

  • Their website (most company websites have a section that showcases their work culture to attract job applicants. This is ours):
    • Read their site and find out what their working culture is like.
    • Research exactly what they do, what their values and their goals and aims are.
  • If you can, get an idea of how big they are in their field, industry or sector.
  • Research other firms in the field, industry, or sector and find out how they differ from one another.

The more you know about the business you go into, the more you will get out of it as you are not wasting time learning superficial details. In addition, having pieces of professional knowledge about a company will help you prepare for your activities and tasks during your work experience.


Step 7: Be organised

No. Taking the wrong train to your work experience is not an excuse!

You need to be organised.

This means that you need to:

  • Know what the dress code is and dress appropriately
  • Know your working times and working days for your whole work experience
  • Plan your travel itinerary. Are you taking the train? Bus? Are your parents driving you? When do you need to leave? What’s your emergency plan? Get it sorted out!
  • Always arrive at least 15-30 minutes early!!

Having a professional ethic to work experience

Jeans and a T-Shirt (no matter how neat) won’t cut it at Price, Waterhouse, Coopers but may be acceptable at Google Australia.



Step 8: Make a good first impression (and maintain it)

No one wants to work with a rude, disorganised and lazy person.

So make a good first impression and keep it!

So, how do we make a good first impression?

  • Dress appropriately
  • Be punctual (arrive early, don’t come back late from  lunch!)
  • Be polite
  • Be eager to learn
  • Take initiative
  • Take notes!


Step 9: Make the most out of your experience

Work experience may seem like a drag, but it is a huge opportunity. When businesses open their doors to work experience students they are actually taking on more work for little to no benefit. It takes time and labour for a company to plan out a student’s tasks and provide the appropriate instructions, training, and feedback.

So, don’t bludge or sit around and waste your work experience!

This is a great opportunity to learn more about yourself, the workforce and to make you stand out. You want to make sure that you leave a good impression so that the company you’ve placed with is happy to recommend you.

So, how do you do this?


1. Take initiative!

‘When you finish your tasks, ask for more tasks! Help people out when they need it.

Don’t just sit there and wait.


2. Talk to people!

This is a great chance to learn about people working in this industry.

Learn about their experiences, what they like and dislike about the job. See what their everyday work consists of.

By talking to people, you learn about the working culture in the industry and its competitiveness.

Work experience is an excellent chance to forge industry contacts and develop relationships that you can draw on when you’ve finished High School.


Step 10: Reflect

You finished your work experience. Horray! Now what?

Now, it’s time to reflect on your experience to figure out if this is the career path you want to follow.

Ask yourself:

  • Did you enjoy it?
  • Do you think the job is right for you?
  • Is it different from what you expected?
  • What skills did you gain or improve?
  • What did you enjoy/not enjoy?
  • What were your strengths and weaknesses?



Need help selecting the right senior subjects to study?

Maybe you know exactly what industry you want to work in. Maybe you don’t! Either way, you still need to make informed decisions about your senior subject selections.

Join us in our Year 10 Subject Selection Seminar to learn all about choosing the right subjects for you and how to develop the right study habits to achieve your senior (and career) goals.


What are the benefits of doing work experience

Students might think of work experience as a chance to skip school for a week.

But we assure you, work experience has more benefits than you can imagine (Yes, there’s more than just skipping school).


Let’s see the 8 benefits of doing work experience!


1. Trial and error!

Work experience gives you a explore different jobs without having to commit to them!

You don’t want to begin university and then change your course 4 times because you don’t like what you’re doing.

Instead, use your work experience opportunities to trial your interests!

As we look at in our Subject Selection and Work Experience Open Day Panel Article, our 4 panellists discussed how their work experience helped them realise what the right career was for them.

For them, work experience was a chance to find out what they didn’t want to do for the rest of their lives.


2. Know what the job really consists of

Sometimes, you might discover that the job requirements are very different from your expectations.

For example, you might think that graphic design is all about exercising your creative juices and drawing anything you want. But in reality, it consists of meetings, planning, lots of boundaries, and realising the ideas of others.

Work experience shows you how the work gets done so you won’t get disillusioned once you start working.




3. Get a taste of the real workforce

Work is VERY different from school!

You won’t have teachers guiding you through every step.

Instead, you have more responsibilities and independence. You need to be able to communicate with everyone, regardless of their age or skill level. You need to be disciplined.

Work experience shows you what skills are needed in the workforce and help you work with people you don’t know.


4. Improve your soft skills

Soft skills are skills and characteristics that allow people to interact with other people.

These include communication skills, problem-solving skills, worth ethic, initiative, teamwork skills, interpersonal skills, adaptability and lots more!

After 1 week of work experience, you will find that your soft skills have improved! (Even if it’s just a little bit)

This is because you are subconsciously using them to navigate and thrive in your work experience!


5. Learn new skills

Work experience can teach you skills that school doesn’t.

For example, if you are doing your work experience at a recording studio, you might learn how to use sound recorders and industry software like ProTools, Ableton, or Cubase!




6. Learn your strengths and weaknesses

During work experience, you can identify your strong skills and skills that need improvement.

Maybe, you’re shy, so your communication skills aren’t that great. Or maybe, you’re a little disorganised.

Work experience will show you the skills that you need to work on.


7. Improve your employability

Remember, the workforce is very competitive. You need to know how to stand out and gain connections.

So, talk to everyone!

Learn about their experiences and what they did to get into their industry.

See how you can stand out in the future!


8. Put it on your resume!

And finally, you can add your work experience to your resume!

If you are looking for a casual job in the holidays or a part-time for the weekends, this will be good for you! Even if you don’t want to work now, work experience will still look good on your resume when you are looking for a job after your HSC!

Employers are always looking for highly skilled workers. If you demonstrate that you have the skills needed for the workforce, the chances of getting hired increases!

If you want to be able to put your work experience on your CV or resume with confidence, you must make a very good impression!





What are the disadvantages of doing work experience

To be honest, there really aren’t any.

True. You miss a week of school and will need to catch up on work. But everybody will be in the same position.

The biggest issues you may face will be that:

  • The experience isn’t as rewarding as you expected. Maybe you had too much spare time or you weren’t allowed to do the exciting parts. Or,
  • You hate the job.

But these aren’t necessarily bad things. In both cases, you are learning about that industry and discovering how you would fit into it. Maybe you can put up with some of the more boring or unpleasant tasks, or maybe you can’t.

At least if you hate a job or career, you know not to pursue it after High School.

As you can see, the benefits of doing work experience greatly outweigh the disadvantages.



Final tips!

Before you go on your work experience search, here are some final quick (but important) tips!


1. Speak to as many people as possible when researching

It’s important that you find out how others found the career they love. Ask your parents, relatives, and family friends how they ended up doing what they do.

Their experiences won’t be your experiences. But the anecdotal experiences of why people do what they do will help guide you in what to look for.

2. Start looking early!

Work experience is very competitive.

If you leave it until the last minute, you might not be able to get into the industry/field that you want.


3. Even if it isn’t your desired work experience place, do it anyway!

Sometimes, you might not get accepted to any of your desired places. They might be full or aren’t offering any more work experience.

But that doesn’t mean that you stop looking!

Take up any opportunity that is given to you. You can learn new skills, meet new people and learn what that industry is about.

And who knows, you might love it!

Written by Matrix English Team

The Matrix English Team are tutors and teachers with a passion for English and a dedication to seeing Matrix Students achieving their academic goals.

© Matrix Education and, 2023. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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