Vital step into working life
Make the experience work for you, writes Lauren Ahwan
SCHOOL work experience can provide a competitive edge once students enter the job market and also help those enrolling in tertiary education or further training.
Melbourne High School careers and work experience co-ordinator Annette Travers firmly believes in students taking on job placements.
This is despite many schools making job placements noncompulsory because of occupational health and safety regulations and increasing amounts of paperwork.
Travers says work experience can prove a student’s commitment to their chosen career path, which comes in handy when applying for jobs.
She says it also can have implications for tertiary education enrolments that interview potential students.
‘‘ It becomes very important in that sense, in that tertiary institutions can see your motivation,’’ she says.
At a basic level, work experience allows students to cement their desire to work in a field or to discount it.
‘‘ Work experience can help clarify your career goals . . . it can help identify the industry you want to go into,’’ Travers says. ‘‘ We have a lot of (students) who are very interested in medicine but I say to them that even doing work experience in allied health can give you an insight into the industry and clarify why you want to do medicine when you can do other things in health.’’
Westminster School careers counsellor Jenny Howland says even placements that do not permit hands-on duties still can be worthwhile. ‘‘ A lot of places you go to could be in areas where people have done a lot of training so you can’t just go and do that hands-on stuff,’’ she says.
‘‘ You might only be able to photocopy and think it’s a boring job but take notice of what others do and what it means. What did you photocopy, who did you do it for.’’
Howland says students should work the hours expected of the occupation, not just school hours or 9 to 5, to get the best feel for the role.
‘‘ In nursing, see if you can do a night shift,’’ she says.
‘‘ In a hospitality job, do a shift that includes an evening to see what that’s like.’’
Julia Dangerfield, 17, who completed a week of work experience at Adelaide Zoo, says the placement confirmed her desire to work with animals. ‘‘ I’ve been all across the zoo, looking after the hippos, the birds, the children’s zoo with the rabbits,’’ she says.
HANDS-ON: Student Julia Dangerfield gets to know palm cockatoo Seisa during recent work experience at Adelaide Zoo.