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Get experience

It takes more than a degree to land a great job.

Your studies are a key step in building a fulfilling career. But employers are looking for well-rounded students, especially those who can demonstrate practical experience and job-related skills, along with the ability to complete a degree. 

Being able to show examples of involvement in extracurricular activities, volunteering or other outside interests are concrete ways of demonstrating your employability. Having work-related experience provides further evidence to employers that you have the skills required to transition into a professional role.

Here are some ways that experience can help in your career search:

Process

Benefits

Resume

Real-world examples of how you have used your skills in a professional context; proof of your ability to do the job

Transferable skills

Learn and use new skills – including communication, initiative and the ability to work under pressure – that are relevant to the workplace

Examples for selection criteria

Recruiters often use selection criteria to differentiate between candidates; having a list of examples will make this easier

Employer insight

Gain insight into an industry, employer and potential colleagues; try out an employer or sector before making a long-term commitment

Networking

Extend your network of contacts; this could be extremely valuable during your job search, including accumulating referees

 

How can I get experience?

Here are some places to start:

  • Part-time or casual work

Along with the obvious benefits of making money, paid work provides an opportunity to develop your skills. Working in a clothing store or café, for example, demonstrates an ability to work under pressure, work in a team and deliver customer service – skills that employers are looking for.

  • Internships

These popular work placements provide an opportunity to practice and develop career-

specific skills in a professional environment. For many highly sought-after jobs and sectors, undertaking an internship is a crucial step to getting a job.

  • Student clubs and societies

Joining a club, society, sports team or getting involved in your student union helps broaden your interests and build teamwork skills. Taking on a position of responsibility, such as treasurer or captain of your sports team, is a great way to develop leadership and organisational skills.

Image source: Aurora Project

 

  • Mentoring

Supporting and encouraging students can help improve your skills and self-confidence while also helping others. AIME, the Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience, is one of Australia’s larger educational programs designed to support Indigenous students through high school and into university. Check with your university to see if they partner with AIME.

  • Exchange/study abroad

Studying abroad can help build valuable job skills including adaptability and communication while expanding your global network.

  • Vacation programs

Some employers offer seasonal vacation schemes, usually aimed at students in their penultimate year, which allow students to develop technical skills and industry-specific knowledge.

  • Cadetships

Many companies offer cadetships in conjunction with the Australian government. These can involve both on and off-campus study and work combinations, providing opportunities to gain professional qualifications and work experience. Check out the Featured Employers section of this handbook for details on Indigenous cadetship programs. 

Entrepreneurship – an extra edge

Employers have always looked to graduates for leadership and initiative. In today’s climate of constant change and uncertainty, being able to show concrete examples of entrepreneurial ability demonstrates that you have initiative, drive and enthusiasm and can provide essential skills for the economy. To get that extra edge you could: 

  • Volunteer to run a fundraising campaign or event
  • Start a business or become a contractor (tutor students; sell products on eBay)
  • Create a blog
  • Put on a play or music event on campus
  • Attend Meetups or listen to TED talks to gather inspiration and ideas.

See what your university has to offer. Many universities now have courses in entrepreneurship and enterprise or offer workshops on related topics, such as networking and innovative thinking.  

Volunteering

Volunteer work allows you to develop and use skills while making a valuable contribution to others. It is a great way to meet new people and expand your network, make a difference to a community, gain practical experience and develop professional work skills.

Along with learning more about your skills, interests, values and potential to grow and develop, volunteering also provides a chance to see how other people view you and your strengths.

You will be meeting and working alongside people with different attitudes and views. This shows employers that you can be flexible and adaptable – qualities they want their employees to have.

Expanding your network opens up new opportunities and helps you explore different occupations, industry sectors and roles across an organisation. It can also make your CV or application stand out when you’re competing for a job.

Check out the following for opportunities:

  • Australian Volunteers – An organisation that provides Australians with a broad range of volunteer experiences by matching them with partner organisations in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Indigenous Community Volunteers – An organisation centred around community development; providing volunteers and resources to Indigenous Australian communities who request support to develop and carry out community-led initiatives.

AIME – A mentoring program in which university students mentor high school students to end the cycle of disadvantage by permanently changing mindsets and ensuring nobody is left behind.