Work experience – everybody talks about it, everybody wants it. But, with so many terms around it, it’s hard to actually define it!
An internship, prac placement, vacation program, or work experience is a set period of time where you complete supervised work experience with an organisation. If you’re lucky, your degree will include practical experience. This could be a single unit, or a whole range of units from first year to final year. If a ‘prac’ component isn’t inbuilt in your degree, then the onus is on you to be proactive and go out and find it.
Why it’s worth it
Yes, work experience can be daunting, but it can also be incredibly valuable in a number of ways.
- The first and foremost benefit of work experience, is what it does for your resume before you’ve even graduated. Completing at least one work experience placement shows a potential employer you’ve had experience working in the field or environment.
- Related work experience also puts you significantly ahead of every other graduate who hasn’t completed one. It will provide you with solid references. Industry professionals you have worked with can hold a lot of weight beyond your Macca’s referee.
- It sows the seeds of your professional network. You’ll get to meet industry professionals, and even get to work alongside them. Getting that vital foot in the door will go a long way. In fact, you may even find that undertaking an internship with a company will lead to that company offering you a position later on.
- It boosts your confidence. You get to experience the workplace environment and become accustomed to it while under little pressure or stress. Not only that, you get to take a peek behind the curtain and see what the industry and the workplace is really like. You may find that it’s not at all what you expected. Wouldn’t that be nice to know before started your first professional graduate job?
Paid or unpaid
Pracs are part of your degree so you wont getting paid, but a ‘work experience placement’ can be either paid or unpaid. The latter is more likely – unless you’ve been offered a coveted place on a formal vacation program.
This is due to the fact that internships can represent a significant investment to a business on account of the fact that an intern will be less productive than an employee. But don’t let the likely lack of pay discourage you – an internship can pay big dividends in the future.
During last month’s Careers for Tomorrow Festival we hosted a great presentation: ‘What an internship can do for you and your career’. This, and other content from the Festival, will soon be made available for students to access as a recording. We’ll keep you posted.