How To Gain Work Experience While Studying
Making the decision to study with a respected organisation is an excellent way to build skills and open doors into your new (or improved!) career.
In today’s competitive world, employers are looking for a formal qualification and they want their candidates to be experienced too.
You may be deciding to start a course with us in aged care or disability care – and if it’s the first time you’re diving into the industry, you may also be wondering how you’ll demonstrate experience at the end of the course without having worked in your chosen field!
The answer is work experience.
That is, experience working for a business. It’s usually on a voluntary/unpaid basis, though some will pay a small wage as compensation.
As a side note, most Royal College of Healthcare courses have in-built practical placements, so that by the time you graduate you’ve not only gained theoretical knowledge – you’ll know how it converts into real world practice.
Practical placements aside, students are still welcome to proactively seek their own work experience opportunities as it’s a great way to ‘test’ various jobs and workplace settings, along with building networks.
So, if you’re ready to put what you’re learning into practice, here are some tips for gaining industry work experience.
Set your work experience goals
Think about what you want to get out of your work experience placement. Do you want to put some specific skills in to practice, or to get a general feeling for a type of business? Are you hoping to be ‘hands-on’ or to observe? Whilst you may not find a work experience opportunity that ticks every box, you should at least have a clear idea of what you want to get out of it.
How much can you commit?
Advertised work experience opportunities can vary greatly when it comes to time commitment – ranging from days, to weeks and sometimes months. Whether you’re applying for a formal opportunity or negotiating your own arrangement, be clear about how much time you have available and don’t over-commit – especially keeping in mind that it’s unlikely you will be paid.
Research your ideal employers
Make a dream list of organisations you’d love to work with and find out who you need to speak to within each business to secure work experience. Often, it’s as easy as calling reception, asking to speak with the HR officer or manager, introducing yourself and following up with a resume via email. Don’t be intimidated by seeking experience with your ‘dream’ employers – as long as you put your best foot forward, you’ve got nothing to lose.
Use your contacts
From friends, to trainers – once you’ve set your work experience ambitions be sure to lean on your contacts for help ‘getting your foot through the door’. At Royal College of Healthcare in particular, our trainers are experts in their field – theoretically and practically – many having worked for years in aged care related industries. They may be useful in helping to introduce you to the right people.
Prepare to be interviewed
You may be called in for an interview before being offered a work experience spot so be prepared. Research the company beforehand and make sure you can confidently speak about your studies, relevant skills and ambitions.