Work experience examples

Let’s see what happens at two work experience situations.

Most students turn up for work experience full of enthusiasm and generally this happens:

Student 1

Arrives keen to start. The employer is unprepared for you. Some work crisis has developed overnight requiring the employer’s immediate attention.

You are shuffled off to someone who was not expecting you.

Consequently they have no immediate work. So you are placed in a backroom, while “something is worked out”. An activity is found to keep you busy.

Generally this activity will involve some grunt work with repetition and hours of boredom. After a few days someone may give you an orientation of the business, showing you where things are. You are left to fend for yourself for the balance of
the work experience period.

So you will be looking forward to your first job hoping that it will be different, and at the same time harbouring some negative feelings about work.

The student is left deflated.

Student 2

Arrives keen to start. The employer is expecting you and you go off straightaway to induction and orientation. Your supervisor picks you up after induction. The group you are going to work with is expecting you, and has some tasks to get you started. If it was “good” work
experience you will have been given really meaningful tasks, and an explanation on how these tasks contribute to the business.

You may have been mentored by an enthusiastic co-worker and be able to look back on your work experience with a sense of achievement and pride in what you have achieved.

You will be feeling positive about your abilities and your worth and be looking forward to entering the workforce.

Unfortunately more work experiences will be like Student 1, not Student 2.

For most students work experience can be a “tick the box” exercise for them and for the boss. Both you and the boss are just doing the minimum to get it over with.

This work experience may leave you with feelings of confusion about work, perhaps the experience has caused you to question your abilities, maybe left you with feelings of worthlessness, blaming yourself for the bad experience, not having the skills to contribute, perhaps thinking you have been used as cheap labour, or that work is not meaningful or rewarding.

The experience of students in work experience is important, and it is a concern that so often it is disappointing. Especially when it is recognised that a student’s initial work experience often influences future expectations.

If a student enters a workplace and during the work experience program is not nurtured, or worse, is exposed to bad work habits, then it is only natural that the student will see these behaviours as the norm, and continue them in later working life.

As a footnote, as recently as 1st and 2nd of December 2015 the Australian Parliament debated the value of the Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) that are largely responsible for providing work experience and training for first time workers.

Politicians are very disappointed in the results that these training schemes provide to their clients i.e. YOU in terms of sustainable results. The allegations of “cheap labour” and “meaningless work” continually surface in these situations. So politicians are looking for ways to improve your experience, because they recognise how important the early stages of work are in setting future directions.