How to find work experience while studying

If you’re currently studying, there’s no better time to try and secure work experience. Working in a relevant field while studying will not only help make you a strong candidate in the job market, it will also allow you to hone the valuable skills you’ve learnt in your studies, all while making invaluable contacts in your chosen field. Here are some key steps to making it happen.

Determine your work experience goals

Work experience and study can be a perfect match, but it’s important to determine what kind of placement you want in order to get the most out of it. First, decide what kind of experience you’re after, whether it’s putting the specific skills you’ve learnt in your course into practice or getting a feel for a certain type of business.

Your next step is to determine how much time you’re able to commit before you apply for positions, as the time duration for work experience placements can vary hugely - from a single day, to a weeklong block or more. Also, placements can be paid or unpaid so be sure to keep that in mind when searching for, and comparing work experience opportunities.

young woman at work shaking hands job interview

Think about what you can offer

Once you’ve determined what you want, consider what skills or expertise you can provide in return, from ‘soft’ skills (strong communicator, enthusiasm to learn) to ‘hard’ skills you may have learnt in your course, including more technical abilities. As SEEK Learning HR consultant Emma Whalan says, “perhaps you can provide a different view from a consumer perspective or be able to apply a new or cutting edge piece of technology that they may not know about”.

Do your research

Begin your research by utilising your existing network. Speak to your friends, family, teachers or careers advisor, as they may have some leads you can follow up. Your course provider may also have additional resources when it comes to advertising work experience for students, such as a jobs noticeboard or regular email newsletter.

Do your own groundwork too, whether through Google or a more specific tool such as SEEK company reviews, to identify the companies where you would like to do work experience. There may be organisations with specific work experience programs, but it’s also important to think outside the box and look at businesses that may not be big players, but may be able to give you a more hands-on experience due to their smaller size.

Regardless of size, “it’s important to find an environment where the people are interested and able to invest their time”, says Whalan.

Volunteer work is also a great way to secure relevant work experience, so research companies or events in need of volunteers, or alternatively visit SEEK Volunteer for opportunities in a variety of fields.

Prepare a strong CV

Whalan says aspiring work experience candidates need to think about the company as a potential employer. That’s why it’s important to put as much thought and care into your application as if it were for a permanent role. This means preparing a strong resume and cover letter, tailored not just to the position– but also for the most relevant person at the company.

Also, be sure to talk up your study achievements and how they relate to the particular industry you’re applying for and how this has given you the necessary knowledge and skills to make a valuable contribution during your placement.

Demonstrating your “genuine interest, together with a willingness to learn and actively contribute to the workplace” will go a long way to ensure you impress any potential employer, says Whalan.

Get interview-ready

From there, you may be called in for a job interview before being offered a work experience spot so make sure you’re prepared. Research the company beforehand and ensure that you’re able to confidently talk about your studies and the relevant skills it has given you. And remember, an enthusiastic, professional and friendly attitude never goes astray.

Last but not least – don’t lose heart! Landing the right work experience opportunity requires persistence and patience – but remember, you only need one ‘yes’ to make it all worthwhile.