Work experience is any real world productive experience that is relevant to future employment. Employers commonly require job candidates to have work experience to be considered for a role. This creates a catch-22 situation whereby you need work experience to obtain work experience. As such, it is common for governments, education institutions and private industry to set up programs that provide work experience. The following are common types of work experience.
Professional Work ExperienceThe history of an individual's career including their employers, roles, responsibilities and accomplishments. If you have changed careers or gone back to school, your previous work experience may still be relevant to new opportunities.
Paid Internships A form of temporary employment lasting up to a year that is geared towards providing those who lack work experience with opportunities to work in a field.
Unpaid InternshipsUnpaid work in exchange for experience in a highly desirable role. Unpaid work is usually illegal. As such, these programs may be carefully regulated to ensure they are providing participants with valuable experience in exchange for their efforts. Unpaid internships should only be accepted from reputable programs and organizations that clearly explain what you will learn and what is expected in return.
Work Experience ProgramsIt is common for education programs or entire education systems to provide work experience to all participants. This usually resembles an unpaid internship except that you may be assigned to an employer with little choice. The education system that runs the program is accountable for ensuring that participants are treated fairly such that they get valuable experience in exchange for their time.
Questionable InternshipsIn some cases, organizations request that students pay considerable tuition in order to work for free in an unpaid internship. Likewise, firms may request fees to find an internship or a volunteer position abroad. These practices are questionable from an ethical point of view unless they are truly using your money in a way that is making the world a better place or to provide you with a valuable learning opportunity.
Part-time JobsWork that is unrelated to your planned career may still be viewed as valuable to an employer because it shows that you have experienced the real world of work. For example, a waiter deals with difficult customer service situations that may be unfamiliar to someone who has never worked.
Summer JobsPaid positions during your summer or Christmas holidays.
Gap YearA gap year is a year that is taken off in the middle of your education at some point to travel, take internships, learn a language, volunteer or experience work. If you take a gap year for travel, it is often possible to do a little work or volunteering to gain some experience. For example, if you have completed your undergraduate degree, it is often possible to get a job teaching a language in a foreign country.
VolunteeringUnpaid work for a non-profit that adds value to your community. This demonstrates character as well as any practical experience you may gain.
FreelancingOdd jobs that you have done. For example, tutoring your neighbor's kids in math or helping a local business with a software problem.
ApprenticeshipsAn apprenticeship is a path to a trade or profession that involves extensive on-the-job training. In some cases, these are tied to an education program such that they involve a combination of classroom learning and work experience.
Student JobsJobs related to your school such as a teaching assistant role at a university.
EntrepreneurshipSelf-directed initiatives that create value such as organizing a concert or developing open source software.
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