TRY IT OUT: Spending some time in the workplace can give students a better idea of which career path to choose.
TRY IT OUT: Spending some time in the workplace can give students a better idea of which career path to choose. iStock

On-the-job experience connects students to careers

REMEMBER when you were a kid and were asked, "What would you like to be when you grow up?”

It's a question most young people (and even grown-ups) don't know the answer to.

Deciding on a career isn't easy.

You might have a few ideas about what you'd like to do, but you don't know whether these ideas are realistic or not, especially when you are 15 years old and at that stage of school when you need to start making decisions about a career path to follow.

I recently had a Year 10 student spend a week with me. The premise was to give him the opportunity to explore the field of news reporting.

Work experience is a short-term placement in a business or other organisation students do as part of school. It provides learning experiences in a real work environment, teaches specific skills relating to a job and helps develop self-confidence and communication skills.

It is a really good idea as it places them in a position for a short time so they can find out more about jobs they're interested in, try things out for themselves and build their job-seeking networks.

The student with me gained an insight into some aspects of the job and learnt some new skills, but it's a pity the school year doesn't allow for more weeks out of the classroom to try a multitude of occupations.

It would be ideal to spend time with professionals who work at all the jobs the student is interested in to get the scoop on what they are really like.

Through work experience, students gain much-needed direction as they learn more about a role before they decide to pursue it. The more information they have, the easier it will be to make a decision.

It's important to investigate all kinds of careers. The perfect job might be something you've never heard of.

Most students are only familiar with the jobs parents, friends or relatives do, as well as those held by people they come into contact with, such as doctors, dentists and teachers.

Work experience shouldn't stop after the obligatory week in Year 10. I encourage students to seek other opportunities to find out what a job is really like.

Visit career expos and events where information is presented about occupations.

Talk to people who do all kinds of jobs and find out what their job involves, how easy it is to get that job and what training is needed.

It's also good to check out sites such as or .au/careers/discover.