Consider experiential, work-based learning to learn more about occupations that interest you. This can be done through internships, volunteering, part-time jobs, study abroad and more.
Gaining experience, while exploring career options, gives you a head start on your future career. Local schools and colleges offer many of these programs. Find more by searching the Internet and contacting businesses and organizations in your community.
Work-based learning is also beneficial if you want or need to change careers. Use your skills and gain new ones while building your job search network.
Participating in work-based learning opportunities gives you an edge when applying for jobs. Not only do you gain valuable work experience, but it offers a world of networking opportunities. Hiring managers always look upon this experience favorably. If you are recently laid off, this is a resourceful way to spend time away from work.
Internships allow you to observe and perform actual job duties that interest you, similar to a regular employee. Companies usually provide interns more help and guidance while training and may also help you land a full-time job upon completion of the internship. They may even provide a mentor that can support your career decisions and goals.
Employers like to hire people with experience, especially from within the company, including their most successful interns. Internships are typically available to college students in a related major, but companies do hire non-students for internships.
Internships are paid or unpaid and may be eligible for academic credit at a high school or college. They usually last for a couple of weeks to several months.
Cooperative Education and School-Based Enterprises
Cooperative education (“co-op”) is run by individual schools as part of their vocational education programs. Students gain academic credit by working part-time jobs during the school year in their vocational field. The jobs are arranged by their instructor or by the school's co-op coordinator. It follows a training plan that states what the student is expected to learn and what the employer is expected to provide. Business and marketing education programs are generally the largest sponsors of co-ops.
In school-based enterprises, students produce goods or services for other people. Such enterprises include school restaurants, construction projects, child care centers, auto repair shops, hair salons, and retail stores. They prepare students for the transition from school to work or college. They provide a first work experience or an opportunity to build management, supervision and leadership skills.
These programs differ from co-ops and apprenticeships in that they do not place students with employers. Rather, it allows students to apply their classroom knowledge to running real-world businesses. School-based enterprises are a practical option in communities where there are too few employers to provide sufficient jobs and training opportunities in the private sector.
These programs offer a combination of academic instruction, structured vocational training and paid work experience, usually lasting one to two years. These programs are offered through employers in collaboration with your state’s Department of Labor and Department of Public Instruction.
Some military veterans and certain members of the Reserve/National Guard may be eligible for educational assistance for state-approved apprenticeships in addition to their VA benefits. To see if you are eligible for GI benefits, contact the Department of Veterans Affairs at 1-888-GIBILL-1 (1-800-442-4551) or visit http://www.gibill.va.gov.
This is when you spend a day (or part of a day) at work with someone in a career that interests you. You follow that person throughout the workday and observe what his/her tasks and skills required for the job, experience the work environment and interact with other people who currently work in your potential career field. At appropriate times during the day, ask questions about the work and make a list of possible questions in advance while noting other questions that come up during the day. Job shadowing may not give you a complete picture of a job or career, but it at least gives you a sneak preview.
Volunteering is a good way to experience many careers. Volunteer opportunities are available everywhere: businesses, hospitals, schools, government agencies and community and nonprofit organizations. In some cases, you may be able to do the specific job that interests you. For jobs that require more education or training, ask the supervisor to place you in a related job that still exposes you to your career interests. Check for opportunities at your library and in your local newspaper.
Working teaches you a lot about your interests and helps you develop skills for many careers while earning some money for school and living expenses. Many part-time jobs do not require a lot of training and skill to get started. Part-time is typically considered anything less than 40 hours a week.