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Comprehensive Work Experience Guide for Students

How to test if you like a career before committing 3+ years of study to it.   

Why Test A Career Before You Commit?

Deciding on a career is a big deal, and it's not as simple as you might think. Science shows that getting real-world experience is key, and here's why:

  • First, there's Affective Forecasting Error, which is a fancy term for not being great at predicting how you'll feel about a job in the future. You might think a job is perfect for you, but until you try it, you won't really know. It's like hyping up a video game and then realizing it's not all it's cracked up to be.
  • Then, there's Confirmation Bias. This means you'll focus on the stuff that supports what you already believe and ignore what doesn't. If you think you're cut out to be a lawyer but haven't looked into the nitty-gritty details, like paperwork, you're not getting the full picture.
  • Next up is the Paradox of Choice. The more career options you explore, the harder it gets to pick one. Spending time in different roles can help you narrow things down.

Now, let's talk consequences. Going all-in on a career without trying it is risky. You could end up wasting years and a lot of money on a degree you don't want to use. You'll find yourself back at square one, only now you're not fresh out of high school. There's also the emotional cost of doing something that drains your energy and well-being. And don't forget the missed chances to find a career that you could have rocked. So, it's not just about years mastering a skill; it's about making sure it's the skill you really want to spend your life perfecting.

 

How to Test A Career In A Few Hours

 

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Books & Video Interviews on Your Dream Job

  • What is it:¬†This is about diving into books or watching video interviews featuring professionals in the career you're eyeing. You get a first-hand account of what the job is really like, straight from the people who are living it.
  • Pros for teens:
    • You get the inside scoop: What's a day in the life of this job really like? How did they get there? It's like a VIP backstage pass to your future career.
    • You can sidestep some pitfalls: Learning from other people's challenges and successes can help you navigate your own path a little smarter.
    • It's an inspiration kick: Seeing someone do what you dream of doing can boost your motivation and keep you focused on your goals.
    • Get those burning questions answered: These sources can tackle specific questions or uncertainties you might have about the field, like work-life balance or job security.
  • Time required: The great part is, this is totally up to you. You can binge-watch a series of interviews in a weekend or pace yourself with a chapter a night from a book. Either way, make it a habit to regularly absorb this kind of insight, as it'll enrich your understanding of the career you're interested in.
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Career Fairs and Networking Events

  • What it is: Attending gatherings where professionals from various industries come together, such as career fairs, conferences, or networking meetups.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Exposure to a wide range of careers and industries.
    • Opportunity to ask questions and gather insights directly from professionals.
    • Building connections that may lead to future opportunities.
    • Enhancing communication and networking skills.
  • Time Required:
    • Typically, a few hours for a single event, but preparation and follow-up might add extra time.
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Informational Interviews

  • What it is: Conducting one-on-one interviews with professionals in the desired field, asking specific questions about their career experiences, day-to-day responsibilities, and insights.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Personalized insights into the career path from experienced professionals.
    • Opportunities to clarify misconceptions and gather honest feedback.
    • Building connections and expanding the professional network.
    • Enhancing communication and interviewing skills.
  • Time Required:
    • Preparation, conducting the interview, and follow-up may take several hours.
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How to Test A Career In A Few Weeks

 

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Online Courses and Workshops

  • What it is: Participating in online educational platforms to gain knowledge and skills related to a desired career. These can include formal online courses, webinars, or workshops.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Convenient and flexible learning from home.
    • Access to experts and industry leaders.
    • Building foundational knowledge and skills.
    • Often offers certificates or recognition for completion.
  • Time Required:
    • Varies widely, from short one-hour workshops to multi-week courses, allowing for customization to fit individual schedules.
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Part Time or School Holidays Jobs 

  • What it is: Engaging in temporary or part-time employment during school holidays or alongside regular school/college schedules. These jobs are often entry-level and provide practical work experience across a variety of sectors.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Gaining firsthand experience in the working world.
    • Opportunities to develop soft skills like communication, teamwork, and time management.
    • Earning income which can be saved, spent, or invested for future needs. Building connections with employers, colleagues, and other workers.
    • Understanding workplace expectations and learning about responsibilities.
  • Time Required:
    • Typically, part-time jobs require a commitment of a few hours each week, while school holiday jobs might be full-time but only for the duration of the holiday.
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Internships  

  • What it is: Working as an intern to gain hands-on experience in a specific field and understand daily responsibilities.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Real-world exposure to the chosen career.
    • Opportunity to learn and apply skills.
    • Builds a professional network.
    • Enhances resume with relevant experience.
  • Time Required:
    • Can be quite time-intensive, ranging from a few weeks to several months, depending on the internship.
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Virtual Work Experience /Job Shadowing  

  • What it is: Participating in online simulations or virtual job experiences that provide a glimpse into different career paths. Some platforms and companies offer virtual tours, interactive tasks, and scenarios that emulate real job roles.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Accessible from anywhere with an internet connection.
    • Safe and low-risk way to explore various careers.
    • Opportunity to engage with real-world tasks and scenarios.
    • Can be a starting point before pursuing more intensive experiences.
  • Time Required:
    • Ranges from a few hours for a brief tour to several days or weeks for more comprehensive experiences.
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Work Experience /Job Shadowing  

  • What it is: Spending time following a professional to observe daily tasks involved in a specific job.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Direct insight into daily job activities.
    • No long-term commitment required.
    • Builds relationships with professionals.
    • Helps clarify expectations and realities of a job.
  • Time Required:
    • Usually short-term, ranging from a single day to a week.
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How to Test A Career In A Few Months

 

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Project-Based Learning

  • What it is: Creating personal projects related to the career field of interest, which allows hands-on experience and skill development.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Practical experience in applying theoretical knowledge.
    • Flexibility to design projects that align with personal interests.
    • Opportunity to create a portfolio to showcase to potential employers or educational institutions.
    • Enhancing problem-solving, creativity, and project management skills.
  • Time Required:
    • Varies widely depending on the project, from a weekend to several months for more complex projects.
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Freelancing 

  • What it is: Taking on freelance work or small projects related to the desired career field. This might include creating websites, writing articles, designing graphics, etc.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Real-world experience on actual projects.
    • Opportunity to earn money and build a portfolio.
    • Flexibility to choose projects that interest them.
    • Development of entrepreneurial skills and self-management.
  • Time Required:
    • Varies depending on the project scope, from a few hours for small tasks to weeks for more complex projects.
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Student Organizations and Clubs

  • What it is: Joining clubs or organizations related to the career of interest, providing exposure, networking opportunities, and hands-on experience through projects.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Opportunity to explore interests in a low-pressure environment.
    • Collaborating with like-minded peers.
    • Enhancing leadership and teamwork skills.
    • Building a network with professionals through guest speakers or events.
  • Time Required:
    • Generally flexible, ranging from a few hours a month to more regular weekly meetings and project work.
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College & University Introductory Courses

  • What it is: Enrolling in introductory or exploratory courses at colleges or universities to test interest in a particular field. These courses often provide hands-on learning experiences and insights into professional practice.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Exposure to tertiary education and the field of interest.
    • Opportunities to develop specific skills and knowledge.
    • Building connections with educators and fellow students.
    • Access to facilities and resources specific to the field.
  • Time Required:
    • Typically requires a commitment of a full term or semester, involving weekly classes and study time.
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Mentorship

  • What it is: Establishing a relationship with a mentor in your¬†desired field, who can offer guidance, insights, and encouragement based on their professional experience.
  • Pros for Teenagers:
    • Personalized guidance tailored to individual interests and goals.
    • Access to an experienced professional's network and insights.
    • Development of soft skills like communication and professionalism.
    • Support and encouragement in exploring the desired career.
  • Time Required:
    • Typically a longer-term commitment, ranging from a few months to a year or more, with regular check-ins.
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Gap Year

  • What¬†is it: A gap year is when you take a break from formal education, typically after high school, to explore different interests, gain experience, or just recharge before heading into college or a career.
  • Pros for Teens:
    • You get to step off the treadmill and think about what you really want to do in life, without the pressures of grades and deadlines.
    • It's a chance to dive deep into something you're passionate about, or try out a few different things to see what sticks.
    • Life skills galore: you'll learn how to budget, navigate new environments, and maybe even master the art of adulting a little.
    • Mental health boost: Taking a breather can give you a better sense of balance and well-being before diving into the next big thing.
  • Time Required
    • The beauty of a gap year is its flexibility. You can take a few months or stretch it out to a full year. Just make sure to plan ahead so you get the most out of your time.
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Why You Should Try a Career Before you Commit 

Imagining a career is one thing, but how do you really know if it's for you without trying it out first? Before you commit to years of studying, there are ways to explore a career path to ensure it aligns with your passion and goals.

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One Secret Trick to Contacting People on Linkedin

Learn How High School Students can Use LinkedIn as Part of Their Career Exploration Work. We'll guide you through creative ways to engage, explore, and even connect directly with professionals in the field you're interested in

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Career Ideas and Job Lists

Find hundreds of job ideas in our comprehensive job guides.  Career ideas organised by your personality, values, what you loved to do as a child, your favourite school subject, and the impact you want to have on the world. 

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You are a student and you need to pick elective school subjects for next year or further study options for when you graduate, but you are unsure about what career you want to do, and regular career advice just doesn't seem to cut it.

 At Careers That Matter, we have taken the world’s best career guidance and turned it into a three month online program to help teenagers like you uncover their unique career potential, choose the right career plan for you, and grow into a career you truly love.

 

Careers That Matter acknowledges we work on the Traditional Lands of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and Bunurong peoples of the East Kulin Nations and pay our respect to their Elders past, present and emerging. We extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We acknowledge their living connection to the Country, their relationship with the land and all living things extending back tens of thousands of years.