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Test-Drive a Job

Did you know you can sample a career before committing to it? Internships, volunteering, and worksite visits are all types of work-based learning.

You might know the type of career you want, but how do you know if it's really for you?

Like trying on clothes or test-driving a car, you can test a career before committing. Any type of on-the-job experience will let you know what it's really like in a specific job.

What is Work-Based Learning?

Work-based learning includes internships, volunteering, and apprenticeship. It's a way to test-drive a career before entering it. These experiences are an important part of your career research.

Work-based learning is your chance to discover things you can't learn in a classroom or by researching a career online. These opportunities build career awareness and help you explore options. They also often allow you to learn job-specific skills.

Connecting with an employer for a work-based learning opportunity is also a good way for an ex-offender to show he or she might make a good employee.

What do you have to lose? These short-term experiences are your chance to learn about real-world work expectations or simply get a taste of the day-to-day experience of a job.

There are many opportunities for work-based learning for adults and teens (usually age 16 and older). Some opportunities are unpaid or volunteer. Apprenticeship programs and certain internships are paid.

The practical work experience you gain will build your resume and make you more attractive to potential employers.

What's Stopping You?

Don't let any of these common myths about work-based learning keep you from trying it out:

  • I'm too old. There are at least a dozen types of work-based learning, with choices for adults. You can find an opportunity that fits your schedule and goals.
  • I won't get paid. Some opportunities are unpaid or volunteer, but all apprenticeships and certain internships come with a salary. Plus, the skills and experience you gain can help you get hired for a paying job quicker.
  • I'd have to commit to something long-term. Some work-based learning opportunities are formal and last for years. Many are informal and last only a day or a few hours.
  • I'm already working so what's the point? Think outside the box about work-based learning. Even if you're already working in your dream job, you may still benefit from experiences like a mentorship or job shadowing.

Types of Work-Based Learning

An internship helps develop career-related skills at a worksite. Internships can be paid, unpaid, or for school credit. Adults who want to gain experience in a new career field can also intern. This is sometimes called a "midternship."

Job shadowing is a short-term visit to a worksite for anyone at any stage in their career. You're invited to spend a few hours to a few days watching an employee perform tasks. You'll experience real, day-to-day work with an employee in a specific occupation or industry. Then you'll learn which skills are required and discover if that type of job is something you'd like to do. To find a job shadowing opportunity, talk to your career coach or call companies directly.

A mentorship is something anyone at any stage in their career can do. Having a mentor allows you to partner with an experienced worker in a specific career. A mentor offers guidance, support, and motivation. He or she can help you with big and small career decisions. For ideas on choosing a mentor, contact your career coach.

Volunteer service is for anyone interested in making a difference in their community and/or gaining new career skills. You can serve as a volunteer for a one-time event, for a set amount of time, or for several months or years. Volunteering is most often unpaid. To find volunteer opportunities related to your career goals, contact a volunteer service agency or a nonprofit organization.

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