3 Reviewing my own work experiences
In this section, you’ll spend some time reflecting on the work experiences you have had and analysing what you learned from them.
In Week 3, you’ll look at choosing the right work experience for you, and the following short period of reflection on what you’ve done so far will support that future decision-making process by:
- highlighting any skills and/or knowledge gaps that you still need to address
- identifying things that didn’t suit you, such as a particular working environment or style
- clarifying the logical next step to progress your experience further, e.g. by working with a larger employer or in a different context.
With your broader understanding of work experience gained from the previous section, you might find that there are more activities and roles that you can incorporate in your reflections.
Activity 3 My work experiences
The length of time you spend on this activity will depend on how much material you have to reflect on.
1. List anything you’ve done in the last 2–5 years that might be viewed as work experience. As well as the experiences outlined in the previous section, this might include positions of responsibility within your educational institution (e.g. student representative or prefect) or work you’ve done for a family member’s business, etc.
If you are an experienced individual with a detailed CV and your focus for this course is career change, you might want to focus this activity slightly differently. For example, you could look at new experiences you’ve had within your workplace over the last 2–5 years, such as becoming a line manager or mentor for the first time.
- 2. Rank your experiences in number order, where 1 is the most useful. This might mean it was the most relevant to your future career plans, offered the greatest scope for developing new and existing skills, or you felt that the working environment was a particularly good fit for your needs, for example.
3. Choose the experience you ranked as the most useful and write a sentence or paragraph summarising what you gained from it. You could include specific skills, sector awareness, useful contacts or a realisation that you could never work in that type of role for long.
If it was a substantial piece of experience, such as a part-time job over several years or a course placement, you might need to write more.
- Now choose the experience you placed at the bottom of your list and do the same.
- Finally, summarise your key learning points in the box below using the following questions as prompts:
- What were the key differences between your highest and lowest rated experiences?
- Did you focus on more personal issues, such as how you were treated and the value of the relationships you developed, or did you prioritise the variety of tasks and responsibilities you were given?
- If you were focusing on specific tasks, did they align with your values? Did that make them more or less satisfying? (You’ll explore values further in Week 2.)
This exercise can give you an insight into the things that are important to you in the workplace, which can be helpful when making career decisions. You can also use what you’ve highlighted to work out what is missing from your experiences so far. For example, you might have learned a lot about how the office environment works internally but you’d like your next opportunity to give you more direct exposure to customers.
Try flipping the negatives of the experience you rated at the bottom of your list, and this could give you a range of things to look out for in future opportunities.
If you found this activity useful, you could go through each of the experiences on your list and summarise what you gained. There might be some interesting patterns to pick up on, e.g. all your experiences have given you the same skills so the next one needs to help you build new ones.
In Week 3, you’ll develop these ideas further to help you decide what type of internship or work experience to apply for.
Now that you’ve reflected on some past experiences, you’ll look to the immediate future and spend some time identifying what you hope to gain from doing this course.