Job Readiness and the Value of Experiential Learning Through Internships and Volunteering
Internships and volunteering can aid students and young adults in gathering skills and exploring career options. There is a lot of value in starting this process early by trying different types of organizations or exploring interests.
In order to become job-ready, students and young adults are encouraged to try jobs, volunteer, and participate in internships—like trying on hats—essentially, to try new experiences and see what fits; if it does not fit, they can find something else.
By starting early in job exploration, students and young adults gain valuable skills for overall job readiness, as an individual can gain new skills to pair with his/her talents, refine his/her interests, and prepare for long-term career success.
Students and young adults may have been on a path due to an interest. For example, if a person likes chemistry, he/she likely engages in every activity he/she can while in school by joining clubs and spending his/her free time experimenting at home.
However, becoming a chemist may not align with the student’s learning style, and being a chemist may be vastly different in a professional setting. A great way for a student and young adult to determine if he/she is on the right path is to participate in an internship or by volunteering in a field of interest. Once a student and young adult can get experience, he/she may be able to more clearly see his/her path forward and plan as needed.
What are some of the important lessons learned through an internship or volunteering?
Through an internship or volunteering, a student or young adult will have the chance to explore what he/she may want to do for eight hours a day, five days a week. This type of structure is very different from school, and once in a professional setting, students and young adults may understand what it takes to work in their areas of interest.
They may find certain environments work better for them than others, such as working in a cubical, being outdoors, and performing physically demanding tasks. By trying different types of work environments, students and young adults can be more prepared to pair a career with an interest or be able to ask for workplace accommodations to meet their needs.
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Presenting the work self
Typically, the interview process for internships and volunteer positions is less formal than an interview for a professional level role. These opportunities allow the student or young adult the opportunity to share his/her skills, education, interests, and much more through the interview process and when meeting new co-workers.
As a new career professional, learning how to talk about yourself can be daunting. By interviewing and interacting with teammates, students, and young adults get the chance to become more comfortable in their overall communication skills.
Additionally, interviewing and starting a new job may require getting new work-related clothes. This is a great opportunity to try different types of clothing that are appropriate for the internship or volunteer position. These experiential positions give the student and young adult the opportunity to see if he/she is comfortable “looking the part.” There are many inexpensive clothing stores from which to purchase work clothing, and some schools even provide discounts to local shops.
How can my student or young adult get the most out of his/her internship and volunteer position?
This is a great time to fill in holes in previous skills, knowledge, and training. It is highly encouraged that the student or young adult think about two or three things he/she wishes to learn. These items should be presented to the supervisor as potential training opportunities.
Students and young adults are also encouraged to talk with people within the business about their career paths, educational background, and their insight on career paths; this is a great opportunity to learn from others.
As autism experts Carole Grey and Temple Grandin state, internships and volunteer positions are a great time to try things and make the unfamiliar familiar. These opportunities can solidify career paths or provide direction to make changes in schooling and skill building before a permanent position is obtained.
Students and young adults should be encouraged to seek these positions out and use the time to learn about themselves and various types of organizations and adjust their path accordingly.
This article was featured in Issue 104 –Transition Strategies For Kids With Autism