Internships, work experience and volunteering

Work experience, of any type, is a great way of boosting your employment prospects. Impressing in it could help you land a graduate role. Volunteering is another great way to gain valuable work experience. Whatever you choose to do, it is important you do your research first.

Internships and other short-term work experience

Internships and work experience vary from sector to sector and organisation to organisation. Many large organisations offer structured, paid internship programmes. Often these internships are only open to students in their final year of study. Applications for a summer internship usually close in the first half of the calendar year. A small to medium-sized organisation is more likely to offer a flexible and less structured internship. They may call these summer or vacation work rather than internships.

Securing an internship or short-term employment gives you the opportunity to:

  • apply what your have learned through your study
  • assess your likes and dislikes
  • build your network of useful contacts
  • build marketable skills
  • experience workplace culture and language
  • get an insight into recruitment and selection practices
  • have a trial run at your career ideas
  • work abroad.

Whether you apply for an advertised role or approach your preferred organisations directly, it's important to consider first the:

  • roles and sectors you'd like insight into and experience you want from the opportunity
  • type of organisation you'd like to work for and where you want to be based
  • application process - when and how?
  • support provided and how your performance will be measured.

Do your best to be professional, display a strong work ethic, take personal responsibility and be friendly to everyone you meet. Impressing the employer during this time could land you a graduate role!

You can find a list of relevant websites in the 'Internships | Work experience' section of the Resources page.


Voluntary work shows an employer you're a responsible person who can commit to a project. It is a good way to develop your skills and gain valuable experience. These experiences provide you with great examples to use in job interviews. Group of young people volunteering to plant trees.

When choosing volunteer work, consider the following points:

  • Determine the responsibilities you’ll have and who’ll supervise your work.
  • Make sure you know what support and training you’ll receive.
  • Discuss the skills and knowledge you’ll develop.
  • Talk to colleagues about their roles and experience.
  • Keep a record of your tasks, learning and skill development.
  • Make sure the opportunity matches your interests and passions so you get want you want out of it.
  • Seek opportunities to get involved and learn.
  • Consider your future career plans.
  • Make sure you know the organisation’s expectations of you.
  • Work hard enough, and well enough to secure a reference from the organisation.

When you first join an organisation, even as a volunteer, you should be provided with an induction. This should include a tour of the premises and outline of the heath and safety procedures. It may also include:

  • An outline of your role, tasks and responsibilities, and training your will receive
  • Information on a dress code, if applicable
  • Details about business processes and procedures, and reporting systems
  • An introduction to your supervisor and team.

Volunteering abroad

If you're considering an opportunity to volunteer abroad, it's important to consider the reputation and ethics of the organisation, and the costs involved and how you'll fund them.

Many people have found volunteering abroad to be an enriching experience. But it is important you do your research.

As you research your options, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What type of experience would be right for you?
  • How would you prefer to work – e.g. on your own, with other volunteers, with people from the local community or a mixture?
  • What will you gain from the experience?
  • Can you choose the type of work you will do, where you live, your travel arrangements, and how you spend your free time?
  • How will the work you do benefit all parties - you, the organisation and the clients/communities?
  • Do you understand what you’ll be doing and the skills required?
  • Will you receive training?
  • Is the work on offer designed to meet a genuine need for volunteers, or is it more an 'adventure holiday'?
  • If you have to pay, how much of your payment goes to the project and community? What percentage goes towards administration and marketing costs?
  • What support does the organisation provide its volunteers, eg. before they leave New Zealand, in the country concerned and on their return?
  • If something goes wrong eg. you get ill or you need to return home at short notice, what support will the organisation provide? Medical treatment? Pay for and/or arrange your journey home, etc.?
  • Can you talk with people who have volunteered with the same organisation? If you can, you should.

You will find a list of organisations involved in volunteering abroad and in New Zealand on the Resources page.

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