Leveraging your WIL experience

So, what are you going to do to maximise the learning experience through WIL? 

Recording your experience

It is recommended you keep a journal that keeps record of your WIL experience throughout the entire time so you can keep reflecting on what you have learned and what skills you’ve gained.

However, most people aren’t going to do anything that isn’t assessed, let alone keep a journal.

Before your WIL experience, you need to sit down and carefully consider what method of recording you are capable of and excited to do. Mentally prepare yourself to spend some time on this. If you see yourself as a writer, then a journal is a great idea. You may like to take brief voice memos at the end of the day on your phone. You can record little videos and send them to friends or family that will appreciate them. You could even draw pictures or express yourself creatively. Even dot points will be valuable in the long run! The outcome of reflection should always be the creation of an incredibly valuable tool for you to use to reflect on your own experiences. It can be of real personal benefit to you when you next prepare for a job interview, and these reflections can serve as a great reminder of some of the skills you developed during your WIL experience.

Whichever way you choose to record your WIL experience, focus on the following four questions:

  1. What happened during your WIL experience?
  2. What were the new experiences you had to deal with or the challenges you faced and what impact did they have on you?
  3. What action did you take, or what strategies did you employ to deal with these challenges? Why did you take these actions?
  4. What did you learn from it and how does it exemplify your development - personal and/or professional?

Share your experiences on my ePortfolio.

These questions form the basis of the STAR (Situation, Task, Activity, Result) model, which is an excellent tool for sharing professional experience. However, even before you can use the STAR technique, you first need to do the SEAL (Situation, Effect, Action and Learning) self-reflective process to determine what you got out of an experience and what you can now do as a result. This process allows you to unpack any experience to consider why it was challenging, what you did to handle the challenges, and what the consequences were. Most importantly, it gives you a framework for understanding what you have learned from each experience.

Some further ideas for areas to focus on in your reflection could include:

  • Objectives and outcomes of the project(s) you are working on, your role in them, and how you can pitch your experience to your next employer;
  • General observations of working culture and working environment;
  • Any issues that you have faced over your WIL experience and how you handled the issues;
  • Any new skills that you developed while you were in the workplace;
  • What your most significant accomplishment was while you were working;
  • If the projects you worked on were relevant to your studies and how that information can strengthen the knowledge that you’ve learnt while at university;
  • Some of the soft skills you learnt during the experience (such as talking at lunch, business etiquette, organisational cultural nuances etc.);
  • Any surprises about the overall experience;
  • New perspectives regarding your career plan and;
  • What you could apply from the skills that you developed in the experience to future jobs that you may have.

Learn more about STAR and SEAL

Doing, reflecting and recording a WIL experience is excellent personal growth, however, to make money from it; you need to sell it. As you reflect on your WIL experience, practice speaking succinctly and precisely about what you learnt from and how you felt about the experience. In interviews, employers will VERY commonly ask you to talk about how you have reacted to situations in a professional context, and from your WIL experience you should be very equipped to answer. Try to use short, positive, and action-oriented words, as most listeners will pay attention to shorter and positive answers. You can use the following as a guide to practice describing your WIL experience in 2 minutes:

  1. First 30 seconds - List your: name, year at UQ and your major. Give the name of the WIL organisation and share one point of interest about the organisation. For example: "XYZ is one of the Big 4 accounting firms in Australia."
  2. Next 60 seconds - Give your title and role at the organisation and describe your main responsibilities. Talk about technical and professional  skills you have attained and/or developed. Highlight one main accomplishment.
  3. Last 30 seconds - Focus on your main learning point from the experience and how this might impact you professionally as you mak future career decisions.

Try your best to keep this brief 2 minutes interesting and natural. Your personality is almost as important as your experience. Don't worry, this get's easier with practice.