E-Community Activity: Learning from Work Experiences

Send this message to the e-community of protégés and mentors.

Subject: Learning from work experiences

Every experience in life offers opportunities to learn. For example, students enrolled in internships, cooperative education, volunteer work, and other work-based learning programs gain valuable experiences that can help them obtain and succeed in future jobs. In an online discussion, people with a variety of disabilities discussed the value of work-based learning experiences that occurred while they were still in school. Part of their dialogue follows.

  • I had a project my senior year of college where I built and maintained a website for my church. I'm still maintaining it even after college. It let me gain experience. It is important for ANY student to do this, and it is especially beneficial to people with disabilities because they sometimes need more help to overcome employers' biases.
  • Employers want education and experience.
  • Working has given me motivation to return to school and do it well this time. For four years I've been working entry-level positions, and I now have a better understanding of where I want to be in life and the "direction" that I want to take. I also feel that I have a better understanding of the job market and how things work in a highly corporate environment. I wish everyone could feel the motivation and excitement to learn what I have after four years of poverty and $5.50-an-hour jobs.
  • Interpersonal skills, communication skills, and awareness of one's strengths and limits are just some benefits that can be gained through work-based experiences.
  • I was an executive intern with a local meteorologist during my senior year in high school and then worked for two summers for the Assistant State Climatologist of Colorado. These experiences strengthened my desire to go into atmospheric science research. I also learned that connections can really help you get a job! And I practiced articulating my needs when necessary.
  • I have some pretty strong viewpoints about work-based learning experiences. I did one last summer, and, even though it was frustrating, it taught me some lessons that I would not have learned otherwise. First of all, I learned that we need to be able to focus on more than one task at a time. Second, I learned that one can usually do something that one sets one's mind to.
  • Work-based learning experiences give you a chance to practice and develop work skills that are not taught in the classroom (personal interaction with others, teamwork, learning how to take criticism, etc.).
  • An internship gives students a chance to problem-solve how they will use or transfer an accommodation used in school to a work setting....in a nonthreatening environment. You learn what works for you, and you learn what doesn't work for you. You may have good experiences or bad experiences, but in my opinion....the bad experiences are sometimes more valuable than the good experiences. And it's fun!
  • My senior year, I had an intern job at a local newspaper. My internship wasn't a paying one, but I got high school credit for it since I did it during school hours. If you get paid, great, extra cash won't hurt, but if not, it's still good to just have the experience.
  • This year has been the first time I've been in a work-based learning opportunity. I was introduced into working in a corporate environment. I've learned to be more responsible and independent.

Describe a work experience you have had—paid or unpaid; long or short in length; at school, at home, at a company or job site—and tell what you learned from the experience.