Communicating your experience

Self-reflection is an essential part in the process of effectively communicating your value to an employer. To give yourself the best future work opportunities, you need to consider all the the skills and experience you have gained through your degree and other activities. It is important that you reflect on your experiences BEFORE you apply for a job or work placement.

The following videos from the UQ employ101x MOOC give a brief overview of the importance of work experience and self-reflection.

Self-presentation

The process of reflecting on your experiences is the beginning of developing your image through self-presentation. In order to present an image of yourself to an employer, you must first identify the skills and experience you have developed at university, work, or other relevant activities.

This module will help you to identify significant work experience, find work experience opportunities in science, and build your image through a portfolio.

The SEAL process

An excellent process that you can use for self-reflection is the SEAL process.

Situation: What was the experience or challenge you faced and what happened to you?
Effect: What impact did it have on you and what were the consequences of this impact?
Action: What action did you take to deal with the new situation and any challenges, and why did you do this?
Learning: What did you learn from the experience and how will you apply this in the future?

View the short guide on using the SEAL process

For more information about the SEAL process, we recommend completing the UQ employ101x MOOC.

Self-assessment tool

To learn more about your employability, use the self-assessment tool on the Developing Employablity website.developing employability logo

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Science work experience examples

If you’re a science undergraduate or recent graduate, you may have to rely on your experience from university, part-time jobs, or extracurricular activities when applying for science work experience, research placements or your first paid science position.

Below is a brief list of skills and experience common to science graduates that you could reflect upon and use when communicating your suitability for a role.

University

You should think about your experience at university and identify any activities that you think are particularly relevant to a position.

  • Lab experience – relevant experimental protocols, techniques, or use of specific equipment and software.
  • Fieldwork – experience with specific equipment, environments, or organisms.
  • Communication skills – scientific writing, oral presentations, public engagement etc.
  • Team work – ability to work in a team, organising meetings etc.
  • Mentoring – participation in mentoring programs or tutoring.

Non-scientific paid work

The experience you may have gained from working in non-scientific positions will likely involve transferrable skills that will be valued by a wide range of employers.

  • Responsibility and leadership – supervising and training junior staff.
  • Team work – working cooperatively with other staff, following instructions etc.
  • Communication skills – professional communication with customers or colleagues, either through oral conversations or email.

Volunteer work, clubs and memberships

If you have participated in volunteer work or performed activities as a member of a club, consider what experience would be valued by a potential employer.

  • Responsibility and leadership – chairing or participating in meetings and recording minutes.
  • Team work and organisation – developing and running events, volunteering at conferences
  • Communication skills – creating newsletters or videos, updating websites etc.
  • Science skills – environmental restoration activities, animal/plant identification in the field, or wildlife rehabilitation.

UQ Employability Award

(for current UQ students)

The University of Queensland Employability Award program encourages students to participate in extra-curricular activities and further develop their skills to become well-rounded, highly sought-after graduates.

uq employability award

Searching for work experience

Contacting people for work experience

Regardless of where you hope to gain work experience, in many cases you will need to make contact with someone and convince them to give you an opportunity. It’s essential that you make a good first impression.

You should begin by doing some research into the specific project or organisation. This will allow you to show that you have some knowledge of the project or organisation and it enables you to tailor your communication to demonstrate your enthusiasm for working with them.

Face-to-face

If you have the chance, face-to-face contact is a great way to search for work experience. The process of asking someone directly if they are aware of any work experience opportunities is a much more simple process than composing an email.

Networking events or scientific society meetings are ideal situations where you can talk to people about gaining work experience outside of the university system. While it can be daunting to introduce yourself to potential employers or supervisors, networking events are one of the few places where people expect strangers to approach them, introduce themselves, and chat about what they do.

Emailing

All written communication should be composed in a polite, succinct and professional manner. Use the WRITE method to compose emails to employers or supervisors.

View the WRITE email method example

For formally advertised internships or research projects, it is important that you follow any specific instructions outlined in the advert.

Where to look

Work experience opportunities are not often advertised; therefore you will need to be proactive and persistent in your search for work experience related to your field of study.

Worthwhile work experience opportunities exist at university, government agencies, private companies, and not-for-profit organisations. Although some opportunities are paid positions, you will often have to accept unpaid internships or volunteer to get the work experience you want, particularly if you are still studying. While unpaid positions aren’t ideal, the work experience and contacts you gain can help you to secure a job in the future.

Organisations

Search for companies that align with your area of study. Many of the larger companies will have an established internship program and an online application process.

Events

UQ Careers Fair
Brisbane Careers and Employment Expo

UQ Faculty of Science

This site contains all of the information you need for developing your employability at UQ, including links to research programs, industry placements, and internships.
Faculty of science employability website

UQ undergraduate research opportunities

Providing you with an opportunity to gain research experience working alongside some of the university’s leading academics and researchers.
UQ Summer Research Program
UQ Winter Research Program

UQ Studenthub

Search for internships, industry placements, and student-staff partnerships
Studenthub website

Queensland Government

The Dept. of Environment and Science offers volunteer and industry placements for a variety of scientific fields.
QLD Dept. Environment and Science opportunities

Volunteering

Volunteer with organisations, charities, or assist researchers in the field
UQ Volunteer Expo

Clubs, societies, and not-for-profit organisations

Join clubs or scientific societies linked to your interests or field of study.

Building an e-portfolio

An e-portfolio is a way that you can store and present your university assignments and other achievements. This not only allows you to keep track of your skills and experience but also create an accessible portfolio of work for potential employers or work-experience supervisors.

E-portfolios can be created using free website services such as WordPress or Wix.

E-portfolios at UQ

The University of Queensland provides the e-portfolio platform Chalk&Wire to all current students and recent graduates.

The UQ Library has a range of help guides and videos to get you started.

View UQ Library e-portfolio resources