5 Ways to Gain Work Experience in South Africa

Work experience counts. South African business owners want to know that their employees are competent. The ability to demonstrate that you will be a valuable employee rests on what prior efforts you have made to gain work experience.

Something as seemingly unrelated to the traditional work environment as babysitting or shopping for the elderly will score valuable points. Even if your earlier efforts at work have not earned money, your initiative and willingness to learn will be seen in a positive light.

Demonstrate your creativity and leadership skills

Entrepreneurs use their creative thinking potential to turn ideas into realities. If you’re one of those people who are always thinking of new ways to do things, you may be highly creative and productive.

Employers love productive people. Even better if you can demonstrate leadership skills by acquiring investments for your small business ideas, or have started and sustained a small business.

Whether your small babysitting business or cake baking project has earned money and still exists, you will have accumulated valuable business skills. Employers appreciate the potential for employees to increase their value. When you bring work experience to the table, you augment your potential for being employed.

The South African labour environment is particularly well suited to creating new employment ideas. Employment percentages are low, creating valuable gaps in the market for work creation.

Begin your own trash collecting business. Use friends and family gardens to begin your own plant nursery. Use your initiative and creative talent to provide products from little to nothing. Resourcefulness will count in your favour, as will your leadership abilities to employ yourself and others.

Find a mentor or participate in volunteer projects

Try and source a mentor from among family and friends who are working. Speak to them about developing work experience, even if only from a theoretical perspective. Follow up by contacting local non-government organizations to gain work experience. You may be lucky to find paid mentorships, but if not, volunteer experience is equally valuable.

Government programmes frequently provide free skills programs. Programmes may range from free SARS filing to skills development. Source valuable information from the internet, and talk to local government authorities for further guidance.

Contact local people and animal shelters to volunteer your time. People shelters and institutions may encompass retirement villages, old age homes, or helping disabled children or adults. Animal shelters often welcome free help to clean cages, walk dogs and generally help with their upkeep.

Businesses such as a local creche may appreciate help with looking after children throughout the day. Help may consist of helping to cook meals, do laundry or help with playtimes. Whatever mentorship or volunteer programmes that you can become involved in, will promote your chances of finding long-term secure employment.

Internships and networking opportunities

Offer your services far and wide. Contact small local businesses to offer your services free of charge. In exchange for your work, the business may be prepared to share business knowledge or free meals.

Speak to professional private businesses to make them aware that you are prepared to work for nothing. Make yourself valuable and you will walk away with a good reference on your C.V. or even get to be so valuable that they will be prepared to pay for the work you do for them.

If you have formal qualifications to your name, it is always a good idea to build relationships with fellow students to expand your network of useful people to know. By engaging in internships, you also have the opportunity to build your network. Even if the current internship cannot employ you permanently, they may know someone else who you can work for.

The South African government also lists internship opportunities on the internet. Study through government, and you are often guaranteed a follow-up internship to gain practical work experience.

Bursaries are also available, together with skills development initiatives to upskill yourself in preparation for full-time employment. Take advantage of free available learnerships that we regularly listed on our website learnership section.

Teach yourself how to do freelance work

You may have studied web development, graphic design or journalism at university or college. Use your skills to source freelance work online. Earning dollars with the South African exchange rate is always beneficial.

Freelance projects will keep your skills current, and prove to employers that you are hardworking and self-reliant. Adding this experience to your C.V. is yet another benefit that indicates your worth to potential employers.

Use your writing skills to start an online blog. Be passionate about your topic, and you should be able to earn an additional income for years to come. Expanding your skill set will also impress employers about your flexibility.

Employers appreciate people who can think for themselves. If you learn and adapt to new environments with relative ease, the more quickly you can become productive. Productivity adds to the bottom line of the company, making you a valuable asset.

Leverage study projects and campus opportunities

Students often underestimate the value that study projects can produce. If you’ve been working on an app or a thesis related to project management, you can transfer these skills to fixed employment opportunities. You may have excelled in-class projects with your writing aptitude or impressed with project management abilities.

Exercise your creative talents to transfer this knowledge to clients. Offer your services as a consultant in your areas of strength. Advertise your expertise on your LinkedIn profile. Include your talents in your C.V. to showcase your value.

Get a job at your varsity campus. Provide help as a research assistant, or exercise your admin skills in departments that are willing to hire students on a part-time basis.

Joining student organizations that focus on business projects, community help or fundraising can also be invaluable ways to demonstrate your willingness to work and learn. Student organizations are also excellent channels to build your leadership, team and focused expertise potential.

Employers are interested in individuals who demonstrate their willingness to work, to take the initiative and to lead. Show them your true value by being amenable to do what it takes to get ahead, and you are sure to find success.


We are here to provide you an overview of all the latest internships, bursaries, apprenticeships, graduate programmes, learnerships and jobs opportunities that are available for application in South Africa.

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