It is a wonderful feeling when you have secured work experience, whether it is during the summer or time on the side as you study for your degree. The experience can be extremely beneficial to your work and to your CV, and this is how to university placements.
If your placement is office based or speaking to clients, the workplace dress code will most likely be smart, and smart-casual at best. However, if you were not told how to dress, try to ring up when you were speaking to the company, or call up before you start. Although, it can come to the point where you are standing in front of your wardrobe on your first day and forgot to ask – it’s okay! If in doubt: wear something smart. It is best to be overdressed and underdressed.
Now that you are in the work environment, go and introduce yourself to everyone! Your mentor or the employee ‘looking after’ you during your time there will give you a tour of the building or office so you know where everything is and where everyone is based if you need to speak to them. Now that you have been introduced, if there is an opportunity to talk to the staff – do it! Building up contacts and relationships is the most powerful aspect of work.
If you are unsure how to complete your job or something crops up, it is fine to ask someone! Most probably, your co-workers would prefer you to double-check you understood your job task instead of completing it without confidence and it turns out wrong. Even if you are comfortable completing your set duties, when the opportunity arises itself, ask any questions you have about how the day runs, and what you can get involved in.
What about if they invite you out? This is a perfect opportunity to relax and get to know everyone from the placement. Your employer can start to see your personality without thinking about your job performance. When you are out socialising with your new co-workers, you’re creating relationships and closing the gaps. Remember to still act professional and try not to make a fool of yourself as this will affect how others perceive you!
The work placement is basically like a test run. It is a chance for you see what it would be like to work in that environment, the skills involved and what is included in the job role. It is also an opportunity for the employer to check how you would fit working for them. Some experiences do not have a guaranteed job at the end of it, but if they don’t, proving yourself may put you on a special list somewhere, so, if something does turn up they’ll think of you.
If someone is explaining something to you, or telling you your job tasks of the day, you better listen! Having to go back and ask what it is you’re meant to be doing will look extremely bad! There are so many things going on around you, so many different job roles working alongside and in harmony together, and watching how others work is a good learning curve for you.
Do write down the tasks you did after each day, the ones that you enjoyed most, others that you didn’t so you can reflect on it after the work experience is over. This is good practice for you to update your student CV, as you might forget some of the responsibilities you had. Reflecting on your time is also good for you thinking about whether this career is for you and how you felt during your time there.
Work placements, even if they’re part of your course, can be considered as the practical side of the theory that you learn in class. If it is writing for a magazine, reading about equations, or studying mental health – they all have a practical side. Use your placement to test yourself on your knowledge of the subject and use it to impress your employers!
If there are any opportunities for extra work or to lend an extra hand, we advise that you volunteer! It will look fantastic next to your name and it might be activities you wouldn’t have the chance to if you just stuck to your delegated tasks. The possibilities are endless!
After all of the learning, working hard and networking, the best thing you can do is to just enjoy yourself. Some work placements are as short as 1 week whereas others can be as long as 1 year. Make the most out of your time there and remember you’re doing this to invest in yourself, so, make sure you have a little fun, yeah?
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