Government statistics show that 42% of those who undertake work experience placements are offered a job at the end. But what’s the best way to turn a few days of tea-making duties into a golden opportunity?
From researching the company thoroughly before starting, to showing initiative and being prepared to get your hands dirty, we highlight five ways to impress senior colleagues and boost your chances of being offered a more permanent role.
1. Prepare for the role
Find out as much as you can about the company you will be working at, and the team you will be in. Check out the company website for details about what it does and, where possible, its ethos.
“Do your research to demonstrate a good initial level of engagement, and understanding of the company,” said Georgina Perry, a human resources expert at consultancy The HR Difference.
If you know the name of the manager you will be reporting to, or the people you will be working with, you could also see whether they have a profile on the company website or on a social media site such as LinkedIn. Avoid, however, checking up too much on personal sites such as Facebook: you don’t want to come across as a stalker!
- Researching the company will give you some talking points and show you are motivated to do well
2. Give a good first impression
Dress smartly for your first day – it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. And make sure you turn up on time. Once there, smile and introduce yourself to everyone on the team. You never know, the person you shake hands with on your first day of work experience could be your next boss.
“A work experience placement is often short in length so establishing yourself on your first day as a professional and positive addition to the team is important,” Perry said. “Being presentable, engaged and willing to learn are among the key attributes you should look to demonstrate.”
- First impressions count! So dress the part and don’t be late
3. Be enthusiastic
Embrace each new task you’re given, however menial, and do it to the best of your ability. Once you’ve shown you can master the basics, you’re more likely to be offered more interesting jobs.
When student Amy Taylor was on a placement at a financial services firm recently, she impressed her boss with an eye for detail. “I noticed a mistake while entering a client’s details,” she said.
“I wasn’t sure whether to mention it at first, but I’m glad I did as my manager was very pleased and has now offered me a longer placement during the Christmas holidays.” Remember too that you are there to learn, so it’s ok to ask questions. Asking for clarification is a lot better than having to go back and start a task again because you misunderstood the instructions.
- Show willing, whatever you are asked to do, and try to learn as much as you can
4. Be proactive
It’s important to show initiative when you are on a work experience placement. So if you finish a task in a shorter time than you were given, ask what else you can do or offer to help a colleague with another job.
Other ways to show an active interest include asking to sit in on meetings or accompany a colleague on a client visit. After a couple of days, you can also ask for feedback from your supervisors.
This will show you’re keen to improve and give you the chance to prove you can act on the advice given. “I got some really useful pointers from my manager during my placement,” Taylor said. “It’s advice that has already helped me with my studies too.”
- The aim is to show you can be a valuable member of the team, so help out wherever you can and take any feedback on board
5. Make the most of networking opportunities
There are lots of chances to network during a work experience placement. Try to connect with as many of your colleagues as possible, even if it’s only by offering to make them a tea or coffee. “Take the opportunity to introduce yourself to others,” Perry said.
“In a busy day, colleagues may not always be able to do this themselves.” When you do speak to people, be friendly and open about your own ambitions. But only approach people when you can see they have the time to talk – nobody will appreciate you popping by for a chat when they are up against a deadline!
Once your placement has finished, email the members of the team you worked with to thank them and connect with them on LinkedIn. And email the person who set up the placement to thank them too, and to flag up that you are interested in working for the company on a more permanent basis.
Even if there aren’t any jobs going at the moment, they can keep your CV on record and let you know if and when anything suitable comes up in the future.
- Networking is one of the best ways to hear about any jobs that become available, so be friendly and stay in touch with any contacts you make on your placement
A work experience placement is a great opportunity to meet people and learn about a role. Even if you decide the industry isn’t for you, you can make valuable contacts and gain transferrable workplace skills. So make a good impression by researching the company, being professional, showing initiative, and working hard.
For more work experience advice:
- How to get experience when you can’t get work experience
- My experience as an AAT intern
- Top tips for work experience success
Jessica Bown is an award-winning freelance journalist and editor.