Did you hear the one about the 15-year-old lad on work experience who became a social media sensation when someone left him in charge of Southern Rail’s Twitter account? It’s not often that you get such hands-on involvement during a work placement. And it’s certainly a one-off to hit the media headlines and bring laughter to so many commuters.
If you are starting your degree studies or a top up degree in the Autumn, you may well be thinking of getting work experience this summer, or during your studies. The ideal placement is something that reinforces the topic of your studies and helps prove to future employers you have proven experience.
It certainly is a huge plus point on your CV if you have shown a strong work ethic and a devotion to your chosen career, and if you are studying a vocational subject such as accountancy, teaching, law, hospitality or business, hands-on experience is invaluable.
The US expression “intern” is being used more in the UK these days. It means a student who carries out work experience – with or without pay.
Here are some tips and ideas that should prove useful when undertaking a work placement:
Any work experience is better than none
If you can’t get something related to your field of study, then being able to show self-discipline, willingness to learn and teamwork are all a bonus for your future job interview. A lot of these skills will be transferable to the industry you are looking to enter.
Don’t let shyness hold you back
As the new and temporary team member it is tempting to feel “second class” and hang back. Try to take subtle yet bold steps such as chatting to people in the canteen. You may learn important things from your colleagues and find you make an impression on them too!
Again, it is tempting to try to sink into the background or try to prove that you are capable and knowledgeable (even when you’re lost). You have every right to ask lots of questions and soak up information. Many bosses will admire your curiosity and willingness to learn. Just choose your moments well.
Stay calm, but know your worth
If your work placement seems pure “slave labor” with long hours and no proper learning appearances, speak up. But be calm and respectful when you do. Try presenting a short list of learning goals you would like to meet. And explain that though you don’t mind hard work, if you don’t have any learning opportunities, you may need to seek an internship elsewhere.
Internships and low-paid student jobs, in general, can be tough, if not depressing. Try to stick with it though. The biggest enemy is often boredom. So, fight that by asking around to see if there is something you can do to help colleagues. Or use your initiative and undertake everyday tasks like clearing around the staff coffee area and replenishing printer paper. You could even ask to try your hand with social media!
A lot of normal job search websites have sections especially for undergraduates, like this one. Enrol at Mont Rose College in London, and you will find holistic student support services to make the best of your study time and prepare you well for future employment.