Managed to secure your dream internship or work experience placement? Well done! Work experience opportunities can be challenging to secure, but are worth the hard work in the long run. It is vital you make the most of the period between finishing university/school and starting your placement so that you can prepare for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Many companies now offer interns graduate jobs straight after their placement, so make a good impression and you could be on your way to your dream career.
It can be tricky to know how to behave in a professional setting if it is your first experience of one. There are some standard areas which you need to be aware of in order to make sure you are making a strong and, most importantly, professional impression on your colleagues rather than being known as the life and soul of the after-work drinks (we’re sure you already have that area covered)!
First things first, do you know where you will be staying during your work experience? Whether you have secured experience in your home town, university or the City, accommodation cannot be overlooked! As soon as you secure a placement, research and plan where you will be staying – make sure you are not living miles away from your work place as the last thing you want to do is spend hours commuting with the possibility of being late.
If you are working near or at a university outside of term time, they may have rooms in student halls available for rent. The earlier you can book student accommodation the better; some student halls can be booked out during the summer. If there are no obvious solutions such as family, friends or short-term lets, your employer may have some suggestions of nearby places you can stay.
Once you have your accommodation taken care of, plan your journey and make sure you arrive in plenty of time for your first day.
Know the dress code; for financial institutes this is normally smart so dust off your suit. People will notice the small details such as an ironed shirt, matching socks and suitable tights so prepare these the night before. Also, ensure that you have enough suitable outfits for the duration of your work experience.
If you have already managed to secure a work experience opportunity, then you have already managed to impress your employer during the application process, well done! You now need to continue this positive impression by remaining confident in your communications without ever being arrogant. It can be intimidating to be in a professional setting for the first time but remember that you have earned this opportunity and that every person in that company was in a similar position to you at one point in their career.
Once you arrive at the company present a positive, polite and proactive attitude. Your employers want an intern who has a strong work ethic but who they can also get on with. When working in the consultancy and accountancy sectors, the ability to work well with others will also come in particularly useful when dealing with clients. When briefed on a project or task, take notes of the actions you need to take and ask questions to clarify if necessary. If you are asked to attend meetings with colleagues or clients, find out beforehand if you are expected to contribute or if you are attending in an observational capacity.
Stay proactive by asking your manager if there is anything else you can help with once you have completed a task – you could be helping them out at a busy time which they will greatly appreciate. If you are struggling to complete any of your tasks don’t be afraid to ask your manager or colleagues for clarification/help. Everyone gets stuck at some point, and asking for assistance can demonstrate your confidence and problem-solving abilities.
Remember to use an appropriate tone across all of your communications; verbal, written, electronic and body language. It is best to keep all written and electronic forms of communication formal unless you are expressly told otherwise. Likewise, always treat your colleagues with the respect you would expect to receive in the workplace, even when in social situations, it’s best not to let your hair down too much during the first phase of what could be the rest of your career!
Finishing your work experience
Your employer will most likely organise for a meeting or more informal debrief of your time at the company once your work experience has come to an end. If such an event has not already been arranged, ask for one! This is your opportunity to get feedback on your performance and discuss your experience with your employer too. Make sure to ask for a reference and to keep in touch with your manager, especially if you have now decided this is the industry for you. You can also use this conversation to relay your career aims to your employer and see if they agree with these to be realistic for you and whether they have any advice on achieving them.
Stick to our top tips and you will be sure to impress your employers as well as fellow colleagues. Make the most of your work experience and remember, even if your time helps you realise that you are not suited to a particular industry or job role, you will still be taking away skills and experiences that will set you up for whatever future career you choose to pursue!