Work experience can be challenging to secure, but is worth the hard work in the long run. It is vital that you prepare properly and do everything you can to make the most of this golden opportunity. Many companies now offer graduate jobs to interns 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)!
Whether you have secured experience in your home town or in another 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 workplace, 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 to rent quite cheaply. 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.
If you have already managed to secure a work experience opportunity, then you have already managed to impress your employer during the application process. 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.
Know the dress code; for financial institutions this is normally smart, so dust off your suit. People will notice the small details such as an ironed shirt, matching socks, suitable tights and smart shoes, so prepare these the night before. Also, ensure that you have enough suitable outfits for the duration of your work experience.
Once you arrive at the company, present a positive, polite and proactive attitude. Your employers want an intern who is enthusiastic and hard-working, but who they can also get along with. When working in the consultancy and accountancy sectors, the ability to work well with others will 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 they need anything else doing 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 a meeting or informal debrief once your work experience has ended. 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. 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 ambitions to your employer and see if they agree that these are 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!