In many cases, a successful placement can lead to a job offer – if this is what you want, read on to make sure that you are on track to achieve this. Equally, if this opportunity allows you to realise that this particular industry or role is not for you, see how you can still learn from and take valuable skills from any experience.
You have just read about how important it is to make a positive impression during your work experience but it is equally important for you to take a strategic approach to this opportunity to benefit yourself also. Your career goals and aims might change as you learn more about the company and the industry you have entered into and it is important to keep a long-term view of what you want to achieve as you progress.
Stand out for all the right reasons
Employers always appreciate staff who bring something extra to or improve their business – this is especially impressive at intern level. If you have an idea to improve a process or can identify a good opportunity for the company, speak up! Also, be prepared to take on work that is a new challenge for you at this early stage. All of this will get you noticed and efficiently gain the experience to be able to work at graduate level or higher. Having examples of times when you were proactive and pushed yourself beyond your comfort zone will be impressive in applications and interviews with the same company or others.
Keep a record of your experience
Take notes on who you meet and what company they are from. Write down any interactions you have that might be useful to refer to in the future. This is good practice for writing up minutes when you are involved in regular business meetings – it can be very difficult to accurately recall verbal communication and so keeping notes is a great habit to get into, no matter what industry you enter into.
You should also keep a daily record of your work experience. This will make it much easier to compile examples to add to your CV, use in applications and interviews for other opportunities going forward. Key points to include in your notes are:
- Projects you worked on
- Skills that you have learned or improved
- Who you worked with – teams and individuals
- Any training you received or software packages you learned to use
- Any feedback you receive throughout.
Where possible and appropriate, try to converse with more senior colleagues at the company – especially if they are involved in recruitment or could advise you on your career. This is a great chance to take advantage of working alongside the person doing the job that you want in five, ten or maybe 20 years! Although the finance and consultancy industries tend to change quite rapidly, it would still be helpful to find out where and how they started their career. If you do get such an opportunity, make sure that you are also up to date on the latest industry news and confident in carrying a conversation outside of your career paths – this could be a great chance to impress!
These opportunities will arise naturally while working in a company so make sure you do not interrupt a busy colleague – if necessary, request an informal chat over lunch or a coffee break with someone whose guidance and input you would appreciate. Your colleagues and network are an invaluable source of advice and insight and can help you in the future with internal and external opportunities if you have left a positive impression.
Confirm your reference before leaving
This should be straight forward process – confirm with your manager or the HR manager that the company are happy to be included on your CV as a referee and will provide a reference for a future employer when necessary.
Focus on your long-term career goals
If you are certain about wanting to pursue a future with the company you are interning or completing work experience at, make yourself aware of the graduate recruitment criteria and use this opportunity to round out any troublesome gaps in your skills or experience.
It may be that you decide during your placement that this is not the company or role for you long-term. However, you should still endeavour to leave a positive impression as you will need a reference from this company and even in the City, word can get around fast! If your role involves client interaction, use these opportunities to make contacts outside of the company you are placed at and make sure that you begin to develop the skills that the companies you are now interested in require.
Manage your contacts
Once you have done lots of successful networking, make sure to stay in touch with any colleagues who have helped you in the past or might be willing to do so in the future. Before you leave, ask to exchange emails or to connect on LinkedIn. It is a good idea to send a brief thank you message to any colleagues you wish to maintain contact with once you have left to keep you in their minds – this is also just good manners, which go a long way!
Actively follow up on advice
If your colleagues have made helpful suggestions about what you should do next such as companies worth applying to or courses to take – get on with these as soon as possible! There is a limited amount of time that it is appropriate for following up on contacts that have been passed on to you especially, so prioritise this if you have been passed any names and email addresses.
It is hard work, working hard and making sure you are maximising on your opportunity as much as possible but the outcome will be worth the effort! You can get as much as you put into these opportunities in the right situation, but remember to keep the bigger picture in view if it does not turn out exactly as planned. All work experience is time well invested if you know how to work it to suit you.