10 ways to get the most out of work experience
Work experience is more than just something to stick on your CV. As student blogger Anna writes, it’s a great opportunity to prepare yourself for the working world – as long as you get stuck in.
Here are 10 top tips to make sure your work experience is time well spent. For more career tips, find out how to boost your job prospects once you’re at university.
1. Make a good first impressionFirst impressions really do count. Make sure you turn up on time, are suitably dressed (if in doubt, better to go smarter) and are raring to go. If you show you’re friendly, reliable and competent from the get-go, chances are more opportunities will come your way.
2. Get to know peopleGreet everyone you meet with a smile and try and introduce yourself to everybody you'll be working with. Don't be afraid to ask people about their roles and how they got to where they are now – they'll be flattered!
3. Be organisedWhile you’ll have guidance during your internship, you can’t expect to be spoon-fed the whole time. Listen carefully to instructions and note down important meetings, dates and deadlines to help manage your time effectively.
4. Get involvedIt might sound obvious, but the more you get stuck in, the more experience you'll gain. Be enthusiastic about any task – big or small – and use your initiative to go above and beyond what's asked of you.
5. Ask questionsThere’s no shame in asking for clarification if you're not sure what you're doing – in fact, employers will respect that you have the guts to ask. But be resourceful - think twice about asking a question that could be answered with a quick Google search.
6. Make suggestionsIf you think you've got a valuable comment to add, don’t be afraid to speak up. Employers love people with ideas, and your contribution – whether your idea is taken up or not - will be appreciated.
7. Offer to helpWhen you speak to people, ask after their current projects and emphasise that you’d like to get involved. Showing you're approachable and keen will ensure they think of you when they need an extra pair of hands.
8. Make notesJot down any useful information about particular tasks you've worked on and skills you've picked up. That way you’ll have a record of everything you need to take away from your time there – handy for future job applications!
9. Ask for feedbackTry and gather informal feedback from your supervisor as you go along, rather than just waiting for a report at the end – it gives you a chance to improve throughout your time there.
10. Reflect on your work experienceIt’s important to be honest with yourself when reflecting on your internship. If you didn't particularly enjoy it, it doesn’t mean it’s been a massive waste of your time. Even if the only thing you take away from the experience is knowing you don’t want to work in that industry, it’s been useful!
Which? University provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from Anna Pitts, University of Sussex student and journalist for Graduate Recruitment Bureau (GRB), a recruitment consultancy placing students and graduates into work experience placements, internships and graduate jobs.