What are the essentials for being successful at the start of your career? Qualifications? Confidence? Maturity? All of these are, of course, a highly important part of beginning and developing a career in your desired area of work- but if you’re not sure what career route you’d like to take, work experience is a fantastic way to discover what kind of jobs are available in an industry that interests you.
Monique, studying Business at Northampton College, fulfilled her compulsory work experience placement at ID Card Centre Ltd, supplier of printed cards, lanyards and ID accessories. Keen to get the most out of her work experience, Monique took the placement seriously and worked hard throughout the week in order to get the most out of it. Let’s find out a little bit about how Monique got on.
How did you prepare for the placement?
At college I had tutorial lessons where I was taught how to write CV’s and taught how to act in a professional work environment. I was also asked what my career aspirations were so that the work experience team could find a relevant placement for me.
What did you enjoy about your work experience?
The placement was great! I think one of the main things that I liked was that I was given the chance to make changes to the website via the developer backend- this gave a real sense of trust from the employer. The placement was a daunting prospect because I had no prior experience working in an office or editing a website, but I was walked through everything I needed to do, and help was always available if I needed it.
What did you learn during the placement?
The placement taught me a lot about time management as office jobs require you to be self motivating and to plan your own time out efficiently to get tasks done. I also learnt how to change the backend of a website which was a new and exciting experience for me. I also got to put what I had learnt at college to the test by conducting market research for the company.
What advice would you give to students about to do work experience?
Work experience should be treated as if it were your permanent job. You should work hard and try to do as much work as possible- that way you’ll experience more. Your placement can help you get connections in the industry that might help you find a job in the future, too. Always go into work experience with a positive mindset and enjoy it- you may end up doing things you never thought you could.
How can you succeed in your work experience placement?
With Monique’s personal experience in mind, how can YOU get the most out of your work experience placement? We have outlined the following key points to consider.
• Look for a challenge
Work experience is most people’s first opportunity to dive into the world of work and it’s also a great opportunity to learn new skills. Most placements are a maximum of 2 weeks long, so try and find a placement that’s going to be challenging. This way, you’ll learn more about the job and whether you’d enjoy a career in it or not. If you realise it’s not for you, stick it out and try your best- it’s all good experience!
• Proper supervision
If possible, try to ensure that you’ll receive proper supervision during your placement. Without a supervisor or someone to shadow, it’s more difficult to get a sense of what a job in the industry is like. A supervisor can give you direction and advice, helping you to have a genuine learning experience on your placement. You can also speak to your career mentor for advice and guidance.
• Set goals
What do you want to achieve during your work experience? Go into your placement with a clear idea of what you would like to learn and get experience of by setting realistic goals. This will mean that you have a much more focused mindset as you seek to discover and learn new things in order to achieve your goals.
• Get feedback
At the end of your placement, make sure you get feedback from your employer about your performance throughout the placement. Ideally this would be a written reference, however some companies do not offer this. Either way, feedback from the employer in any form is a great way for you to build on your skills and strengthen areas of your skillset that are perhaps weaker.
Our experience as an employer
When we have taken on work experience placements at ID Card Centre, we always give students an opportunity to show where their strengths lie by trying out a variety of different tasks. Here are a few tasks that we have set for previous students:
• Encoding and printing ID cards
• Updating products on the website
• Designing / editing images for the website
• Research into potential new markets and customers
• Adding details to business directories
Reviewing your work experience
Students - at the end of your work experience, it’s important to review the placement. What went well? What did you enjoy? What didn’t go so well? Answering all these questions for yourself will help you to evaluate how suited you are to that job and industry and it’ll also help you to establish whether you’ve met the goals that you set at the beginning. Hopefully you’ll have learnt things about that particular job and industry, but you’ll also have learnt about the work environment and skills that will help you to conduct yourself properly in the workplace- skills that are invaluable when it comes to your employability!