This piece was written by a member of the Debut Student Publisher Network. Want to make a good impression on work experience? There are several things it can be worth thinking about, says Zaki.
The working world is becoming increasingly competitive. Therefore, it’s fairly uncommon for companies to take people on after a week’s work experience. But it happens. You might get lucky with your timing. Plus, if they do have the opportunity to employ someone full-time, you want to put yourself in a position to stand a chance of getting it. If you don’t, you’ll still want to make a positive impression in case other opportunities pop up. I got three months of paid work from a magazine whose editors got to know me when I’d done work experience there a year earlier.
You also want to make sure that you get the most out of your placement. This can be in the form of contacts, other opportunities and/or transferable skills. Here are some tips on how to achieve some of the above.
Try hard but don’t make it look like you’re trying too hard
Make yourself available as much as possible throughout your placement. Complete tasks quickly and efficiently to show you’re productive, but do them well. Those managing work experience often lose track of how long ago they gave you a task. Use this extra time to check your work thoroughly, ensuring you complete everything to a high standard.
Treat it like an audition in terms of your effort levels. However, don’t make it look like you’re actively auditioning for something or seek to grab too much attention. Try to fit in and get on with things rather than upstage anyone. You want to impress in the short amount of time you have there, but not overwhelm them with attempts to show how awesome you are. That can be unsettling.
Be helpful, proactive and yourself
Towards the start of one fixed-term contract I was on, my boss spilt her drink over a desk. I immediately dried it with my handkerchief. I later heard from a colleague that she had been “impressed” with my quick reaction. At the time, I was surprised to hear she’d said anything. But I suppose it just emphasises another key tip: just be yourself.
Being yourself also means knowing your limitations. Don’t sit, stare and do nothing. If you hear someone struggling with something, offer to help. The worst that can happen is they say no. Even then, you’ve still shown yourself to be helpful and supportive. Don’t try to take on too much or offer to do things alone that you don’t know how to, though. If in doubt, ask for help with something. That allows you to learn and also show that you’re not overconfident.
Make an effort to chat to those around you.
The younger you are, the less likely companies are to give you ‘real work’ at your placements. Finding you something interesting to do won’t always be at the top of your manager’s priority list, especially when deadlines approach. Often the most interesting tasks come through talking to those sitting next to you. Ask them what they’re working on, or how long they’ve been at the company.
I did my first journalism work experience when I was 18. Bored after not being given enough to do during the first half of the week, I got chatting to the Political Editor, who then asked if I wanted to shadow him when he went into City Hall to interview the Deputy Mayor. I showed an interest in what the Crime Reporter was working on, and he let me write a couple of articles (until then, I hadn’t been asked to write anything). They both read my pieces and gave useful feedback.
Being chatty and showing an interest in what your colleagues do can also lead to making contacts. But obviously, do it at the right time, not if they’re on the phone or nearing a deadline. The same applies to asking your manager if there’s anything you can help with.
Don’t make yourself a hot drink without offering one to others
Assuming the organisation is one of the many in which workers ask those around them if they would like anything when they grab themselves a drink, make sure you get your round in. But be careful not to get the order wrong – write it down if you need to. You’d be surprised by how much people who take coffee without sugar, mind.
Steer clear of mobiles and social media
Try to stay off your phone. Partly as it can distract you from your work, but also because it can give the wrong impression to those around you. For example, it may seem like you’re losing focus when you’re actually browsing the web looking for a more effective solution. It’s about perception. People can often assume the worst when they see you on your phone, especially if you’re young.
Use the computer provided to conduct research rather than your phone and, if you’re contacting someone you have on Facebook for a story, try to stick to email if you have their address. It looks more professional to your colleagues, and your request may get a quicker response or be treated more seriously if it’s emailed.
And, if you’ve had a tough day, obviously don’t rant on social media about how much you hate your placement, unless you have an “alt” Twitter account.
Feature image via Warner Bros
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