Whether you’re getting some shorter-term experience over the summer, or embarking on a year-long placement, here are some must-dos to ensure you get the most out of the experience.
1. Think about your objectives
OK, so your main objective may just have been to get some work experience, but now that you have it, you want to make the most of it. Thinking about what you want from the experience will help you enjoy it and make it worthwhile for you (as well as for the host organisation). For example:
- Are you interested in finding out about particular areas of their work; particular teams, projects etc.?
- Do you want to develop or improve particular skills?
- Do you want the responsibility for a specific project?
- Have you spotted something you could suggest as a project that would benefit them?
Talk to your supervisor or manager to see where you might be able to fit these in. If you can, try to align your objectives with the organisation’s priorities.
2. Attitude matters
Your attitude is probably the number 1 most important thing. Be enthusiastic and positive – even if you’re not having the best time. Look like you’re interested – even if you’re not. Whilst walking around with a permanent cheshire cat grin will probably just scare people, do make the effort to smile (we often forget, especially when nervous!). It makes a massive difference to how people perceive you.
If you are finding it boring, ask if there are additional things you can help with. Talk to colleagues about their roles and try and set up meetings with teams or departments you are interested in.
3. Small talk makes a big difference
You may be nervous, or shy, particularly during the early days. However, taking the time to get to know your colleagues a little bit will make a big difference, both now and in the future. This may just be the odd quick question in the kitchen, but small talk is an important part of the working environment. Introduce yourself to people you meet without waiting to be introduced. Ask about their role and bingo! you have a new connection. E.g. “Hi, I’m Jess, on placement in the …….. team, I’m going to be working on x,y,z”. You can then build on this connection in subsequent meetings. This article has some clear, straightforward advice on making small talk.
4. Speak up
If something is not clear, ask for clarification. Far better to do this than to spend time working on something that was not what they wanted. Similarly, if you have ideas of suggestions, don’t be afraid to make them. One of the reasons companies take on interns is as a way of getting fresh perspectives. Pick your time appropriately and pitch any suggestions positively (as opposed to being critical of current processes).
5. Stay in touch
OK, so chances are you aren’t going to become best friends with everyone you meet, but do make an effort to stay in touch after your placement. Particularly with your Supervisor (provided it went well!), but also other colleagues and interns. Add people you worked with on LinkedIn and then you’ll be able to stay up to date with them (and vice versa) easily.
You can find more advice on making the most of your placement, as well as information on support available to you on our website.