You’re in Year 10 and attempting to make some life-long career decisions. The subjects you’re concentrating on for the next 18 months are geared around you getting onto the ladder of your chosen career path, progressing to sixth form or heading off to college and university. In the meantime, there’s that all important week or two of work experience, which will give you a real insight to the big wide world of work.
Whilst no-one can guarantee the path you take today will be the one you follow for your entire working life, immersing yourself fully into your work experience placement will give you the very best overview to what the job has to offer.
Top work experience tips
Your work experience could be one of the most important weeks of your career, so here are some top tips to help you get the best out of it:
- Choose carefully
You may not know what you want to do when you leave school, but make sure you choose your placement carefully. Think about your interests and skills and see if these can be applied to a job. Once you have something in mind, think about the employers and what placements they could offer – bear in mind that some companies may not be able to take you on due to age restrictions.
- Talk to those around you
Talk to your career advisor, friends and family, as they can suggest a number of career options suited to your personality. Being armed with plenty of information will help you make a more sound choice.
- Plan ahead
Ensure you start thinking ahead, don’t wait until a letter is sent out to your parents. You can contact some places you have in mind, just to see what their response is, and if they’re able to take on any work experience students during the time you need. Leaving the planning of your work experience until the last minute can often mean you don’t get the placement that meets your needs or expectations.
- Plan again
So you’ve booked your work experience and it’s the day before you start. Plan your route to work so you know how long it takes to get to where you need to be. Turning up within plenty of time on your first day is the best way to kick-start your career and will demonstrate that you can be counted on.
- Dress the part
The dress code varies between many companies. Be sure to contact the employer beforehand to understand exactly what their dress code is, as this will be vital to helping you develop your confidence in your new surroundings.
- Be willing and show independence
Whilst it can be daunting being surrounded by people you’ve never met before, you need to show you’re willing to take on the tasks that may be given to you. Some tasks may be mundane and not to your liking, but showing that you are able to take instruction and perform a task to the best of your ability will be seen as commitment to a job – even if it is only making tea!
- Ask questions
As you would in school if you don’t understand a topic or method, ask questions about what you’re doing. This will allow you to understand the reason for a particular task that you’re carrying out and shows that you are interested in learning more. Remember to ask other people about their roles too, you may find that you’d like to follow that line of work in the future.
- Resist social media and personal phone use
Unless your work experience involves social media, resist the temptation to update your status and text your mates during working hours. You always need to be responsive to what’s going on in the work place, and you can’t do that with your head in your phone!
- Give feedback
You’ve come to the end of your placement and what have you learnt? Is it what you expected, could you have done more? This is a great time for you to say how you got on, remember you’re just as entitled as the employers to give feedback – constructive criticism allows plans for development, even if it is for the next student. Keeping a diary / taking notes whilst on placement might also be useful for you to refer back to the things you’ve experience.
Keeping all of the above in mind when setting out on your work experience journey should help make the most of the time you have on your placement, and of course keep in touch with some contacts you’ve made throughout the week, they could be key to the next step of your career.
And remember, if your experience has changed your mind about what you want for your future, why not try some voluntary work experience in the holidays – it will look great on your CV.
Oh and one last thing… don’t forget to enjoy it – work isn’t as bad as it sounds!