It’s difficult enough trying to find somewhere to go for your work experience, some places don’t do it, others are just too busy or they don’t even reply to your emails in the first place. So yeah it can be pretty tough!
When you finally find a willing place that agrees to deal with you for an entire week, squeezing you into their offices and making time to give you valuable experience, you really want to make a good impression and that in itself can bring challenges.
My brain was whirling with worry before my work experience and I was asking myself repeatedly: What do I wear? What will they make me do? How to I act? What if I don’t like it? What if I can’t even make a cup of tea? But within a morning my fears slipped away as I found everyone at The Wonderland was welcoming, friendly and above all ready to show me what it’s like to have a real 9 – 5 job!
After battling through the hard decisions of clothing and locating the kitchen, I started to relax a little and found my feet with the WonderGirls. This calming attitude and experience allowed me to write a guide, for those not so calm or collective, on surviving work experience. I wanted to share with you all that I found to make the best impression and make the most out of the opportunity I was given, so here goes…
Research where you are going: It will come across really well to your employer if you know a bit about the place you will be going to. Know about their presence online, what work they have done, who their clients are and above all what their business is all about. Showing you have done your research will really impress the boss!
Side tip: A good conversation starter on your first day is to ask them about what work they have done and things you have seen on their website that caught your eye.
Learn everyone’s name: This is a proven way to make a good first impression. No-one likes to be referred to as ‘Miss’ or ‘Umm’ especially in the ad world! It’s always a good idea to know the name of the people you have to talk to, especially if you need to ask any questions. If you’re struggling with names, think of ways to memorise them such as by their hair colour, cliché designer attire or even their funny voice.
Offer to make the tea: This sounds like the obvious but everyone loves a hot drink, whether it’s a builder’s tea, a black coffee or something with 30% almond milk, 4 sweeteners and to be stirred continuously for 39 seconds until a perfect brown! It’s a kind gesture and shows them you want to be part of their team (If only for a week).
Don’t be afraid to ask questions: I definitely would not recommend staring at a wall for 45 minutes as you wait for your employer to turn and look at you. You don’t want to look like you’re bored or that you can’t be bothered to do the task you’ve been set. So as scary as it may seem and as much as you don’t want to disturb their busy world of emails and clients, honestly they won’t bite your head off!
Side tip: Ask them about their latest projects and offer to help with anything new. This will show them that you are interested in their work, what they do and how they run their business.
Get involved: Offer to help with any project big or small and always act interested in what you are doing. Being enthusiastic will show your employer you’re always up for giving something a go, even if it’s just inputting data or photocopying. Getting involved and putting in that extra bit of effort is likely to be more enjoyable for you as well.
Reflect on your work experience: It may seem a bit odd to write a daily diary about your work experience and I’m not suggesting you start with ‘Dear diary’ and write a heart-to-heart monologue, but when you are looking back on your work experience it will help you to remember all the different things you’ve done. You could also keep pictures or files of the work you completed whilst you were at your placement as a record of your achievements.
Side tip: At my school they gave us an online diary, this was very helpful for me, as I could upload files of the images I had created on Photoshop during my placement. So get your school involved with something similar.
Write a thank you note: Getting a card or just writing a thank you email, is a nice way to thank your employer for giving up their time to have you at their workplace. Say a heartfelt thank you and let them know what you have learnt, and how it has helped you. I can guarantee they will really appreciate it!
Now you know my top tips on how to survive your work experience, so make sure you make the most of your placement. It may only be a week, but you could make it the ideal opportunity to learn a lot. Just be yourself, be confident and get involved! It’s great to pop on your CV as an experience as well, so don’t waste it and enjoy yourself!
Written by Eve Edmonds