Work experience placements are one of those things that are really only as good as you make them. You have to work hard to make them – work for you as well as helping out the company that you’re working for. Fortunately, we have three easy tips to improve what you get out of your work experience placement.

1. Make a map of the office

Now this might sound a little bit silly, and we’re not saying it because we think you’re going to get lost in the office (although this is of course completely fine if you do – and the map will definitely help you with this). The reason we’re suggesting this is because it’ll help you learn people’s names; if you draw a really quick map of where everyone sits you shouldn’t ever be caught in the awkward situation of getting someone’s name wrong. There really is nothing more embarrassing than going over to a desk and saying, “Hi Jane, I was just wondering if there was anything I could help with today?” and the person sitting at the desk pointing out that Jane sits on the other side of the office.

It can also be really good to include people’s usual tea orders or phone extensions on your map so that when you’ve done the tea run (accept that some work experience placements will involve you making a certain amount of tea – we’ve all been there) you take the right tea to the right person. And, if it’s the sort of office where people call each other rather than talk IRL, you won’t get stuck. 

2. Always carry a pen and a pad

Always, always be prepared. Yes, we know we sound like Scouts right now. But it’s no good to turn up to your placement without a few pens (just in case one runs out) and a notebook. It’s even a good idea to have a notebook and pen on you at all times, because what if someone asks you to do a really complicated task and you need to make notes while they explain it? Or what if someone gives you a phone number that they want you to call? It’s so much easier – and makes you look so much better – if you have a notebook and pen to hand. You’ll look a lot more efficient and probably be more likely to be asked to do other tasks if you can impress people with the little things like that.

3. Keep a list of things that you do during your placement

No, we’re not talking about keeping a log of the number of cups of tea you make during your week there. We mean the things that you’ve done that you’re proud of – whether that’s helping someone with a specific project, pitching an idea, helping with the research for something, or suggesting a solution to a problem. These are the kinds of things that you need to remember and be able to mention in job applications and interviews.

In fact, start right now. Whether you’re on a work experience placement this week or not, go and open a Word document and write all the things that you’re proud to have been involved in – whether on work experience, at an internship, during a part time job, or through volunteering. Think about things that show specific skills or qualities that you’d want to mention in a job application or interview.

Keep adding to that document every time you do something relevant. And then, when you have a cover letter to write, or an interview to go to, have a look over that list and you should never have a problem coming up with examples of times that you have shown initiative, worked as part of a team, or shown any other skills or qualities that an employer could be looking for.

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