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Five ways to get more out of your work experience

Five ways to get more out of your work experienceFind out how these five simple actions can make your work experience much more effective.

Set some objectives before you start

Don't just go into a work experience placement with the vague idea that you want something to put on your CV. Ask yourself:

  • What kind of work do you want to do?
  • What skills do you want to gain or improve?
  • What's the one most important thing you want to achieve during your placement?

The sooner you ask yourself these questions, the better. It's helpful to have some objectives in mind before the first day of your placement, but it's even better to have them worked out before you start looking for placements in the first place.

At the start of your placement, discuss your objectives with your manager or supervisor so that they know what you want to get out of it. They won't necessarily be able to give you everything you want, but you stand a much better chance if you know what to ask for.

Keep a record of your achievements

Don't rely on your memory: keep a written record of the work you do. There are lots of ways to do this, from writing a brief diary entry at the end of the day to keeping to-do lists so you can refer back to them. You'll need to find a way of recording what you do that suits the job you are doing and your working style.

Having this record will make it much easier to demonstrate to employers what you got out of your work experience. It's particularly useful when applying for jobs that aren't directly related to your work experience: you'll be able to pick out the relevant parts of your placement.

Ask for more to do

On a work experience placement, it's easy to end up with not enough to do, or be stuck doing the same thing every day. Don't just sit back and wait to be given more work or something new to do: ask.

Ideally, you should make suggestions for specific tasks you could be doing. Not only does this demonstrate your proactivity, it gives you a chance to steer your work experience towards things that will fulfil your objectives. Keep an eye out for tasks you could do, projects you could contribute to or colleagues you could help.

Make contacts

Experience isn't the only thing you can get out of a placement. Making good contacts can help you find new opportunities in the future, get advice and keep up with developments in the industry. Your most useful contacts will normally be the people you work with day to day, and especially your manager or supervisor, but anyone you meet could be a useful contact, including people outside the organization you are working for.

To make the most out of your contacts:

  • Make an effort to introduce yourself to colleagues whose work you are particularly interested in, and see if you are able to work with them more closely during your placement.
  • Keep a record of the people you meet, including who they are, who they work for and how you met them.
  • If you think it would be useful, ask people if they are happy for you to stay in touch after your placement.

Tie up any loose ends

When your work experience comes to an end, it’s important to make sure you haven't forgotten anything that could help you get more out of it. This includes:

  • Arranging who will give you a reference.
  • Making sure you have contact details for anyone you want to keep in touch with.
  • Getting feedback and advice on your work.
  • Taking any files or information you need, such as your work experience diary. Don't take any files or documents from the organization without permission!

If you forget anything, you might be able to get back in touch with the organization to sort it out after you leave, but it's easier if you don't have to do this.

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