Five ways to have a great work experience placement during the summer break
Get the most out of your work experience placement
Summer work experience often gets dismissed as no more than an extra line on your CV that might earn you a few brownie points with potential employers.
But high-quality work experience – whether a paid internship, shadowing, volunteering or even freelance project – can play a vital role in preparing you for the world of work, equipping you with essential core skills not always taught in a classroom.
Work experience this summer will give you a chance to deepen your knowledge of your chosen field, gain industry contacts – and perhaps even result in an apprenticeship or job offer. Even general work experience can be insightful in giving you a rounded experience of the workplace or introduce you to new professions or areas of work you’ve not yet considered.
The key to success? Planning, preparation and positivity: follow these tips to ensure you wring every last drop from each work experience opportunity.
1. Understand who you are
Successful work experience is founded on your understanding of who you are, what’s important to you, and your dreams and ambitions for a career. Ask yourself, what motivates and inspires me? What are my values and my skills? My strengths and weaknesses? Then look for an organisation, job role and work experience opportunity most likely to fit you and your ambitions.
Remember: how we see ourselves isn’t always how others see us. So ask people you trust to give you an honest appraisal and offer constructive advice to help you choose the right work experience opportunity. Read CMI’s “Working Out A Career Plan” checklist for more on this.
2. Establish a purpose
It’s helpful to visualise the ultimate end goal – your dream job – and then work backwards to where you are now. This will help you see the gap between your present position and the future ideal. Another technique is to write your future CV, inserting things you want to achieve such as additional qualifications, job roles or working for specific employers, and then finding work experience opportunities that will help you achieve it.
3. Set objectives
Don’t walk into work experience without considering what exactly you’d like to gain from the opportunity. Of course, a certain amount of what you learn and gain will be dictated by the employer, but on day one, have a clear idea of the skills you want to develop, any specialist areas you want to find out more about and the people you want to work alongside. You might find it helpful to make your objectives “SMART”: objectives are SMART if they’re specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Need more help on this? Read CMI’s “Setting SMART Objectives” checklist.
4. Make the most of the moment
You’ll want to make a good impression. Try to be confident, listen well, take lots of notes, seek advice and help when needed: employers are receptive to people who take an interest and often eager to share what they know.
Be enthusiastic, and yes – even be willing to make the tea. Once your work experience has finished, make sure to ask for feedback and let them know you’d be interested in further work if and when it becomes available: if you don’t ask, you don’t get, as the saying goes.
5. Review and reshape your plan
Once you’ve finished your work experience placement, take time to reflect on the feedback you were given and how you feel about the time you spent there. Ask yourself questions like, what am I able to do better as a result? Has this work experience thrown up further gaps? Could I have gained more from this activity? Examine the elements you enjoyed, those you didn’t, and plan the next step of your career path from there. This kind of evaluation, review and career planning keeps you moving forward and helps you seek out new challenges to keep your ambitions on track. Read CMI’s checklist on “Personal Development Planning” for more on this.
By following these steps, you’ll not only ensure that your work experience is rewarding and enjoyable, but could transform your career aspirations.
Don’t forget, you still have access to all of CMI’s resources over the summer, including ManagementDirect and the Career Development Centre. Register to attend our next webinar, explaining how to make the most of CMI’s resources and get the support you need for your placement.
Not a member of CMI? Join today to get access to ManagementDirect and many other membership benefits.