If you play your cards right a university work placement can provide an excellent stepping stone towards your dream career.
While your university will often do much of the early leg work in setting you up with an employer, the way you approach the process and conduct yourself during those important few months will determine how valuable an experience it ultimately proves to be.
Here is some useful advice to help you do this:
1. Choose carefully
First things first, it’s important to do everything in your power to make sure you find yourself paired with the right employer. It starts with the application process: rather than adopting a scattergun approach, focus your efforts on the one or two employers who you feel best match your skills and interests.
2. Be clear on what’s involved
You want to be going into your placement with your eyes wide open. Rather than waiting until your first day on the job, ask for the name of the person overseeing your placement and send them an introductory email. Request an outline of the tasks and responsibilities you’ll have to do day-to-day and spend time researching any technical areas you’re not sure about. Your university may also provide advice and lectures on what to expect from your placement – another valuable source of knowledge.
3. Keep an open mind
At the same time, bear in mind that exactly what is required of you is liable to change over the course of your placement, and you may find yourself entrusted with new responsibilities and challenges as you progress. Equally, be prepared to do your fair share of ‘scutwork’ (as everyone had to do at one time or another). In short, say yes to everything and put yourself forward for new challenges – there’s really no task too great or too small at this stage of your career.
4. Speak up
Communication is key to your getting the most out of your placement. Above all, you want to know how you’re progressing and the areas of your work where you could be improving. While most employers will be proactive in offering feedback, it’s up to you to ask for help when you don’t understand something, or advice and guidance when you need it.
An important side to any work placement is making useful contacts to set you up for the next stage of your professional life. Networking opportunities come in many guises, from seeking opportunities to work with colleagues in different departments to taking people up on invites for lunc or an after-work drink.
While anything can happen during the course of a work placement, nine times out of ten the amount you get out of the experience will reflect what you’re willing to put into it. Stay proactive, curious and positive and you can’t go too far wrong.
Source: HN Global