I had a really exciting adventure this week. I took a couple of days holiday from my ‘real job’ and went on work experience. I know, I know, work experience is usually reserved for 15 year-olds skiving off school for a week to make tea and clean paint brushes, but why should kids have all the fun? Plus, as an adult, I could make sure I got the most out of my placement in order to really help my career.
I’d like to share with you some of the benefits that I got from being a 30-something work experience girl, and offer tips for making your work experience work for you. Huge thanks to Charlotte and the pack at PR agency Harvey and Hugo, who made me feel so welcome.
Benefit one: try before you buy
Work experience is great if you’re considering a career change. In my case, I’ve built up a portfolio as a trainer but I’m keen to move into marketing and communications. I’m aware that this is a competitive career that seems very glamorous, and work experience has given me a chance to see what the job is really like before I commit to additional development. Spoiler alert: I loved it!
Top tip: Go in with an objective. Do you want to be able to do a particular task by the end of your placement? Is there a particular skill you’re keen to learn? Set some goals for yourself so you’re not putting pressure on your employers to find busy work for you.
Benefit two: build your network
You’ll be working alongside people who are experts in the industry that you’re looking to break in to, so you have a great opportunity to make a good impression. A lot of industries have an element of ‘it’s who you know’ when they’re hiring, so being a familiar face is a huge bonus. If the company you go to isn’t hiring, they may be willing to recommend you elsewhere. Nothing peps up an introductory email like a mutual contact.
Top tip: Do your best work. Even though you’re working for free, there are no excuses for slacking. Remember, the company’s doing you a favour, not the other way round. Also, be proactive in seeking out jobs to do while you’re there. This will give an excellent impression and show them that you’re interested in the job.
Benefit three: learn new skills
If, like me, you’re doing work experience in an industry that you’ve never worked in before, you’ll be able to pick up lots of new skills. Of course you can find information online (as I covered in a previous blog post), but it’s great to learn from a real expert. You can see how they work, ask for support, and get real feedback on how you’re doing. All this will help you to be a better candidate when you next apply for a job.
Top tip: Take feedback gracefully. Every part of your work experience is about you learning, so you won’t get everything right first time. If work needs redoing, make a note of why so that you can continuously improve. Actively ask for feedback about how you can fine tune your skills, and listen to what they say. Take all feedback constructively rather than negatively, and you’ll get a lot out of it.
I highly recommend work experience to anyone who is looking to change career. It will require time and investment (and, in my case, holiday hours), but will have so much benefit in the long run.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you’ve had a work-experience experience, or if you’re keen to give it a go.