Make your work placement a success

Daniel Higginbotham, Editor
August, 2015

Once you've secured work experience it's important that you don't let it go to waste. Here's what you need to do to make it count

Whether an optional or compulsory part of your degree, work placements can develop employability skills that are particularly sought-after by employers.

Allison Dunbobbin, placements governance manager at Loughborough University, stresses the importance of showing initiative. 'Be enthusiastic and proactive,' she says. 'Speak to colleagues, ask questions, and take advantage of training opportunities to further develop your talents and skills.'

Think of the placement as an extended interview and seize every opportunity to impress

Seize every opportunity

Students should use the break from study to prepare for life after university. During the placement you should 'find out what your strengths are and consider what you might like to do when you graduate,' advises Allison.

However, it's easy to get caught up in what you'll gain from the experience, but you should also remember that employers will be using the placement to assess your performance.

‘Think of the placement as an extended interview and seize every opportunity to impress, from offering to make a cup of tea for your colleagues to volunteering for roles that show you are keen to be stretched,' advises Jennifer Plummer, student internship bureau and vacancies service coordinator at the University of York.

Build your network

Jennifer also reveals that it's worth exploring what else you could learn about the business beyond your immediate role. Spending time shadowing other teams will give you a flavour of what it's like to work in other parts of the organisation - helping you to develop relationships, build your network and make your mark.

Hannah Boots, HR adviser at Fujitsu, echoes this need to make the most of the wealth of possibilities found outside of your day job.

'At Fujitsu, there are a range of activities that industrial placement students can become involved with, from corporate social responsibility challenges and diversity network groups, to attending corporate conferences and events,' she says.

This won't just ensure that you get a broader experience from your placement, explains Hannah - it may even open up options and career paths that you hadn't previously considered.

Top 5 tips for a successful placement

  • Be focused - Go in with the right mindset, keep your end goal in sight and be prepared to ask plenty of questions.
  • Be punctual - Arriving on time and not engaging in too much clock-watching demonstrates that you have an appetite to work hard.
  • Develop a genuine interest - Find out about the business and get to know its culture. Also, be sure to keep up to date with relevant industry goings-on.
  • Show willing - Grasp the opportunity to learn new skills by making yourself available for any additional work.
  • Treat it as a real job - Maintaining a positive attitude and making connections with those you work with could benefit your future career.