You might think of your time doing work experience as a necessary evil. Not to say that it’s all perfect and ideal, but now I’m down the track and settled into a career, I can say that time as the coffee girl (or boy) does have many potential benefits. How positively you approach it will determine how much you get out of it. Below are just three ways to help anyone who has work experience yet to come, see the light...
Get that springboard job
Some industries are really competitive and it's just so hard to get your foot in the door. Work experience can separate you from the pack and help get you that first job in the industry, therefore spring-boarding your career. I myself spent one summer on work experience at an advertising agency in my hometown. It consisted of clipping competitors’ ads out of the newspaper and gluing them into a scrapbook. (Yes, I'm that old that we were cutting and pasting ads...literally.)
As well as the standard tasks like tidying the tearoom, sorting out the filing cabinet and proof reading lots of documents, when it came time to apply for a real job, I was one of the final candidates in an assessment centre. I smugly waved my work experience flag, which no one else could do, and subsequently got the job. That job was a valuable foot in the door, which was in part possible because of my time cutting and pasting ads.
Learn where you don't want to be
One of the advantages of work experience is that you aren't tied down if you don't really gel with the organisation (or industry). You can soak up the experience and move on to something that suits you better! One friend of mine found this out through work experience. The placement was for a week and they felt like a deer in the headlights. No one told them what to do, no one introduced them to the wider team and no one really told them where they should go. Safe to say this put my friend off that particular company, but thankfully didn't put him off his career path, rather it helped him define it in a way that best suited him. You need to remember work experience is all for your benefit, so if it's not working out, don't give up – treat it as learning for next time.
Meet a mentor for life
When you're starting a new job and working in a new environment for the first time, it's a godsend having someone to guide you on all the little things. From how to use the email system, where the toilet is, where to go to get your lunch, what are the health and safety procedures, how to operate the coffee machine and the who's who in the workplace hierarchy and wider industry.
If you build a good enough rapport with this person – or people - it's of massive value to keep in touch with them once the work experience is up. If the person continues to be as smart and supportive as they seemed when you met them, make sure you keep learning from them and find the right time to ask them to help you network.
Once you’re into your career, there will always be times when you want to get some advice or perspective from someone who knows you, but also knows your industry and has that much more experience – that mentoring relationship will continue to keep you making the right moves year after year throughout your career.
And there’s more, big and small, to come out of your work experience. From beginning to figure out office politics and dynamics, establishing work-life balance and routine, or even working on developing a particular professional skill. Just get it set up and attack it proactively and enthusiastically and you cannot go wrong. Enjoy!
Why not begin your virtual work experience journey by learning more about the world of work and different industries through our Types of jobs and skills by profession activity? You never know, you may just come across your dream role.
Alternatively, you can experience a day at a digital transformation agency through our simulation tool.