Blog 10 July 2019

How to make the most of your work experience and internships

If you’ve already secured your first internship, well done! Internships or work experience are an important stepping stone towards landing your first job and are a great opportunity to get your first taste of the working world. But how do you make the most of the opportunity? It’s easy to feel daunted by a new environment like a workplace, but if you focus on the learnings you can take away from it, you’ll have an amazing time. Here are a few tips to help you on your way.

Ask questions

As an intern, your colleagues won’t expect you to have extensive background knowledge in the work that you’ll do, but they’ll expect enthusiasm and interest. You can show this by asking questions.

You have strong communications skills from your DofE programme, so now it’s time to put them to good use. Remember that no question is stupid, and can be vital to ensure you understand the task at hand:

– When’s the deadline for this? Always ask about deadlines from your new managers, as that will help you to time manage. They’ll really appreciate your reliability when you meet the deadline every time.

– How did you get into your work? If you meet someone during your internship who has an interesting role, find out how they got there. It could help you find out what the best first job for you could be.

– What’s the best advice you can give to an intern? Many people have been an intern at some point, so can offer you some tips with the gift of hindsight.

Stay organised

Just like you needed to manage your time for your DofE activities, you need to manage your time at work as well. If you’re in an office environment, familiarise yourself with your online calendar so you know any meetings or training sessions you’re expected to attend.

Have you got the right stationary with you? Make sure you have a pen and paper handy at all times, so that you can take notes and write up to do lists. You’ll be given lots of tasks and information when you join, so it’s important to keep track of them.

Make mistakes – and learn from them

If it’s your first time in a workplace, expect to make a few mistakes. It’s natural to not get things right the first time, but providing you learn from them and demonstrate how you’re moving forward, then your colleagues will be understanding. The key is to not panic and, where necessary, escalate the problem to your manager, offer a solution and handle the situation maturely.

Use your initiative

You’ve had to think on your feet to solve problems before – for example, during your DofE expedition. Initiative is one of the most valuable, and rare skills that an employee can have. It may take a few days to get the lay of the land in your workplace, but once you’ve gauged how you can support your team, get going – they’ll appreciate that you’re thinking ahead.

If you’re not sure where to start on this, constantly ask yourself why things are happening at work, or ask one of your colleagues. Once you understand the goals and purpose of projects, you’ll be able to think independently how you can help.

Ultimately, an internship is an opportunity to learn outside of the classroom and develop those all-important ‘soft’ skills that you’ll have picked up from doing your DofE. Good luck, this is just the beginning of your career!

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