Less than 5% of students get a work experience opportunity during their time at university. Hence, it is very important that you plan and prepare well to make your work experience truly successful. For more information on work experience, you can check out if “work experience can really land you that dream grad job”.
- Focus on key skill-sets
Work experience opportunities are intended to build and demonstrate your abilities and skills that are valued by the employer. However, not all jobs require every skill and neither do all opportunities build every skill. So it is important that you plan out the 3-5 main skills that you wish to test, build and showcase to future employers. For example, if you plan to pursue a career in Sales and Marketing, it is important that you look for opportunities that allow you to develop strong communication and analytical skills.
- Build evidence of your skills
Plan to develop a clear output during your work experience opportunity. It could be a market analysis report, a short sales training video or a software code; whatever it is, ensure that the project has a concrete deliverable that verifies and confirms your abilities and performance. It will be even better if your employer/ sponsor offers a testimonial on that output; it becomes a powerful evidence of your skills. Use online platforms such as ProjectSet to capture and archive your outputs and testimonials in a digital portfolio that you can showcase to other employers (you can also perform the work on the platform). Don't just build the skills, illustrate them too.
- Test drive your desired career path
About a third of graduate recruits leave their first job within 24 months due to mismatch in expectation and reality. It is a disturbing statistic for both employers and graduates; it is indeed hard to restart a career and even lose out on the experience and goodwill of the first job. So it is important that you view your work experience opportunity as a “test-drive” or a “trial-run” to confirm that the career indeed is what you thought it would be. Find out if that ‘dream job’ is really the one. It is important that you keep an open mind and dispassionately re-assess your interest level for a preferred career path.
- Build your network
Don’t be shy to introduce yourself to new people in your employer organization. Explain what you are working on and proactively ask for inputs and ideas. You may indeed find a valuable one. And find an “anchor” (i.e. a legitimate reason) to keep in touch with them even after your assignment gets over. Ask for recommendations, when appropriate. You will not always get it right; but it is an important skill to have. And always be prepared to help and support them whenever you can.
- Shape the scope of work
Employers are sometimes flexible about the scope of work. So, explore the possibility to steer your assignment towards a favorite function or topic; this is particularly important if the suggested work content does not appeal to you. One clear way to do this is to proactively seek what you want. Reach out to various contacts directly and clearly spell out what you are looking for. Don’t restrict yourself when it comes to winning that dream opportunity or making further connections. Check out the 3 tips to find your work experience opportunity; you can also seek potential opportunities from your LinkedIn contacts or write to your dream employer (you have nothing to lose) even if they are in remote locations. It maximizes the chances of an opportunity and you can leverage the power of online platforms such as ProjectSet to deliver on remote projects. You can “access online internships anytime, anywhere”.
Of course, all these require careful planning, extensive research and a clear view of what you can achieve efficiently. It is never too early to get started; take advantage of public holidays, when off university gain more relevant experience where possible. Be the best you can be.