Prepare And Increase Your Value
Once you have secured your work experience opportunity, you need to start preparing for it so that you can make the most of your experience and impress your employer.
Before your placement
If your placement is part of your course at JCU, make sure you know the expected learning outcomes and any assessment requirements before you start your placement.
Understand the terms of your placement
Find out where you should go, the days and times you will work, and the name and contact details of your supervisor/contact person. Be clear about what is expected of you and what to expect from your workplace.
What is expected of you?
- Be aware of the workplace health and safety policy, procedures and practices
- Perform in accordance with corporate aims
- Follow accepted attendance patterns and times
- Report to your supervisor as directed
- Clarify expectations
What to expect from your workplace
- A safe workplace environment
- An induction program or learning agreement that will help you to familiarise yourself with other staff, and workplace expectations and conditions
- Provide you with appropriate supervision and support
For information on basic conditions in the workplace visit – www.fairwork.gov.au
Although you have researched the industry, company and its culture before your interview, it’s important to refresh your search, so that you have as much updated information as possible. Find out everything you can from the company’s website and social media channels, press releases (about the company and its competitors), and even reviews and feedback from users or customers.
Check the LinkedIn profiles of the organisation's staff, so that when you begin your internship your supervisors and co-workers won’t feel like complete strangers. You could also email the employer to see if there is any extra reading or preparation work you can do before you start. The more you know before you start, the more you will gain from the experience and the more likely they will be to view you as professional, rather than just an intern.
Setting specific personal and professional goals can help to make the most of your experience. It is a good idea to create a list of your goals and any questions you have about the role, so that you are ready to discuss these with your employer when you begin.
You will need to think about how you will fit your work experience into your schedule. You may need to reprioritise your part-time job, family duties, and social life to allow you to focus on your work experience and study commitments.
What to take
A pen and notepad will probably be supplied for you, but it won’t hurt for you to take a bag or case with your own small notepad and pen (and/or electronic device) – you are going to learn a lot of information quickly, and you will want to take notes.
What to wear
Plan your clothing ahead of time, make sure that your wardrobe reflects the environment that you will be working in, and follow all instructions regarding Personal Protective Equipment, if applicable. Think back to your interview and recall what others wore in the office/lab/on site. If you are unsure, contact your supervisor and ask for guidance. What you wear will help to form a great first impression.
Practice your commute
Make sure that you know where you are going and where you will park, so that you can arrive 5-10 minutes early. Do a practice run of the commute beforehand at the same time that you would be commencing work – this will minimise stress and mishaps on your first day.
During your placement
Your first day
Your first day is likely to include administrative tasks and lots of reading to help get you set up, settled in, and familiar with processes. You will be given an orientation, which might include a tour and completing an online induction. There will be lot of information to process, which could feel overwhelming at first, so take notes. If you are unclear on what is expected of you by your employer, or vice versa, seek clarification as quickly as possible.
Make sure you know the answers to the following questions:
- Where to find resources and answers on your own, when possible
- Who to seek guidance from or ask questions when needed
- How your employer will deliver feedback on your performance
You will be introduced to lots of new faces, but your manager may not be able to introduce to everyone in the office, so be prepared to go around and introduce yourself. Taking the initiative to meet your co-workers will help set a good tone for your ability to establish personal and professional relationships.
The purpose of an internship/placement is to learn from the experts, discover what you are and aren’t interested in, and trial different jobs and areas of specialisation. You will not be expected to know everything. Don’t be shy about asking questions as it shows you are willing to learn, are motivated, and have a genuine interest in your job. Be tactful about when, where and how often you ask questions – remember, there are no silly questions.
Treat it like a real job
Make sure you share your ideas, get your work done in timely manner and get involved in the business. Paid or unpaid, this is a real job and your tasks (big or small), and the way you interact with clients will impact on the organisation. If you make a mistake, you should acknowledge it and find a way to fix it. Don’t make excuses or try to hide it.
Make sure you capitalise on your time with the company and take the opportunity to meet as many of your co-workers as possible – especially those in other departments. If you are working in a big company, you may only have the chance to work closely with certain people in one specific area. This is why it is important for you to make a conscious effort to build quality relationships and make connections with people throughout the whole company. It’s a small world, you never know who you may meet that could possibly support you in the future.
Ask for feedback
Some supervisors will be good at giving you positive and constructive feedback, while others may be less forthcoming. If they know it is important to you, they may be more likely to give it.
Write down and reflect daily on any useful information about particular tasks you’ve done and skills you have gained, and keep track of specific facts and figures about your performance and achievements. That way you will have a record of everything you need to help you to sell your course relevant experience in future job applications.
Access your support team
Fitting your placement into your already busy schedule can mean you have a lot to juggle. Let your family, friends and work colleagues know you are going to be extra-busy and ask for help and understanding.
How to stand out
If you really want to impress your boss and be earmarked for future opportunities follow these tips!
- Exceed expectations and get creative – go above and beyond on the work you are delivering. Aim to work fast but effectively. If you can identify something that could be done better or could add value, then approach your supervisor with your suggestion for improvement/s.
- Be friendly, helpful and show initiative – if you have run out of tasks to do, you can identify tasks that need doing, ask for more work, or enquire if someone could use some help. Getting along with your co-workers will also show you are a good fit with the company culture.
- Anticipate their needs – an employee that can offer meaningful help or support before a supervisor asks for it (or realises they need it) will stand out from those who just tick off their to-do list.
- Be flexible and calm under pressure – remember to remain calm when a challenge or problem arises as this will help you think more logically about the best way to respond. Your professional attitude to the way you handle a problem will stand out, even if you don’t know exactly how to deal with the issue.
Things to avoid at work:
- Stay off your mobile phone and don’t send text messages, unless you are on a break. Even if other co-workers are on their personal phones, it’s best to avoid such practices. Set your phone to vibrate if you must have your mobile phone at work.
- Don’t engage in idle gossip about other colleagues or your boss, or ‘bad mouth’ them.
- Don’t get involved in any banter which might have sexual or discriminatory overtones.
- Don’t assume something is acceptable practice, get familiar with the rules first.
- Don’t assume you know more about the industry or organisation than the staff working there. Be humble, grateful, and willing to take guidance.
- Save social media for your lunch break (unless it is part of your job). When on social media, don’t post anything negative about your employer or your work experience. These posts have a way of coming back to haunt you, and can cost you your job and reputation.
How to deal with conflict at work
How you deal with conflict can turn a negative experience into a more positive one. Conflict can also be helpful to an organisation as it encourages open-mindedness. You will experience conflict at some point, and you need to learn how to manage it effectively.
Tips on dealing with conflict:
- Remain calm and control your emotions
- Listen actively
- Be respectful and understanding of others opinions
- Consider how you might have contributed to the conflict
- Try to be assertive in your communication
- Try to put things into perspective and reach a compromise
- Take note of what triggered the conflict
- Journal and reflect on the situation to learn what went well and what didn’t
- Try not to hold onto conflict – deal with it and move on
- Seek support if the conflict can’t be resolved or needs to be escalated
Whilst on your work experience you may encounter behaviours or observe things that you feel are unreasonable, which can be challenging. Remember that people and organisations have different thinking and communication styles in the same way that people ask different sorts of questions in different cultures. We all have various ways of doing things and must respect each other’s differences in and out of the workplace.
If you are experiencing conflict or feel you are being treated unfairly during your work experience, watch the step-by-step videos on Managing Conflict in a Workplace.
To view this video, login to LinkedIn Learning through the JCU website and then search for ‘How to Get the Most from Your Temporary Work Placement’.