For so many graduates nowadays, it is a case of the chicken and the egg, ‘how do I get a job without work experience and how do I get work experience without a job?’ Internships can be a great way to get your foot in the door and gain invaluable experience in the workplace which, in turn, will improve your CV greatly. Anyone who has shown the initiative to gain relevant work experience is going to catch the eye of a potential employer.
But the most important thing to remember when on this work experience is to stand out in your job for all the right reasons. Unfortunately employers don’t always remember their first days working in a new environment and they expect everyone to know what they know and do what they do! This is your chance to make yourself invaluable to the team. If they are not in a position to offer you a full time job, you want them to write the most glowing reference or even better, personally recommend you. Many employers expect graduates to demonstrate a certain degree of employment skills which unfortunately are not taught in many third level courses and therefore they must be learnt ‘on the job’.
So what basics should you bear in mind when you walk in on the first day of your new work placement?
Remember the difference between:
- Self-confidence and over-confidence – You need to give your new employer the reassurance that you won’t panic the first time you are asked to do something, but neither will you go in all guns blazing leaving a trail of destruction behind you because you thought you could do it all on day one.
- Informal and formal behaviour – There is nothing wrong with shaking hands, greeting colleagues and taking a lead from their behaviour but sitting down with your feet on the desk is not how you try to show your colleagues that you are relaxed. Everyone is entitled to be nervous but it is how these nerves manifest themselves that need to be monitored.
- Initiative and standing with your hands in your pockets – If the telephone rings, answer it, what is the worst that can happen? A small thing like answering the telephone correctly may not sound like much, but it is amazing how many people don’t know how to do it. This is an example of how you can prove to the company they were right to offer you a placement. Showing initiative in helping a colleague or asking an intelligent question is going to draw attention to yourself for all the right reasons.
- Responsibility and shrugging your shoulders – When you are asked to do something in the office, do it and do it well. Just because you are asked to make the tea today doesn’t mean you won’t be asked to stay in at the meeting once you have brought in the tea. Everyone started somewhere and look upon every task you are given as the opportunity to prove you are invaluable to the company.
Your strengths, competences, skills and attitude can only improve on your work placement, so practice best business skills, use this opportunity and stand out in your work placement for all the right reasons. And remember, at the end of your internship – if you haven’t been lucky enough to be offered that full time job, write a thank you letter to your employer – good manners are NOT old fashioned but are remembered.
Helen Murphy is a Consultant with extensive experience in H. R. 15 years in the hospitality industry has given Helen the insight and experience into what is expected of employees. Giving practical and useful advice on CVs, interview preparation and customer service skills are her specialities. She has worked with undergraduates and postgraduates in several 3rd level institutions. Helen also currently works with entrepreneurs in Start Your Own Business Programmes.