Before you start your experience
1 Stock up on your sleep. Well, you don’t want to turn up knackered on your first day do you?! Trust us when we say that falling asleep at your desk is not a good look. You’re unlikely to perform at your best when you’re tired, so make sure you get plenty of ZZZZZs in the days leading up to your year 10 work experience. A solid seven to eight hours of sleep will do you the world of good.
2 Know where you need to go. Don’t leave it to the very first morning of your work placement to think about where you’re going and how you need to get there. No one wants to be in a panic on their first day, and you definitely don’t want to be late. Before you’re due to start, work out where the company is based and how to get there. Think about directions, routes, travel times and public transport. If you want to be extra careful, write down some notes on your phone (or print them out), take some screenshots, or save the map so you can access it easily at short notice.
3 Research the company. You may or may not have already done some research on the company – depending on whether you had an interview or not – but it’s a good idea to refresh your memory before you begin. We’re not talking about memorising its entire history or anything like that, but just gaining an understanding of what it does and what markets it operates in. This will not only give you an idea of what to expect, but will also give you a chance to show off what you know if anyone asks you a question about the company.
Don’t leave it to the very first morning of your work placement to think about where you’re going and how you need to get there.
4 Freshen up your wardrobe. Starting work experience year 10 at a new company is a great excuse to spruce up your outfit, especially as you’ll want to look smart and fit in with the company culture. Every organisation is different, with some being more corporate than others, so if in doubt there’s no harm in you contacting the company and asking what’s best. If you’re unsure, remember that smarter is better, so just go with a sharp blazer and dark skirt / trousers.
5 Be a keen bean and reach out. So, your first day is firmly scheduled in your diary. That doesn’t mean you can’t reach out before you start. You might want to arrange a meeting with your manager, if you want to learn a bit more about them, their role (or your role) and the company in advance. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a long meeting – it could be a ten minute chat over coffee – but even a quick meeting will give you a better idea of what to expect when you start your summer work experience.
6 Think about what you want to achieve. It can be helpful to have a goal in mind before you begin. You don’t have to go crazy and set yourself loads of goals. Just spend a few minutes thinking about what you want to get out of the placement and how it will help you to develop new job skills. Having a goal in mind will help you stay focused during your technology work experience and perform at your best.
7 Ask for advice. If this is going to be your first real taste of working in a professional environment, ask for some advice from people you know. This could be your parents, brothers or sisters, relatives, teachers or friends. Basically anyone who can offer you some tips on how to act and what to expect from a business environment.
8 Final preparation. Make sure you’ve got everything in order before you begin. Look through any information you’ve been sent by the company, know how you’re going to get there, make sure you’ve got everything that you need (for example any documents you’ve been asked to take) and that your bag is packed and ready to go.
During your IT work experience
9 Wakey wakey rise and shine. It’s definitely a good idea to get up early on your first day (well, on every day for that matter). Go to bed early, get plenty of sleep and set your alarm early too. Give yourself loads of time to get ready so that you’re not rushing. You’ll probably want to leave early too so that you don’t get delayed or held up along the way. Okay, so you might be sat in reception for a little while, but it’s better to be early than late.
10 Show your confidence. It’s important not to mistake confidence for arrogance. Confidence comes from being at ease, and from being welcoming and friendly to everyone you meet. Smile, shake people’s hands, say hello and ask questions. That’s about all there is to it. You don’t have to be loud or showy to make an impression.
11 Yes, you can ask questions. You’re not expected to know everything. In fact, you undertake student jobs to learn, so it’s natural that you’re going to have questions to ask. So go ahead and ask them! However, people are busy, so try to pick a good time to do so. Also, avoid asking obvious questions just for the sake of it, and also don’t be scared to use your initiative. If you think you can work something out for yourself then give it a go.
12 Check the office culture. Every workplace is different, some are more casual than others. In some it might be perfectly fine to have your phone out and text every now and then – in others not so much! It’s unlikely that you’ll know this straight away, so spend some time working out what the office culture is. If you’re in doubt, it’s okay to check with a colleague.
Ask for regular feedback so that you can work out where you can improve.
13 Pack a pen and a notebook. Yep, it goes without saying that the vast majority of companies will have plenty of pens and pads to hand, so you’ll probably be fine. But on the off chance that the company has chosen that day to run out of office supplies, it’s a good idea to take your own anyway. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail and all that.
14 Do a drinks round. Work experience placements are about more than just making people cups of tea or coffee, but it’s still a good idea to ask people if they want a drink and offer to do a drinks round every now and then. If anything, it’s a way to break the ice and speak to different people, so putting the kettle on may well be worth your while.
15 It’s okay to leave on time. You may think that staying behind late is the best way to make a positive impression, but honestly that’s not the case. Working hard and contributing effectively is the best way to make a good impression. So don’t force yourself to stay behind for hours on end for no good reason. You are allowed to leave on time! However, having said that, it’s also not a good idea to watch the clock and rush out of the door as soon as home time comes around.
16 It’s good to talk. This may sound weird…but make sure you know how to use an office phone. But a phone’s just a phone, right? Well, maybe. But you need to find out if there’s a standard greeting to use when answering a company phone, as well as whether or not you’re expected to pick up calls for your colleagues if they’re away from their desks. It’s a good thing to know.
17 E is for email. We’re all used to sending loads of messages, from texts to emails. But work emails can be quite different to personal ones. They should be written professionally, with solid spelling and grammar, signed off politely and no ‘text’ speak. Also, two things to remember – don’t forget to include an attachment if you need to send one, and also check who you’re sending it to. For example, don’t reply all unless you definitely mean to!
Your job experience is a great chance for you to learn, meet new people and develop new work skills.
18 Ask for people’s contact details. It’s worth asking for your manager’s contact details on the first day, so that if you’re ever late or ill you can send them a message to let them know. You don’t want to worry them after all.
19 Double-check what your hours are. Sounds obvious, but there’s no harm in making sure you know what hours you’re supposed to be doing during your work experience London, by checking with your manager when you’re meant to start, when you can take lunch, and when the day ends.
20 Learn how to listen. Being able to listen effectively is a great skill to have. By keeping your ears, as well as your eyes, open, you can learn about opportunities to get involved with projects, as well as new developments in the company. You’ll also be able to soak up the professional atmosphere and learn from your colleagues around you.
21 Your manager is there to help. While it’s true that your manager is likely to be very busy with, well, management, they’re still there to offer you guidance, support and help. They’re also likely to be interested in your progress, so spend some time speaking to them and getting as much advice from them as you can. Ask for regular feedback so that you can work out where you can improve.
22 Expect an icy reception. And by this we mean expect icebreakers. These are games or activities designed to encourage interaction between you and your co-workers. They’re normally pretty light-hearted and informal, so don’t worry too much about them. It’s just worth being aware of them, and having a quick introduction prepared about who you are and what you’re doing with the company so that you’re not caught out.
23 Take the opportunity to network. One of the really great things about summer jobs is that they offer you the chance to interact with industry professionals and build up a network of contacts. Knowing people in the industry can be very valuable to your future career, as you never know what opportunities will come up, or who you’ll bump into down the line. It’s also worth creating a LinkedIn account before you start your year 10 work experience placements, so that you can easily connect with the people you meet and start to build up a professional profile.
24 Meet a mentor. While your manager is there to help you, they may be too busy to spend a lot of time with you during your work placement. If that’s the case, you may benefit from seeing if someone else in the organisation can act as a mentor for you, by taking some time to sit down with you and discuss your personal and professional development. The company may even have a mentoring scheme already in place to help you with this.
25 Enjoy it. This one is very important – make sure you enjoy yourself and have fun! Your job experience is a great chance for you to learn, meet new people and develop new work skills. Who knows, this could even be the start of a long and successful career for you.
After you’ve finished your work placement
26 Say thanks. Once you’ve completed your year 11 work experience, make sure you drop your manager a line to say thank you for their help and support. You don’t need to do it straight away. Leave it for a few days, and then send a polite email to say thanks for the experience and that you’d be interested to hear about any future job opportunities with the company. You never know what might come of it.
27 Reflect on what you learned. It’s a good idea to spend time reflecting on what you got out of the placement, and what you learned from it. Think about what you enjoyed, what you think you did well, what you could do better, what you didn’t enjoy, and what job skills you used or developed. By honestly evaluating your performance, you can focus on improving and doing even better next time around.
It’s a good idea to spend time reflecting on what you got out of the placement, and what you learned from it.
28 Spread the word. If you enjoyed your work shadowing placements, let as many people know as possible! It’s important to spread the message about the value of work experience, so speak to your friends, as well as posting about it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – or whatever social profiles you use.
29 Update your CV. Now that you’ve got some professional experience behind you, you can create a work experience CV that includes information about where you worked, what projects you were part of and what work skills you developed. Remember to keep your LinkedIn profile up to date too, as this is a really good way for employers to find and contact you.