10 golden rules for work experience
With many students doing some form of work placement over the summer, Suzanne Collier of bookcareers.com shares her top ten tips for making the most of it.
This article first appeared in issue 7 of Publishing Talk Magazine.
Reading Time: 3 minutes
1. Be well-presented
There is no need to wear your ‘Sunday best’ but before the placement ask if there is a dress code. If you are still unsure wear something ‘smart casual’ on your first day and gauge the rest of the dress code from there. Don’t overdo jewellery or make up; keep it subtle and professional.
2. Be prepared
Before your first day remind yourself about who the company is and what they do; visit their website, google them. Maybe make a list of questions about things you would like to know about them or learn and don’t be afraid to ask.
3. Be on time
Know how long your journey will take, allow extra time for delays and make sure you know the name of the person you should report to when you first arrive. Do not turn up late. If you are running late because of public transport delays (you shouldn’t be; you allowed enough time) then phone and let them know you will be late. This is the first impression someone will get of you, make sure it is a good one.
4. Be friendly and approachable
…even if you are having a bad day. Smile and appear helpful. You are there for the experience. Even if it appears an unfriendly atmosphere, persevere, you are only there for a short while. Better that you are remembered for being the person who was always smiling rather than the person who was always grumpy.
5. Always be enthusiastic
…however mundane the task – and some tasks that you might get given will seem pretty mundane.
6. Ask questions
There is no such thing as a stupid question. When you are being briefed for a task, if you are unsure about how to proceed or have any questions about how to process the task then do ask. However try not to get yourself in a situation where you are asking too many questions and preventing someone else from working.
7. Take the opportunity to learn
If you get the opportunity to learn or use new software or a different computer program, or method of working then USE IT! You might not get the opportunity again – and you add to your own skill set in the meantime.
8. Make friends and contacts
If someone within the company is doing a particular job or role that you would like to do in the future, ask their advice or opinion – they may be wrong(!) or unable to help you further but they could be right in helping you ascertain your goal.
9. Have realistic expectations.
Don’t go into work experience thinking that it will automatically lead to a job within a publisher, even if they have a vacancy. But remember if they did have a vacancy, by following rules 1-6 you may be able to prove that you are their ideal candidate.
10. Be cautious about unpaid placements
Once you have graduated we do not recommend that anyone accepts unpaid placements. If, in addition to pay, the company have said they will pay your travel or other expenses and you haven’t yet received them, then don’t be afraid to ASK. If it was part of the arrangement you should not feel uncomfortable about asking for something that was agreed.