Written by Rachel Shepherd, Editor, Graduate Prospects, May 2012
Work experience is important to help you progress in your job hunt but it’s only worthwhile if you can translate what you have learnt to an employer. We give you ways to do this.
Students and graduates often fall down in interviews when asked for examples of their skills in questions such as, ‘show me a time when you have had to work as part of a team.’ This is because some have no experience of the working world but doing work experience can help with this.
Writing down what you have done on your placement may seem like a chore but compare that to having to recall three weeks later how you collated that report in your second week.
You should list all of the tasks that you completed looking at: the skills you picked up; achievements you had; difficulties faced; and any good feedback an employer gave you. However small it may seem, write it down as the more you write the more examples you will have to draw on at interviews.
Laura Hobson did a four-week placement at a PR agency over the summer and she found it useful to keep a diary of her time.
‘I took a notebook with me every day and on the train home I would write down what I had done that day. Whether this was my part in a major campaign or just the fact that I had attended my first formal company meeting and learnt more about how companies operate.
‘When I graduated I had several interviews at different PR firms and was able to draw upon the examples in my diary to show that I had some knowledge of a working firm – what happens on a day-to-day basis and the challenges they can face.’
As well as what has happened on your placement think about what came before it. Applying for work experience can often be harder than the actual placement itself and so make the most of it when talking to employers.
Sending out a number of speculative applications can show a great deal of initiative and so make sure employers know this. If you don’t hit the jackpot the first time and have to send out 20 applications before you land a placement make sure you mention the perseverance that you showed. Although be careful to ensure that employers don’t start to question why you didn’t get the fist few placements.
‘I sent a number of speculative applications to a particular company that I wanted to work for detailing what I could offer them and why I wanted to work there. I was finally invited to interview for a placement and was told that it was my initiative and perseverance that made me stand out from the 30 other applicants they had,’ says Craig Forshaw, an accountancy graduate.
So, next time you’re sat in an interview and an employer says to you ‘can you tell me when you have shown initiative’ you should hopefully be prepared to rhyme off relevant examples starting with ‘on my work placement I had to…’
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