Getting the most out of placements and internships

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Know your rights, how to get the most out of them and who to contact for help.

Before

Be clear about your expectations

If the role isn’t project-focused, try and fix some objectives with the organisation if possible. This will give the internship focus, show you are focused and help ensure you are given useful tasks.

Let them know what you want to do

Like the first point, this is about making it plain what you want to get from the experience. Obviously, you have to be realistic and diplomatic, but if you are interested in a particular area say so! The company won’t want you to be bored.


During

Make a great first impression

If you gain trust early on, you are more likely to be given responsibility for more interesting and important tasks.

Be proactive

Don’t wait to be given things to do. Be upfront with what you can offer the organisation and let them know what you can do to help. Rather than passively ask “what can I do?” say “I’m good at X, let me do it for you”. Organisations love to hear your ideas about how you can help and how things could be improved.

Take things seriously

You should treat your placement or internship like you would a job, so be smart, on time and professional. Showing a commitment to, and interest in the company, and not treating the opportunity as just experience for the CV, is a good way to line yourself up for a great reference or job with the firm later down the line.

Check out the office culture

Take note of how people dress and behave in the office. This will help you slot into the groove of things and make a good impression. It may also give you an insight into the kind of environments you would like to work in in the future.

Ask lots of good questions

This shows that you are switched on and interested in the work of the organisation. More importantly, you will get so much more out of the experience if you tap into all the knowledge and experience of those around you.

Ask for advice and feedback

This goes hand in hand with asking questions. More than anything, your placement or internship is a learning experience, whether in terms of skills or in terms of discovering if the sector is right for you.

Tell them if it’s not quite going to plan

If you feel that your time is not being well spent or if you want to try something different, you should try mentioning it to your supervisor. They don’t want you to have a poor experience, and if they don’t know how you feel, they can’t change things.

Stay positive

Sometimes, things don’t go as well as we would like them to. When this happens, it’s worth remembering that all experience is good experience; it hasn’t taken you further away from your ambitions and has given you a better sense of what you don’t want to do. Treat it all as a valuable learning experience and keep going. Being able to handle adversity well is an incredibly attractive trait to employers. That said, if it is really bad, do let us know at placements-internships (@gold.ac.uk).

Take notes

Take careful note of what you did, who you did it with, what you learnt and what you achieved. This will help you when it comes to job applications and interviews later down the line.


After

Follow up

If people invite you to stay in touch, do! Likewise, if they give you suggestions of things to try, or people to talk to, do so!

Thank you

It’s always important to finish the placement or  internship on a high note, especially if they are providing you with a reference. A thank you note to your supervisor and the boss is a nice touch that will help cement your relationship with the firm. Don’t forget to give them your contact details!

Reflect

This is perhaps the most important part. As well as being a great way to figure out your strengths and weaknesses, a placement or internship can help you decide where you want to go with your career. What tasks did you enjoy? What did you excel at? What would you avoid in future? Are there any areas of development you need to address? When the placement or internship is over, look back at your notes and try to answer some of these questions.

Update your CV

Now you have more experience and hopefully skills, it’s time to make sure that this is reflected in your CV.

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