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Durham University

Careers & Enterprise Centre

Making the Most of Work Experience

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Your work experience is a real opportunity to demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest in the role and organisation. depending on the length and type of work experience you may be given significant responsibility. Don't be afraid to ask for help or advice, make sure you listen carefully and apply your knowledge effectively. Also, it helps to be aware that staff have their own tasks and responsibilities to deal with so make effective use of your time, and theirs, by asking relevant questions when appropriate.

Being punctual, friendly and professional is obviously standard practice so make sure you think carefully about how to would like to demonstrate your value potential to the employer.

Here are some tips to making the most of your work experience:

Before you start:

  • Assess your skills and interests. Use these to decide what you want to get out of your placement and form an action plan.
  • Research the company/organisation and role so you're fully prepared.

While you're there:

  • Document everything you do (in the form of a diary or blog, for example); this will act as a useful reference when you're preparing for future applications or competency-based interviews.
  • Network! Spend time developing relationships with your co-workers and keep in contact once your placement has finished.
  • Be proactive, enthusiastic and interested. Don't be afraid to make suggestions, ask questions or contribute ideas.

After your placement:

  • Reflect on the experience. Was is what you expected? Did you find the work interesting and company culture appealing? Did it fit in with your values? Think about whether a career in that area might suit you in the long term.
  • Your work experience could lead to a graduate job offer. Congratulations if this does happen! Think carefully about whether or not to accept. Consider the realities of working as a graduate within the organisation and whether or not this is something you can commit to.
  • Send a letter or email thanking the organisation for the opportunity. It is a good idea to ask for feedback to identify your strengths and development needs.
  • If appropriate, ask whether your supervisor or line manager will provide a reference in the future.