Posted by: hannahefriend | November 19, 2011

Becoming more employable Part Two: Work that experience

Want the x-factor in a job interview? Get some work experience, and work it. Get as much as possible, and you’ll have loads to talk confidently and enthusiastically about in an interview.

This summer I was unbelievably fortunate enough to get a contact for one of the editors at the Guardian newspaper. She happened to know my former headmistress and went on the train with my Dad, which worked in my favour.
Luck had got me this far, but I had to make the most of the situation. If you can get an email address or a phone number, you’re half way there. I sent a friendly email explaining my situation, asking for any amount of work experience I could get, and hoped. I received a lovely reply, and we arranged a week in July. After meeting up for a coffee the week before, I got on the train to London. Despite initial nerves, I had a fantastic week, and was asked to go back for another week, and then two more in August.

And once you’ve arranged a date, here’s some really simple advice on how to make the most of an opportunity, however small.

– Be friendly, likeable and approachable
Do absolutely everything possible – even if it’s something small which ‘isn’t urgent’, people will appreciate that you took the time and effort. And if it’s something really big, even better. I was asked to do some research and write a piece for the Careers network blog; I’d never written a blog before and had no idea how to go about writing it. But I went for it, and now have something to show from the work experience and a valuable skill.
– Stay in contact with the people you meet – get connected on LinkedIn, preferably with a recommendation, or on Twitter.
– If you’re asked to go back – go out of your way to do this.
– Get to know your colleagues, and take the time to ask about their career paths.
– Take cookies/chocolate/sweets in to brighten up everyone’s day.
– Show your appreciation of the opportunity, express your enjoyment and how much you’ve learned and you might just get asked back (fingers crossed). Make sure you send a thank you email or card on completion of your placement.

Another tip I’ve found useful is to keep a note of what I’ve done and what skills I’ve learned. This is a good way of jogging your memory when it comes to adding the placement to your CV, or discussing it in an interview.

And lastly, do remember to enjoy your placement as well as getting as much as possible out of it!

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