Any Work Experience You Have As A Student Can Be Impressive If You Make It So!
Are you worried that you are in a job or role that appears to have no connection with where your degree is leading. Or where you want to be when you graduate? Whether you’re working in fast food, retail or clerical, any work experience can impress any future employer if approached in the right way. The two issues are what you put into and get out of the experience, and then how you describe this in your CV or resume.
In any job that you have, even if it’s unpaid, make sure you have a basic job description so that you know what’s expected in your role. Refer to it often so that you can discuss any obstacles to doing what’s required with your work colleagues or manager. Be aware that some job descriptions may be very general and differ from what is expected in practice.
Think about your preferred personal learning style. Some people learn best by being shown, while others prefer to be given the basics plus written resources such as a procedures manual. When learning new tasks or being given instructions have a notebook handy and make good notes. If the organisation doesn’t have a procedures manual or a summary of operational tasks relating to your area of work, maybe you could write one.
Ask for performance feedback. This shows initiative, self-reflection and the desire for performance improvement, and willingness to accept constructive feedback. It also allows you face-to-face time to get to know managers or supervisors better. If the feedback is positive you may want to ask the person to provide the feedback in a written format so that you have something to refer to, particularly if there are learning points from your meeting. If later you want to ask them for a letter of reference, it can be handy to return the feedback to them to refresh their memory.
You don’t need to be a manager to learn what works in relation to managing people and what makes a successful team or workplace. It may be interesting to analyse your work place. Many companies will ask for evidence of how you work, your interpersonal skills, and your potential to lead others. What is the culture in your workplace in relation to communicating with customers, dealing with problems or complaints, and managing staff performance? What do you think of the management style you are exposed to and how do others you work with respond to being managed? Are there internal or external factors that have led to the establishment of the company’s culture? What would you do differently if you were asked to manage or make decisions there?
Be prepared to Network and seek out information and potential mentors in your immediate team or elsewhere in the organisation. If there is a lot of expertise in your organisation, tap into it. Ask colleagues for 15 minutes of their break time or after work, to talk about what they like most about their work, how they got into it and future trends and challenges. If there are employees working in the area that you aspire to, seek them out. This is called information interviewing. If they agree to provide the time, you provide the coffee – make sure you know their preference.
Keep a log of what happens in your work place. Your successes, hurdles and problems you have overcome, your reflections on your performance, the skills being developed and emerging strengths. The e-Portfolio on CareerHub may be a useful tool for this, and you have continued free access to this as a Victoria Alumni.
When it’s time to move on to a new roles, a nice card to staff and maybe a few cupcakes goes a long way to making them feel that you appreciated them as colleagues. Include a message in the card letting them know of your immediate plans and include your email or linkedIn address.