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How to know when to pack in a work experience placement

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So, you’ve managed to bag yourself a work experience placement for a few weeks over the holidays. You’re super excited because it’s in exactly the industry you want to work in and should be a foot in the door.

When done properly, a placement can be extremely useful, providing you with insider knowledge of the industry, how companies work within that industry, and the sort of roles you could be applying for. However, you can be taken advantage of, and when the placement is somewhere like London, that’s not only frustrating because you aren’t learning anything, but because you’re also expending a lot of time and money for the privilege. If you aren’t learning anything, there’s no reason at all that you should stick around. Here’s how to know when you should start thinking about packing in a placement.

How they treat you when you turn up

When you walk in, is the office expecting you? Do they have a desk set up for you? Are you introduced to lots of people? Does everyone seem happy to meet you? These are some questions you should ask yourself on your first day. If it doesn’t seem like a place is expecting you, alarm bells should start ringing straight away, as they probably won’t have the next item on this list…

… A plan

A good work experience placement will have a comprehensive plan for what you will be doing during your time with the company. This should include shadowing a particular member of staff or a particular department (hopefully of your choice), and things they hope you will gain from the placement, such as knowledge of this department or how to use that particular piece of software. If you walk in and get told to sit around until someone finds something for you to do (no joke, this actually happened to me), then get outta there ASAP!

How much filing are you doing?

It is a well-known stereotype that work experience placements are two weeks of filing experience. Yes, filing is a horrible job, and yes, the company is going to want their free labour to get a bit of it out the way. This is no surprise, and should definitely be expected from a placement. If your filing duties are interspersed with some really interesting stuff that is useful for your future career prospects, then suck it up and help the company out. If filing and photocopying are all you’re doing, I would suggest that you let the company employ an actual administrator, and tell them where to shove it (whilst also being very polite and thanking them for the opportunity).

Work experience placements are a challenge both for the company and the student, but if both parties put effort in then both are sure to get something valuable out of it. However, if the company is simply using you as cheap labour, it is not your duty to stay and provide that if you aren’t getting anything back from them.

Have you ever had to pack in a work experience placement? What happened? Let us know in the comments below.

Photo: Jay Springett / Flickr

Samantha HoppsHow to know when to pack in a work experience placement

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