April Parker - The golden rules of work experience
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Whether you have bagged yourself a month-long placement or you are only shadowing for a day, each second counts. Based on hindsight and past experiences, I have compiled a list of four ‘Golden Rules’ that will help you make the most out of your work experience.
1. Appreciate the fact that you are there
Each year it is becoming more and more difficult to stick your foot in the door and gain work experience. With that being said, appreciate your position in the firm and learn from those who may be in different positions to you. Do not try to impress the senior partner more than the receptionist, as what you will find is that many firms are tightly knit and several departments converse with each other on a daily basis.
Each and every employee holds value to their employer and they are there for a reason. This is a fact that should not be underestimated.
2. Never say no
In a previous placement, I was asked to sit through a client interview. This opportunity seemed incredibly daunting as I was not fully aware of what the case was about and I did not want to look unprepared. However, after sitting through the interview, not only had a weight been lifted off my shoulders, but I also realised that underneath the cloud of legal jargon was a genuine and human relationship between lawyers and their clients. Even though I did not learn much about the case, I certainly learnt how crucial it is for lawyers to develop a working relationship with their client and to tailor their approach to each case.
3. Speaking of relationships…use your time to network
It would be a shame if the best contact you managed to make during your placement was the office’s holy-grail coffee machine! For most of the employees, it is just another day in the office, whereas for you it is a rare chance to speak to people who have been in your shoes and who are currently in shoes you may want to wear in the future. Networking has proved to be vital to and has led subsequent opportunities to arise after my placement.
4. Try to make a positive and lasting impression
Although this may be difficult to achieve in a larger firm, your goal is to make members of the firm remember you so that if you were to apply for a training contract, they would instantly recall their positive experience with you. Many firms offer some version of work experience, and the last thing you want to do is fall down the black hole of forgotten work experiencers.
These rules apply not only to law-related experiences, but to any career that you may wish to pursue. If you keep a positive and open mind throughout your work experience, you are bound to make the best out of it!
April Parker is a first-year law student at the University of Sheffield.