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Finding a summer work placement and the job itself

For many, the route to the perfect job begins with a summer work placement. Either way, the first day at work an important chance to make a good impression.

To get summer work, your engineering department may already have links with major clients, contractors or consultants
  • If you want to work near home, look at geographical listings for companies in your area – or if you know you want to try a particular specialism seek out firms in these sectors. You can search companies by area or specialism on the NCE website.
  • When you find a company, go to its website, as this should give information on work placements and how to apply.
  • Large consultants and contractors may visit your university looking for students to join them. Use these visits to find out about holiday work placements and the deals they offer if your placement works out well. If all this sounds a bit like applying for a job – it is. These companies are thinking of you as a potential employee, and they expect you to be taking it just as seriously.

THE JOB

You have landed yourself a job, but the next hurdle is the first day at work. Most employers will write a "probation period" into employment contracts, usually three months. Think of this as your trial period and concentrate on creating a good impression. Here are some hints to help you through the first day. They are just as relevant for holiday placements as your first full-time job.

THE WEEK BEFORE...

  • Confirm when the working day starts and when they want you in on the first day. Also confirm the location.

  • Find out the dress code and plan what to wear. If you need to wear a suit, make sure it is clean.

  • Work out your travel arrangements. If you are driving, do you need a permit for the car park? If you are using public transport plan your journey.

THE DAY BEFORE...

  • Iron your shirt, set your alarm and get a good night’s sleep.

  • Do not calm your nerves with a few drinks. Turning up on your first day hung over and smelling of alcohol will not do you any favours.

ON THE DAY...

  • Be on time.

  • Make sure you look smart, clean and tidy.

  • Be open, friendly, and willing to learn and work hard.

  • Do not be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand something you have been asked to do, ask for clarification.

  • Remember the names of your colleagues. If you are working in an office, draw a plan to map out where your new workmates sit.

  • Make friends. Be on your best behaviour and try to get on with everyone.

  • Do not use the work phone/email for personal use.

WHAT TO DO IF THE JOB OF YOUR DREAMS IS NOT WHAT YOU EXPECT

Hopefully your new job will live up to all your expectations, but what if the dream job turns out to be a nightmare? The first thing is not to panic or make any rash decisions. Most graduates feel a culture shock in their first job.

If you find yourself in this situation, follow this plan to help you decide if you can stick it out or if you should start looking for another job:

  • What is the problem? By pinning down exactly what it is you dislike about your new job you will be one step closer to solving the problem.

  • What can you do to help the situation? Think about practical actions you can take to solve the problems facing you at work. Then do it.

  • How long have you been in the job? Usually, people take three months to settle in to a new job properly, so make sure you give it a fair chance. If things are still no better, reconsider your position.

  • Ask yourself if moving job will really solve the problem. If you feel that the industry itself is not for you, you may have to rethink your career plans.

  • Talk to your boss about your concerns. If your boss is the problem, find someone that you can talk to in confidence to voice your concerns. Go into that meeting with a positive attitude towards finding a solution, participate fully and stress your desire to succeed at the job. Don’t use it as an opportunity to moan.

  • If this doesn’t improve the situation and you still want to leave, think about how long you will need to stay in your current job to get enough experience to move on.

  • If you decide to leave, keep positive. Learn from the experience. Did you go for the wrong kind of job? Do you now know what will suit you better?

  • Find another job before you hand in your notice.

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