Learnerships play an extremely important role in launching a professional career. Not only are they a preparatory tool, but they are also a means for networking. The job market is wildly competitive these days, making learnerships a necessity for any student hoping for employment after university.
There is so much that goes into a learnership and even more to get out of it. Make the best of your incredibly short but equally valuable time by following these quick tips for a successful learnership.
- First and foremost, set goals. Don’t start the job with unclear expectations. Determine what you want to get out of the learnership and how that fits into the scope of the position.
- Talk to your supervisor about your goals within the first week of your learnership, or before it starts if possible. The more you communicate your expectations (and vice versa), the better your experience will be.
- Do your research before starting. You may not be able to learn everything you need to know about the company online, but it’s a good place to start. Study the company website and any other materials made available to you so you aren’t diving in completely blind.
- Find out if college credit is offered. If you are not being paid, you might as well get the most you can out of it.
- Dress for success. This is a professional environment and you are being given a “trial run” of sorts. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.
- If your learnership is not Monday to Friday from 9AM to 5PM, consider securing more than one. Utilize your time to maximize your sources of knowledge.
- Be on time. Better yet, be early. Punctuality is an absolute must. Remind yourself that time is money, and your employer is essentially gifting you with theirs so that you can learn and grow.
- Put your phone away. The texts will still be there on your lunch break, and social media can wait.
- Take notes. There will be a lot of information coming at you from all directions and you will need to reference them at some point in time. It beats having to ask your supervisors to repeat themselves, and it looks good.
- Don’t tend to personal things on your work computer. Don’t get caught with Facebook open in a separate tab, don’t browse the internet, don’t do homework on work hours… don’t do anything but the job you signed up for.
- Ask questions. You’re there to learn, right? Your supervisor is there to teach and will expect questions. Clear up any points of confusion and feed your curiosity. This is your learnership, after all.
- Don’t rush home the moment the clock strikes 5PM. Stay late when necessary. Your superviser will notice your dedication to your work.
- Get to know your seniors. They sit where you want to sit, so ask about their daily tasks, where they’ve worked previously, what they did to get to where they are today, etc. People like to share their experiences and it will only help guide you toward where you want to be.
- Don’t limit yourself to your job description. If there are other things you want to learn (and you have time outside of your existing tasks), step outside the box and ask how you may get involved in certain projects or tasks of interest.
- Go above and beyond. Don’t just “get the job done.” If you are assigned a task and can take it to the next level, do it. Your boss will appreciate that you were proactive.
- Be professional and polite. Shake hands when meeting someone new, learn proper phone etiquette, say “please” and “thank you” like your parents taught you, and maintain a positive and enthusiastic attitude.
- Beat your deadlines. Complete tasks before your boss needs them to be done, opening doors for new projects. Just be sure to be efficient and thorough.
- Don’t “check out,” so to speak, if you don’t end up enjoying the job as much as you’d hoped. The point of a learnership is to figure out where you want to be professionally, and people often find that what they thought they wanted isn’t of as much interest as they thought. If that’s the case, remember that it won’t last forever and that there are still skills to be learned.
- Be open to picking up skills that may have been off your radar. You never know how they will benefit you in the future, or how they will help shape your career path.
- Have frequent meetings with your supervisor to review your initial list of goals to be sure that you are staying on track, and to establish new goals if anything comes up along the way.
- Don’t be too clique-y. If there are other interns or you happen to bond with an employee, don’t spend too much time socializing and avoid gossip altogether.
- On the contrary, socialize in a manner that is professional. Networking is important throughout your entire career, but it is particularly vital when you are first starting out. Your connections could influence the direction you take more than you realize!
- Ask for feedback throughout the learnership and at the end. This will not only show that you are open to doing what you can to do the job right, but that you want to be the best professional you can be. Don’t turn away from constructive criticism because it’s better to address negatives early than to carry them throughout your career.
- When it is over, request a recommendation and make it known that you would like to keep in touch about future opportunities or potential referrals down the line.
- Say thank you. When all is said and done, lasting impressions mean everything. Write a thank-you note to your supervisor and anyone else that went out of their way to teach you throughout your learnership.
Learnerships come with a wealth of lessons to be learned. Be sure to approach them with an open mind and to treat them like a real job!