This week, The Smarty Train had the pleasure of hosting Dixon for his work experience. In true Smarty fashion, Dixon got stuck into a wide range of tasks with our various teams, and has summarised his learnings from this week in the post below. Thanks Dixon!

A recent survey found that 93% of business leaders in the UK want the government to reinstate compulsory work experience, with more than two-thirds stating that it would better prepare students for the workplace, and over half stating that it would instil a strong work ethic. With this in mind, it’s crucial that work experiences are done right.

Being in the workplace for the first time can be startling, but equipping yourself with the right knowledge can make it a powerful, potentially life-altering experience: it’s the first plank in the bridge between you as a student and you as a working adult. My name is Dixon, and I recently had my work experience at The Smarty Train (not once, but twice – both virtually and in person).

If you’re looking to make the most of your work experience, here are some tips based on my great experiences at TST:

Tip One: Ask questions when you don’t know

Getting lost isn’t fun, whether you’re out hiking or during your work experience. I have found myself lost when doing both – though being lost in piles of acronyms, percentiles and spreadsheets made the latter a very different kind of challenge.

After reaching out and clarifying when I wasn’t sure on something, I found understanding the processes of the business and workplace much easier, and it consequently made the experience a lot more valuable.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions – the workplace is always going to be unfamiliar to someone more familiar with the classroom! Try to remember that ultimately, they are both learning experiences, so don’t be afraid. People are there to help you learn.

Tip Two: Be open to trying new things

Your work experience is the perfect opportunity to find a niche that you enjoy, and potentially even pursue later into your career development post-work experience. Try new things, however difficult they may be. That may sound like a cliché (and it is!) but it’s essential to keep this in mind, especially if you don’t know what you’ll do in the future.

For me, data entry was a valuable experience to try out as it helped me learn about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) programs, which I didn’t even know existed, despite their importance to growing businesses like The Smarty Train.

In addition to finding your passion, trying new things will broaden your skill set, making you more flexible and competitive as a potential employee as it puts you a step ahead in CVs and personal statements. One of the new things I tried during my time at The Smarty Train was data metrics, which are critical to business benchmarking. Although I initially found them daunting and outlandish, I was able to gain new mathematical and statistical skills by working on them.

Tip Three: Reach out, be available and keep yourself busy

Your work experience will be over before you know it, so try to make sure you are always doing something worthwhile and productive with your time. If you find yourself in a calm period, be proactive and ask about ways you can help. Taking control of your learning is the best way to shape your plans for the future and reinforce your personal areas of strength, whilst also helping out your employer. Win-win!

Proactivity will also improve your soft skills such as communication skills, work ethic, people skills and much more! Reaching out to people can be a daunting task – and I can certainly empathise with those introverts who would prefer not to – but it will pay for itself in building up your confidence.

I learnt these tips from my various experiences at The Smarty Train, and I hope you can develop upon these foundations with your own work experiences. I wish you the best of luck, and hope that these tips help you settle in and make the most of them!