It’s never too early for students to start preparing for work placement opportunities – that’s the word from Rochelle Forde, a seasoned human resource professional on the Island. Ms Forde, who currently works as human resource manager at The Phoenix Stores Ltd., spent ten years prior serving as human resource generalist at Bermuda Housing Corporation.
It’s her firm belief that internships and summer work experience still hold relevance and are important for employers looking to hire young people for full time roles. “Young people that have had some exposure to the industry or job through an intern experience or summer experience suggests that they have likely acquired a basic understanding of the role and perhaps the culture of the company,” she explained. “It also suggests they have an interest in the industry and perhaps a commitment to their professional development.”
For those looking to get their foot in the door by securing their first work placement opportunity, Ms Forde suggests students start by developing their resume. “Ask yourself the following questions: Is my resume current? Is it an honest reflection of my interests? Does it highlight my knowledge, skills, and abilities?”
If your resume isn’t yet as impressive as you’d like, try looking for volunteer opportunities in your area of interest, she explained: “Volunteering is a great way to meet people and start networking with those who may be working in your area of interest and who may offer opportunities for mentorship. You can also try speaking with professionals in your area of interest – be it international business, law or even hospitality. Find out what career path those individuals took to reach their goals so you are more clear on what next steps you can take also.”
Some of the characteristics Ms Forde suggested set students apart from the work placement competition include confidence and persistence, being reliable, having a positive attitude and being open to learn.
“My top tip for anyone looking to stand out when it comes to securing work placement opportunities is to figure out what you have a passion for,” Ms Forde stated. “If you find something that you love to do, you will give it the energy needed for success. If it is something you have a passion for, you will want to learn about it, and take the extra steps to become proficient at it. Also, find people who have the same interests so that you can share and collaborate with like-minded people. When you love what you do, it translates through to the final production.”
She suggested that young people don’t need to wait until a certain age or college year level before they begin preparing for work placement opportunities. “Just get started,” she said. “I don’t think you are ever too young to start researching your interest and preparing yourself for opportunities. Of course, there will be age requirements set by the company offering the internship or summer employment, but young people have information at their fingertips these days. They can take the initiative at any age to research, explore and start expanding their knowledge about the field of study or industry of interest.”
Ready to make this year the one you finally secure your first work placement? Here are a couple extra tips from young professionals who have successfully transitioned from interns to full-time employees and are now climbing Bermuda’s corporate ladder.
Show up with a desire to keep learning
For Kimberley, a lawyer in her 30s, it was important to seek work placements to gain a greater understanding of law and the different areas of practice. Before law school, and during her undergraduate degree, she also tested the waters with internships in insurance, banking, and accounting. “This helped me to focus my area of interest for my career choice generally,” she said. “I secured my internships through networking, making formal applications, and interviewing.” She also stressed the importance of expressing gratitude to employers for any opportunity given for a work placement.
Kimberley approached every work placement and internship opportunity with a strong desire to learn, expand her knowledge, and was also willing to do any tasks given to her. Other qualities she had that bode well for potential employers were her strong communication skills and ability to connect with people at all levels of an organization. “The placements set me up with the opportunity to network and guided my decision on where I would start my career,” she said. “I also enjoyed seeing what I was learning in law school in a practical setting, looking back those internships laid the foundation for the start of my career.”
Utilise your family/ friend connections wherever possible
Finding a work placement opportunity while in college wasn’t always easy for Sara-Ann, a local litigation lawyer. However, she stayed committed to the path – by writing into different offices, libraries and schools, as well as asking around to family and friends who owned businesses. She also wasn’t afraid of going to job fairs or contacting people within her network to see if she could work shadow them for a few days. “What made me stand out to employers was my self-motivation and productiveness,” she said. “When at work placements, I put my head down so I could focus well and accomplish the task at hand. I understood that I didn’t know everything, so I became okay with learning from my mistakes and accepting help when I needed it.”
Sara-Ann admitted that she learned a lot from her various work placement experiences, even the ones outside her industry of choice. They all helped her to better appreciate the nuances of working with colleagues and clients with different personalities, and learn how to problem solve. “Now, no matter whether it’s a problem that a client brings to me or one that I see in my own life, I have tools to solve them.”