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We all know that getting your dream job requires education and experience. But more often than not you need a door opener. For many students, a practicum becomes that step towards future opportunities.
A degree alone may not be enough to help you succeed: you need practical, hands-on knowledge and transferable skills to stay competitive in the workforce. Whether you are a recent graduate or a new immigrant, you know that Canadian employers are often looking for the skills and Canadian work experience applicable to your line of work.
For many professions, you need something to get your foot in the door: a connection to an industry expert, or a previous position in your field. Even if it is something small, you want to stand out from other candidates.
If your program has a practicum, you shouldn’t look at it as an obligation, but as an opportunity to get first hand experience outside of the classroom that can later be used in your field. Being able to successfully complete a practicum can put you miles ahead. It can give your resume the extra boost it needs to land a job interview in the desired industry after graduation. Moreover, a good work placement experience can oftentimes lead to an employment offer, or at the very least a great reference.
To take the most out of your practicum or work placement, here are a few steps that will help you create a rewarding experience and ensure you come out of the practicum equipped for future employment opportunities.
Figure out what your goals of the practicum are before you talk to your supervisor about them. What would you like to learn? What are your strengths, and what would you like to improve on? Most of the time, the employer is lenient and flexible towards the work of the practicum students, so make sure you maximize your learning opportunities.
Your supervisor can become a great reference for you if he/she is satisfied with your work at the end of the term. It is therefore important for you to understand what work is required from you and to know that you are on the right track.
On your first week, sit down with your supervisor to learn about the work you will be doing and how it fits into a bigger picture. Make sure you can have access to your supervisor throughout the work term to discuss your work and get feedback on it, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember: the practicum is an opportunity for you to improve your knowledge and skill and learn from the industry experts.
Having a role in different projects for the organization will help you really use your skills and expertise. Future employers appreciate seeing specific and applicable experiences in your resume. The more transferable skills you gain and the more tasks you are able to complete, the more you’ll have to talk about to potential new companies.
Plan through your practicum experience to include opportunities where you can learn new skills to add to your career portfolio. Ask your supervisor about rotating into different roles in the office, find out if you can attend meetings, or even job shadow. The more you learn, the more successful job candidate you will become. Employers also value employees who are ready to get out of their comfort zones and take on new challenges.
Your practicum is an opportunity to build relationships within the industry. Connect with your supervisor and co-workers to start building your professional network. Kindly ask if you can be connected to key industry people. The bigger your network is more chances you have in landing that perfect job.