One of the most impactful experiences you will get from Heritage College programs is your practicum placement. At the end of your course, you enter a practicum placement with an employer where you will have the opportunity to practice skills learned your classrooms. Through this exposure, you will gain a greater awareness of your field of study’s specific responsibilities and daily tasks.
With the potential for permanent employment ahead, a practicum can carry a lot of pressure. It would be best to focus on several points to ensure that you make the most out of your position. Read on to learn how to prepare and maximize for your upcoming placement.
1. Get to Know the Company
Get to know the company and the industry in which you are working. This step is excellent practice for your job search skills as you learn about the company structure, the opportunities available, its role in the industry, and any professional affiliations. Looking up the company website is a great way to learn more about the company. Pay special attention to the “about us” section on their website and check out their blog, if they have one, for company news. You can also gather information about the company and its employees on LinkedIn. The more you know before you start, the easier the transition will be into your new position.
2. Set Clear Goals
It is essential to know what is expected of you in any job, and your practicum will not be any different. By setting specific goals with your practicum provider, you can give structure and meaning to your training while avoiding unnecessary conflict. Here are some examples of goals and expectations you may want to mention:
- Specific skills you want to work on
- The specific areas your the employer needs help with, or the roles your employer expects you to fill
- How you will seek guidance or ask questions when needed
- How will your practicum provider deliver feedback on your performance
3. Keep a Journal
Throughout your practicum, make a habit of writing in a journal so you can record any insights you gain about your day-to-day operations that would be useful later.
You will want to keep track of the details of your accomplishments, especially any metrics and numbers that can make your success tangible. Whether daily or weekly, these notes will be handy when updating your resume after your practicum or asking your employer for a professional reference. For instance, you might want to note how an employee successfully handled a cranky patient, made a purchasing decision, or solved a complex problem. Make a note of the software used and check to see if the preferred processes make sense to you. This journaling is a great way to identify areas you want to study more in-depth. These are all situations and experiences you can draw on for a future job, an interview, or a resume reference.
4. Ask Questions
The purpose of your practicum is to find ways to implement what you have learned in the classroom and apply it to situations in the workplace. As an intern, you are supposed to be curious and engaged, but you are not expected to have a vast amount of knowledge or experience, so it is essential to reflect on areas you’d like to delve into more. Begin your first day by asking some of those questions. A practicum is what you make of it, and for it to be as successful as possible, you need to voice any questions or concerns upfront, and you should also consider sharing any ideas you may have. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that will expand your knowledge or offer suggestions for feedback. Take the initiative and if there are particular interests you have, ask if there are any related opportunities.
5. Make Connections
Your practicum is a valuable opportunity to start networking. After all, the people you meet in this setting could become friends, professional contacts and possible mentors for years to come.
Take a genuine interest in learning about the people who already work at the company. Remember that you can add every person you meet while working at your practicum to your professional network. Keep track of contact information for people you meet along the way – coworkers, supervisors, clients/customers and others. If you don’t already have a LinkedIn account, I would strongly recommend this form of networking and inviting the people you meet to join your contact list. Follow up with people who join your network, even just a brief comment. At the end of your course, check back with your practicum employer about the option of future employment or the possibility of a reference.
6. Seek out Growth Opportunities
Asking about growth opportunities when you haven’t even received an offer might feel presumptuous, but it’s a necessity. To make an educated decision about a practicum or job, you need accurate information. These questions aren’t about the current role being “beneath you.” It’s about showing the employer that you want to stick around, and to do that, you need to know that there are long-term opportunities at the company.
By asking about growth opportunities, you’re showing the provider that you’re serious about the position while learning about the company culture.
7. Stay in touch
As your practicum ends, send personalized thank you notes or emails to the people with whom you’ve worked. Mention projects you worked on together, express your gratitude for any guidance they provided and give them your personal contact information. Following up with all of these people with a well-written thank-you note will go a long way.
Not every internship will result in a job offer right away. If the company and work you’ve done are of interest to you, it’s a good practice to stay in touch so that you will be top of mind when an opportunity does open up.
To learn more about your future practicum opportunities at Heritage College, visit our Career Services page. And best of luck on your upcoming practicum!