Summer is here and the mere thought of midweek mojitos and BBQs on the lawn are what gets us through those extra-long days stuck inside a stuffy office with the sun beating down outside the window. But summer isn’t all about fun and games, you know. It’s also the prime time for students and young adults to be seeking out work experience placements and temporary part-time jobs, while they break away from their educational commitments.
The summer period can tend to get a little heated in the workplace and not just because the air conditioning is broken for the fourth year running or because the plug-in fan keeps blowing your paperwork all over the desk. The influx in workforce as these fresh-faced youngsters appear, hungry for something valuable to add to their CVs can mean your office gets a little more chaotic than usual and this can be frustrating for long-standing employees.
As a valued member of the team, you might well be called upon to oversee and mentor somebody who has chosen to undertake a period of work experience in your office. This can seem like a huge inconvenience on top of your already-endless to-do list and can sometimes give rise to a clash of generations but believe it or not, the experience can be mutually beneficial. So, here’s our advice on why it pays to keep your cool and embrace the new generation of employee (not literally, that might be a bit too much).
Patience is a virtue – Your mentee will likely be a little nervous and overly keen to impress, which will probably lead to a few mistakes and initial forgetfulness. However, it pays to keep in mind that we’ve all been in that position before. Tentatively stepping out onto the first rung of the career ladder, looking for a helpful hand to offer some much-needed stability. Your patience and time could have a dramatic impact on the future of a young person and be the very stepping stone they need to progress in their professional ambition.
Plus, it gives you a great opportunity to practice your management and leadership skills and show your boss what you’re really made of. You never know, they might keep it in mind when considering promotions and it’ll be you who owes little Miss/Mr Work Experience the high five of gratitude.
Listen to what they have to say – Right, so you’re stuck with this little nipper for the next six weeks – you might as well do everything you possibly can to make it a positive experience for the both of you. Don’t just see them as somebody who can run off and make you a cup of tea at every given interval, see them as an equal who you can get to know and understand. Their fresh, young outlook might be just the inspiration you’ve been looking for!
Practice good habits – Doing everything by the book will not only instil a great work ethic in your mentee that they can take away and call upon in future professional situations, it’s also perfect practice for you. Taking the chance to go back to the basics and brush up on things like punctuality, phone manner, uniform regulation and customer service will give you a delicate reminder of how you should be conducting yourself as an employee on a daily basis.
Be open and honest – The whole aim of the game is that they’re there to learn, get a candid feel for the industry and develop practical skills that they can put to good use in the future. You may think smiling and nodding even when they’re taken a wrong turn is the kind thing to do but tough love is definitely more fruitful here. The kindest thing you can do for your mentee is to show them where they’ve gone wrong and how they can rectify the error because constructive criticism is far more valuable than a superficial pat on the back.
Tactfully highlighting a mistake and imparting pearls of wisdom on how to avoid the situation in the future will not only benefit your mentee, it will also ensure that you’re delivering a service that is up to scratch. While they’re working under your wing, they’re representing you and what you do so ensuring that they’re up to speed is in your own best interests.
Don’t forget to praise them – While constructive criticism is key for valuable life lessons and developing important professional skills, there’s nothing quite like a bit of well-deserved praise to boost confidence. In the same way we recommend acknowledging a mistake, we’re also big advocates of credit where it’s due so don’t forget to dish out the gold stars when you’re particularly impressed.
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