The first day of a new job can be nerve-racking. New people, new processes and that ongoing feeling of being “the new person” – which seems to last for a long time. So when I walked into my gym recently to undertake my first block of work placement all those kinds of feelings were swirling around.

But in many ways it was different. Not only was I in a new ‘workplace’, but I was doing something completely foreign to what I’ve done for the last 12 years. I wasn’t walking into a semi-familiar office or a newsroom, where I could quickly say hi to people and then hide behind a computer.

I was in a gym. Usually a familiar and comfortable place for me – but as a client of the gym – not the person who is standing in front of a group of people. It was a completely different feeling. I was catapulted back to Year 10 work experience days of being the awkward new kid with no idea. There were no computer screens to hide behind, no office to sneak away to and no tea rooms to slowly emerge from.

So after my first week in the gym (which despite the nerves – I loved!) I thought I’d share some tips on how I think you can get the most out of your work placement.

So while I have just spoken about feelings of unfamiliarity, in many ways I was able to lessen some of those first day nerves by completing my work placement in the gym I’m a current member of. While this may not always be possible, if you can find a gym or workplace that you’re familiar with I think it makes the experience a little bit easier. Or you may know a personal trainer who’d be willing to show you the ropes – having a familiar face with you is also helpful. I was fortunate enough to have both. It was certainly a bonus to have a wonderful personal trainer, who is also a friend and mentor, to take me under her wing.

I was very nervous walking into the gym. But I knew I had to use those nerves for good. Instead of allowing my nerves to overcome me I tried to channel them in other ways by accepting that it meant I cared about what I was doing – and that’s a good thing. I acknowledged that I was nervous but I tried to balance that with a healthy dose of confidence. A few PT’s have shared with me that in those early days you have to be confident – even if you don’t feel it. Those feelings will come later with experience. But people are going to pick up very quickly if you’re totally terrified. So finding a balance between being nervous and confident (without crossing into arrogant territory) is important. Oh and I smiled. A LOT. Probably too much. I may have looked a little creepy, but I figure a smile is better than a nervous grimace.

While I have only done a week of work placement I feel like I picked up so much invaluable information and skills that would take a lot longer to learn if I was just reading notes. It was great seeing what I have been learning online, put into practice in the real world. I soaked it all up. I asked questions. Spoke to the other trainers about their jobs. Talked to gym members about their health and fitness. Never underestimate the importance of asking questions – however silly they may seem to you. Definitely my time as a journalist helps in the question-asking arena, but people are often more willing to chat and help than you realise.

The biggest realisation for me during my first week of placement was the importance of having good people and communication skills. Every single person who walked through the gym door was different and I realised a one-sized fits all approach wouldn’t work. Some people want to chat, others take longer to warm up, some people are just there to do their own thing and leave, others are seeking connection or guidance. Being able to read people is important, knowing the right time and way to approach someone in the gym is crucial. I think this will be a vital skill for me to develop and something that takes time and experience to master.

I guess this is actually the most important part! Remember why you’re there and why you started studying to become a PT. Embrace the nerves, embrace being the new person and embrace the change. Everybody started somewhere and has gone through those feelings, so don’t let them overcome you.

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