It’s Work Experience Week so we’re sharing young people’s stories of work experience, as well as advice and insights into why experiences with the world of work are important.
Today Youth Ambassador Harvey shares his work experience story, and some top tips for you in securing your own.
I have been lucky enough to know what career path I want to take for a couple of years now, though I know that’s not the case for everyone. I’ve been interested in all things I.T related from a very young age and since 2011, I knew that I wanted to run my own business after having lots of success in Sheffield’s BiG Challenge Enterprise Competition (a citywide enterprise competition for schools and colleges, whereby teams get £25 to start-up a business and the judges then see which teams have been most successful over a six-month period.) Ever since my school first started talking to us about the importance of work experience when I was in Y10, I quickly got very excited over the thought of being able to gain some work experience with a successful employer in the I.T industry, though my first week of work experience didn’t turn out how I’d imagined it to be. I arrived for my first day working with a web design company excited and raring to go, though I quickly became bored as I hurried to complete the list of tasks that had been handed to me by the Company Director, though I was later told that the list I had been given was expected to last me for the entire week even though the company was happy with the standard that the work had been completed to. I then became very frustrated for the remainder of my first day, knowing that the company had under-estimated my I.T skills and the ability to complete the tasks set to a high standard. I came away from my first day with the company extremely disappointed, ‘surely this isn’t what work experience is meant to be like?’ I thought to myself. Though, I decided to give it another go and return for a second day because everyone deserves a second chance.
Throughout my second day I was given another set of tasks, which I completed much quicker than the company expected me to and this saddened me even more. Fortunately, I was able to discuss my experiences with my school over the telephone on my lunch break and we agreed that it would be better for me to move to work with the Network Support Team within the school, rather than completing the week with an external employer where I wasn’t appreciated. I felt disappointed in myself for causing a fuss and moving to work internally within my schools Network Support Team. It was definitely the right decision though as I really enjoyed the rest of the week and I was given appropriate tasks where I could work both independently and as part of a team for days. These experiences taught me that before you start any work experience, you should set some clear objectives for the length of time you are going to be with the company you’re working for. Decide what you want to achieve from your work experience/placement and discuss your expectations with your employer before you start, or early in your placement. The best way to avoid confusion about your role is to ensure you and your employer both understand what you mutually want to get out of the placement. This way your employer will be able to plan an itinerary for you, and you will understand why you are being asked to do tasks that at times might seem trivial.
Since realising this, I have been lucky enough to complete some fantastic work experience placements with a range of employers and I have learnt skills that have enriched me as a person, whilst also allowing me to expand the experiences on my CV. Some work experience placements I’ve completed have even led to some further life-changing opportunities for me, so you never know who you might meet or where a particular work experience placement might take you. It’s clear that some companies are better at offering and managing work experience placements than others, so do your research first and ask for others’ opinions on a particular company first if you are searching for work experience – this always helps to give you a better idea of what might be in-store for you! Finding work experience of any length can be challenging so start doing research as early as possible. Research the job roles that interest you, and the organisations that are offering suitable opportunities. Some employers don’t respect anyone who is on work experience, whilst others invite you into their organisation and make you feel so welcome. I have had a range of experiences myself, as I’ve said previously but 90% of them have been positive!
So, I’ll leave you with my top five tips when looking for a work experience placement:
- Make sure you’ve got an excellent and unique CV, prepare for interviews too as it won’t look good if you’ve not done any research on your employer.
- Always show your enthusiasm and reliability by paying attention to detail and delivering on your promises, you could get offered further opportunities this way.
- Ask if you can attend staff meetings, conferences, and training events.
- Ask for feedback on your performance. Make sure you keep a log of any experiences you’ve gained so that you can remember them afterwards.
- Keep in touch with the company after you’ve finished your placement and make sure you know who can give you a reference.