During the recent half-term DW’s favourite lower-sixth form sports correspondent Frankie swapped-out her track suit for some Capital chic and headed off to London to enter the world of food and restaurants for a week’s work experience with a rather grown up publisher. We’re always keen to get feedback on work experience – which can be really quite mixed – and the value it has. Here is her report.
I’ve had an ambition to go into journalism for several years now and so when the time came to arrange a week’s work experience I felt it was time to test that aspiration. I optimistically sent off my CV with an enthusiastic application letter to all of the magazines and newspapers I could think of. However, after a few responses lacking in enthusiasm to say the least, it began to dawn on me that it is hard enough for qualified graduates to make their way into these publications, let alone for a lowly sixth form student with only some GCSEs to her name. I therefore decided to make some inquires to see if I could wrangle my way into the world of journalism using the contacts of my family.
Consequently, my Dad’s involvement in the restaurant industry provided me with the opportunity to spend the week with the publication Square Meal, a magazine which provides reviews and news stories about restaurants, bars and other venues. Of course after plentiful rejection from my own undertakings I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. This would be my first piece of advice – although my placement did turn out to be fantastic, something is always better than nothing.
The team I was with gave me the opportunity to prove my determination to work hard and it would seem my work ethic satisfied them. The first few monotonous tasks could have easily taken up the whole week if I had not been focused. I suppose in many ways I earned the experience I gained later in the week from my previous hard work. Their approach made a lot of sense to me – it can’t be right that a total new comer should start with anything close to exciting.
These bigger and better things I referred to were genuinely thrilling for me. I had the chance to write a couple of news bulletins and also doing some advertising through Twitter and Facebook. Finally, on the last day I was asked to write a full article to be put on the website. These opportunities, although they may seem small, were actually fantastic because they gave me a real insight into the life of a journalist. I also received some constructive criticism from the employees which was incredibly helpful and definitely given with kind intentions.
Unfortunately some people aren’t lucky enough to benefit hugely from their work experience. It is partly pot luck but I do think there is definitely another side to it. You have to show that you want to learn and be helpful. I think that doing work experience really tests your initiative. If people don’t have time to tell you what to do try and work it out for yourself and suggest what could be useful. In my week I did find myself with the odd half an hour without much to do. It can be tricky in an office of strangers but I found that if I asked around there was always something someone needed doing.
My expectations were measured, as in the preceding weeks I had heard a few too many jokes based on the similarity between work experience and slave labour. However, I was determined to make the most of every opportunity. Again, I think this is something really important – if you go in there with the intention of benefitting as much as possible you are much more likely to.
It is true that many of the things I did were repetitive and often lacked excitement. But I refused to drag my feet and tried my best not to get exasperated. Instead, I bulldozed through the tasks I was set which turned out to be huge advantage because it meant that towards the end of the week I could move onto bigger and better things. I would recommend that you always press on with whatever you are asked to do because you never know what you will spend the time saved doing.
I came away from my week’s work experience with a whole lot more sympathy for commuters who suffer from delayed trains, a much better idea about how companies in publishing work and some new skills in both writing and IT. I think that one of the best things about work experience is simply that you can spend a week in the office of a company which deals with something you are interested in. You can learn an awful lot about an occupation just by listening to conversations and chatting to employees at lunch. My lunch hours were in many ways the most beneficial times of my week as I managed to chat with many employees about their career paths and ask them what their advice would be for a budding journalist.
It is obviously hard to tell what effect having work experience on your CV will have. However, it does clearly demonstrate a committed interest in a career and positive references also prove your compatibility with that kind of work. It can certainly do no harm. My week of work experience has confirmed my thoughts that a career in journalism or publishing would suit me and has inspired me to try and find more similar placements. And of course if you don’t like it, it is one suggestion crossed off that never-ending list of potential career paths!