Stereotypically, work experience candidates are seen as more trouble than they’re worth, only useful for making cups of tea, and many companies refuse to take applicants under the age of 18. The idea of walking into a company that you do not work for or are familiar with can be very off-putting for some, and a big question that hangs over the whole ‘work experience’ notion is, is it worth it? Potential applicants for work experience know that they will not be given particularly important or vital jobs to do, and worry that they will be over-loaded with mundane tasks. However I feel that a work experience placement is definitely worthwhile for many reasons.
If you are unsure of the career path you want to take in the future, or maybe you are uncertain about whether you want to go to university or just straight into a job, then work experience is something that should definitely be considered. Firstly, if nothing else, a work experience placement will give you a taste of what a working day is like, because you are temporarily in a professional environment and are given assignments to perform just as if you were another employee there.
It is important to try and gain some work experience in a field that interests you or that you are considering working in one day. For example, if you hope to one day become an editor for a magazine, then try and get in contact with all the local magazines or newspapers and see if you can gain a placement. Not only will you be using your initiative and practising your networking skills, the work experience that you get will be relevant to you, and will give you a flavour of what it is like in that environment.
Even if you don’t enjoy the work experience that you do, this is also useful to know because you will understand the reality of that career and that you don’t want to go down that route in the future. And yet, even if the work experience is not exactly what you want to do as a career later on in life, you will still gain important skills from the placement, such as improving your IT or people skills. As the Chinese philosopher Confucius once wrote, ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’.
After doing work experience at Fourth Day, I can say that it has definitely been worth it. Last year I did some work experience for an online fashion company, however the placement here gave me more of a feeling of responsibility, and how it feels to be part of a company. I was nervous before I arrived, however the environment was very friendly and welcoming, not intimidating as some people claim that work experience is. As well as this, I now understand the reality of commuting up to central London every day, and having faced some of the problems that can occur during this process, I now feel more confident about travelling and finding my way around London. I have thoroughly enjoyed my week at Fourth Day, and am very happy to have some PR experience under my belt now, which I am sure will serve me well in the future.
Laura is a Trainee Account Executive in the Manchester office