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Education Eye: How to make the most of work experience placements

Catherine Stoker

Catherine Stoker

  • by Catherine Stoker, director of The Independent Education Consultants
 

So, what makes a meaningful work experience placement?

As the mid-way point in the exam season approaches many parents are starting to turn their thoughts to the long summer holidays ahead.

Some may be considering how they might arrange to engage their teenagers in a bit of meaningful work, to acquire useful skills and experience to help them on the path towards a successful future career.

If this is your plan, bear in mind that spending their summer holidays in the company of a photocopier or with their head in a filing cabinet may well result in the acquisition of useful office skills as well as resilience in executing mundane day-to-day tasks in the work environment.

However, too much time spent in this way may also de-motivate. Creativity is needed in finding and making the most of interesting opportunities.

Challenging pre-conceptions is the first point to emphasise. Working in a supermarket, department store or bar enhances communication and people skills, proves trustworthiness, reliability and an ability to work with people from all walks of life.

It also demonstrates a willingness to learn what makes a business tick from the bottom up.

Planning clear objectives in advance may well be the key to a constructive experience and hence a positive outcome.

Clarify in advance what activities will be undertaken each day, making sure that if at all possible there is the opportunity to see all areas of the workplace-finance, sales, marketing, customer relations, legal, human resources and information technology.

Don’t forget shadowing can be an excellent way to step into the shoes of a particular career to experience what the working week looks like for a particular profession.

As long as there are no issues of confidentiality or sensitivity, observation and listening while a professional goes about their working week can be an excellent way to learn.

This takes less management and organisation time to set up.

As such, it may be more appealing to the employers, friends, relatives, work colleagues, whose arms you plan to twist into offering this opportunity.

 

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