Work Experience Pays
by Sasha Kanal
Work experience provides many benefits, giving youngsters skills and hands-on time in a business that will allow them to stand out to potential employers. Sasha Kanal finds out more.
According to the Government, work experience officially refers to ‘a specified period of time that a person spends within a business, within which they have an opportunity to learn directly about working life and the working environment.’ Internships or placements earn the distinction of normally requiring a higher or specific level of qualification than other forms of work experience and often relate to a profession. Many are unpaid, some offer remuneration in the form of paid travel expenses – this varies from company to company.
In today’s ultra competitive job market, there’s no denying that evidence of work experience on a young person’s CV can be the difference between getting a job and not. Proof of experience is invaluable to future employers and recruiters not only as an indication of the required skills but also of willingness and aptitude.
David Butcher, a City Communications Director of 20 years, has hired many young grads in his time. He says, “I always look at work experience on a CV – even for senior candidates. It tells me a lot about the individual, what motivates them and what they enjoy doing.”
It goes without saying that work experience gives a young person a taster of what kind of industry they want to go into and whether it’s right for them.
So how do you get a placement? From college courses where work placements are built into the modules and are a requisite for course completion and then qualification, to companies advertising and even via word of mouth – the ways in are numerous.
Susan Fleet is MD of a successful Sussex-based PR and marketing company and has 30 years experience of placing interns within her office. “It was never a conscious decision initially to have work experience interns within our company. Young people and local students have always contacted us to come in and gain experience and the whole thing evolved this way.”
Taking on two to three placements each year for an average of three months, interns for Susan provide in her words “a breath of fresh air” for a business and can bring with them all the latest know-how in technology and social media to name a few. “I love mentoring the next generation”, says Susan. “It’s wonderful to be able to impart your skills and knowledge. However, it’s a great opportunity for everyone involved to learn. My interns actually do proper work and don’t just make coffee and photocopy. They are fully immersed in the business and workings of the office. I’ve found it to be the best way to operate, as you get so much back.”
21-year old Michael Rowney is a perfect example of this. Starting as an unpaid intern with Susan in 2012 whilst at sixth form, and gaining experience during university holidays, Michael is now employed as Marketing Manager at the company.
What’s his advice for interns looking to replicate his success? “Be brave and get stuck in! Be open to hard work and new opportunities. Ask how you can help, come up with ideas. It’s a cliché, but what you put in, you get out.”
A more official entry point into the world of work and perhaps the next stage on from work experience is an apprenticeship, where you can combine on the job training with study.