Postaday2011 – Interns and work experience

I left school at 16, there was no sixth form at my secondary modern, if you wanted to go on you moved across the playing fields to the grammar school. In those days very few made the journey instead we were out the gate as soon as possible, in my case the day after the exams finished, most of us went straight out to work.

Because I had been unable to secure a position as a trainee photographer with either of the two big players in the city where we lived my father had pulled a string or two and got me a job as an apprentice electrician with a local firm. The MD moored his boat at our yard. Although I was grateful for the opportunity being blissfully ignorant of the jobs market I did not want to be a “sparkie” my heart lay elsewhere. What I should have done was gone to college, taken my A levels and moved seamlessly to Art school and pursued my dream of making a living creating beautiful images. What I got was three years of installing and mending air conditioning and refrigeration equipment. At least they paid me and I got a qualification. Looking back I conformed with what my parents thought was best for me, get a job and a skill asap. Difficult to believe that the rebellious youth I thought I was should accept so willingly something so alien to my aspirations. Fear of the unknown played a big part, that and a lack of good career advice. I don’t remember ever discussing it properly with anyone, it just happened.

There is nothing wrong with trying to help your kids get a leg up in the world of work. If you’re lucky enough to have a relative who knows someone in your chosen field then good for you. My dad tried to get me into a couple of photo studios but what he couldn’t do was attend the interview. I was incredibly naive, I had no idea what they might ask or how to respond. This is what they should teach you at school and / or uni, how to make a great impression. Some practical guidance on writing a blisteringly hot covering letter probably wouldn’t go amiss either. On the few occasions I have recruited staff I have been horrified by the standard of written English displayed by people applying for positions requiring some degree of writing skills. Spell check is included with every word processing programme I’ve ever used and yet so many people still don’t use it. I’m also convinced that applicants don’t read back what they have written half the time.

So if your parents know people who can help you get a foot in the door in your chosen profession then do not turn down that help, you will either be eternally grateful or discover that what you thought was a dream career isn’t for you. Either way you can’t lose. Don’t be persuaded to go into something that really doesn’t do it for you, too many of my generation are toiling away day in day out doing something they hate. To the politicians who say you shouldn’t do it I say wait till it’s your son or daughter and then tell me you’re not going to help them.

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