Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Work Experience: a genuine working insight into the media world – or a complete waste of time?

Yesterday was my first day of a two week work experience placement at a well known publication.

Wooow! Well known publication!

(By the way – in case you were wondering - for legal and safety reasons I have decided to omit the name of the actual publication, you’ll just have to trust me that it is a good one.)

It turns out that many people react rather enthusiastically when they hear the prestige title;

- “That’s incredible! You’re sooo going to do well in life!”

For obvious reasons I really hope that these people’s prediction – even if many are mere passing strangers enquiring about my life - are true.

However, to suppose that a two week work experience placement anywhere indicates a lifetime of success to follow, I think, is naive.

Just look at how I got the placement to begin with. One simple, yet incredibly crucial factor: contacts.

That’s right. A quick message to my contact, a friendly passing of information about his contact, who then, for good measure, nodded me in the direction of a third and final contact secured me my spot,

“We can pencil you in for two weeks in mid-October around all the other ‘workies’” (code name for ‘work experience fools’ I believe).

Considering it was March at the time, it dawned on me that I might not be the lucky chosen one after all.

Never mind – I was going to work with a well known publication! Get my name published! Be a journo star!

The my ‘workies guide’ came through:

”Whilst here you’ll be helping out around the office, running errands, answering phones and researching. Apart from a notepad and pen, you don’t particularly need to bring anything with you, but do wear comfy shoes, as on occasion you can end up on your feet all day.”

Hmm...it seemed to be missing the, “You may be required to pitch story ideas” line or the “you may be required to interview huge Hollywood celebs” part, or even the “you may have to do some writing” component.

I was sceptical. If I wanted some work experience doing admin work then shouldn’t I just get a paid job in an office? And if I was the twentieth work experience monkey of that year – was I really going to be able to make that much of an impression? I mean, I know I have had my professional phone manner complimented on numerous occasions, but I have a feeling that it just might not propel me to the next level this time.

Then of course there is the work experience aspect; the fact that it is two weeks unpaid, two weeks that will actually end up costing me about £200 in travel / lunch expenses. Don’t get me wrong - if I was genuinely going to get something out of the placement then fine, great, I have no problem. However, if the most that I learn is where their postal box is, then it’s harder to justify such expense – I guess we’ll just have to see.

And so creates my new prediction for the week:

I will turn up, someone will hurry me to a desk, give me some remedial task to do to keep me quiet / busy, and no-one will give a sh*t. I know it seems slightly pessimistic, but let’s face it - those work experience things are annoying, and it’ll be gone in two weeks anyway.

So – I repeat – work experience: a genuine working insight into the media world – or a complete waste of time? I will keep a log of my placement so we can find out together...I’m sure I’ve got you on the edge of your seat.

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