Children stand to gain so much from work experience, including the confidence and practical skills to succeed in the workplace. While these benefits seem like a given, participants need to apply themselves properly to get the most out of their work experience. It is common that young people are very passive as they are scared of making a mistake. Those with more confidence are not so timid and are often given projects to do that build their experience and skills. This article discusses how to get placements for your child and how they can get the most out of work experience.
How to Choose a Work Experience Placement for Your Child
Not all work experiences are the same. It is unrealistic to find some that fit exactly with your child’s aims. With elements such as child protection paperwork, there are far fewer companies willing to offer their time to school-age children. At this age almost anything is good. Just to see how different types of workplaces work. It also opens their eyes to what the world of employment might look like. Finding a work experience placement must be a deliberate process that puts the child’s future at its center. It takes far longer than you might think. There are two things to balance, what does your child want to do and what are the opportunities?
- Ask questions. The future in question here is the child’s. Therefore, however tempting it is to do it for them, the day-to-day activities involved in gaining experience at their placement should be up to them. This doesn’t mean that you have no role in this process. You have the experience to know what is realistic and how to phrase an email. Having a discussion about a child’s future is difficult as they can be very guarded. We give advice on how to get your child to talk to you. So, if they tell you what they want to do, ask follow-up questions without imposing your will on them. Do some research if you must. However, there’s also the possibility that the child might not know what they want to do. In that case, you will have to help them figure things out. The next step discusses how to do that.
- Figure out their passion. If your child isn’t sure of what they want to do, figuring out their passion and interests can provide you with the insights to decide. What kind of documentaries did they like to watch? Which activities made them the happiest? Was it arts, music, politics, or sports? Finally, what did they talk about most? Ask them if this is something they might want to do. Involving them in the decision fosters commitment, increasing the chances of getting the best out of their work experience.
- Start searching. At this point, the goal is to compile a list of companies your child can apply to. Begin with the companies closest to you and then expand the search accordingly. Don’t restrict your search to include only the companies that announce their work experience programs. Some companies don’t advertise, but they still take work-experience candidates. Secondly, spread the word to your friends and extended family. Let them know that your child is looking to apply to a work experience program. Your child’s school career advisor might also be able to help you with a few contacts.
- Time to apply. This is a crucial step on your journey to helping your child find a placement. So many others will also be applying to the same companies you have on your list. Your child’s application will have to stand out from the crowd if they’re to stand a chance. To stand out, help gather information about each of the companies your child will be applying to. Understand the values of each company and what they’re looking for in work experience candidates. “You can support your teen to get more comfortable owning their abilities and talking about them in a way that feels authentic and not arrogant,” says Rachel Schofield, a certified career and personal development coach. Then tailor the application and cover letter in the email body to reflect those qualities, both the personal ones and the ones the company in question is looking for. At this point, the trick is to concentrate on what the child can do for the company, not what they stand to gain. Some companies don’t accept applications via email. Instead, they provide digital application forms for candidates to fill out. The questions on the form should give your child an idea of what the company wants in their applicants. Usually, the space provided for answers will determine the length of the answers. As a general rule, though, answers shouldn’t be too long. Keep them brief, concise, and straight to the point.
How to Help Your Child Get the Most Out of Work Experience
To get the most out of a work experience, your child needs to apply themself properly. Below are ways to help your child apply themselves properly.
- Encourage them to set off on time. The time your child leaves home should take the distance of their placement into account. This will allow the child to get to their placement on time. Arriving early will help the child make a good impression, especially in their first week. You can help facilitate this by ensuring the child gets up early. In the first week, they might struggle to get into gear. But with your help, they can adjust and get into the new routine quickly.
- Help them with what to wear. Most young people love their jeans and shirts. As such, they might be tempted to wear them to their placement. Some employers might not appreciate casual outfits. But that doesn’t mean your child needs to get a suit. At least for the first day, encourage them to either go with smart trousers and a shirt, a dress, or a knee-length skirt. Then if others at their placement dress casually, they can step it down. It’s safer that way.
- Urge them to listen actively. It’s possible to be present and miss what’s been said. This happens when someone is simply hearing the speaker without paying full attention. But the more active a listener your child is, the higher the chance that they’ll recall the content of each conversation later when they need it. So encourage your child to be present and fully engage with their manager. They need to listen with all their senses and communicate to the speaker that they’re listening through verbal and nonverbal cues.
- Prompt them to access all areas to gain a holistic sense of the company. Different departments work in unison to provide a product or a service. Encourage your child to scope out each department. Let them try and understand how each of these departments contributes to the company’s objective. Such a move exposes the child to the entire process of providing a service or a product, giving them a holistic sense of the company and its operations.
- Outline the benefits of shadowing different roles. Naturally, the child would want to concentrate on their role during their work experience. But that might be limiting for them at this stage. On that ground, encourage the child to shadow different roles at their placement. As Gartner describes it, shadowing is a type of on-the-job training that allows an interested employee to follow and closely observe another employee performing the role. While this might feel like extra work, it’ll benefit your child. It’s an opportunity to broaden one’s horizon by going out of their comfort zone. In the end, shadowing other employees will give them the kind of range their peers might not have.
- They need to ask questions, take initiative, and receive feedback. Asking questions is how to learn about things beyond one’s understanding. The entire point of work experience placements is to learn as much as possible. So encourage your child to ask questions. Young people can sometimes be shy. But as a parent, you need to make your child understand that asking questions doesn’t mean that one is dumb. On the contrary, asking questions is an attribute of smart and intelligent people. Beyond asking questions, the child should also not be afraid to take initiative and ask their supervisor for feedback. Taking initiative means being proactive and doing tasks without waiting to be asked. Being proactive will help your child develop the confidence to work independently. And by accepting feedback, they get to understand their weaknesses and how to improve.
- Get the materials for documentation. It’s imperative to provide your child with documentation materials. Urge them to document their workplace experiences and track all the projects they participated in. Documentation makes it easier for your child to reflect on their work experience. And reflection helps the child evaluate themself and understand which parts of the work experience they enjoyed most. This way, they can confidently decide if it’s an area they want to pursue in the future.
After the Placement
After the placement, your child might want to simply move on. But it can be beneficial for them to send a thank-you note to their place of work experience and to stay connected with their supervisor and colleagues. Now might be the time for your child to start a LinkedIn account. The company will remember your child for their courtesy. Also, staying connected with their supervisor and colleague means leaving the door open for questions or any help they might need in the future.
Final Thoughts on Work Experience
Work experience is likely to be your child’s first time in an environment like this. They might have come to visit you a few times or talked about work. However, nothing is the same as spending a long day doing something. In my experience, most children are scared to speak up. They are happy doing photocopying and making tea. For some, this is fine as they get to observe a lot. The difference between a week’s work experience and an internship is that with an internship they are expected to produce some work of value. Many people however get some holiday work and perhaps more with that work experience company. A negative result, ‘I never want to do a desk job like that, it is so boring’, is a positive result. It means that decisions in the future can be more informed.