I’m sure many people reading this have an idea of what they want to do in the future – politics, journalism, medicine, the list is endless. For me it’s a career in costume design, and this past year I’ve had to think a lot about how I’m going to make my dream life reality.
The first step – get into university.
On the surface, it may seem all you need for a strong uni application are good GCSE and A Level grades, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, they are an important part, but equally as important are references from teachers, dedication and clear enthusiasm for your chosen subject area, as well as evidence of wider interests and proof that you will bring something useful to a university community. Charley Packham wrote a resonating piece on the importance of this so called ‘well-roundedness’ when applying to university for the Huffington Post – you can read it here, and I highly recommend you do!
Personally, I think the key to a well-rounded and successful university or job application is work experience! You can never do too much of it! Not only will it show your enthusiasm for your future career, or area of interest, but it will also provide you with a learning opportunity that will stay with you for a very long time.
Here are my ‘5 steps to good work experience’:
1. Find some!
This is the hardest step, as work experience programmes or opportunities are rarely advertised. Search, search and search some more for organisations around you – pick ones that you would genuinely enjoy being a part of. Email, phone or speak to people that you would like to work with. Explain who you are, why you want work experience, when you would like to do it, what you hope to learn, where your strengths are and how you can help them.
2. Once you’ve found some, make sure you do your research.
Know about your employer, the company, current projects (and past and future ones!). Most importantly, come prepared – bring the correct tools, be it a sewing kit or a pen and paper, and dress appropriately. Make sure you arrive on time!
3. Ask questions!
Engage with the people around you, make it known that you want to learn. Enthusiasm is key here, as are openness and confidence. Have discussions and don’t be afraid to ask for advice or tips.
4. It really is true that ‘you the more effort you put into a project, the more you get out of it’.
Be hardworking and independent during your work experience. Leaving a good impression will result in employers and mentors being much more eager to accommodate you in their work and could even provide further work experience opportunities. Personally, from one week of work experience (my first in fact) I got asked to work on 4 more productions.
5. When your time with one company has ended, be sure to thank those who have mentored you.
Write a thank you letter or email, or even phone them. Even if you didn’t have the time of your life (or perhaps you were put off that career path altogether!?) a little politeness and gratitude will go a long way. Follow up on any recommendations or offers of other placements and note down everything you learnt during your week or so of experience.
Honestly, the weeks when I do work experience are incredibly busy and hectic. I’m at school during the day, then my after-school job, then at the theatre from about 6.30PM to 11PM. I eat dinner on the bus and only go home to sleep - but it’s so much fun! I urge everyone to go out there and explore to world of work – it’s not as boring as it’s made to seem! Meet new people, learn new skills and broaden your horizons.
Learn what your ‘dream job’ really is and get firmly on the path to making it happen!
I hope you enjoyed this post, and my last two on NotAllAboutBoys. This is my last guest post here, but I will continue to post over at my regular blog – Showtime Stitches - where I write about art, design and costume for performance. See you soon!