Work experience troubles

After sending off my BBC News application after over six weeks of writing it (I gave it a rest during exams) I was surprised at the rapid response of my rejection the next morning. Hours of writing about my ‘suitability’, ‘education’ and ‘experience’ about a placement for the BBC resulted in five seconds of skimming an email to tell me I’m unsuccessful and they can provide no feedback as to why.

I can understand the BBC News, the biggest media company in the country, but to date I have emailed and contacted 24 separate media relations, publishing and PR companies, magazines and newspapers, both local and national. I’ve received about 10 responses so far – pretty appalling. Admittedly I haven’t resorted to ringing them up every ten minutes, storming the office and demanding placements yet, but the rejection letters, being the incorrect age and the lack of places available are, amongst everything else, quite disheartening, especially after spending so long writing the content.

Most of the responses are; apply later. However, the difficulty of getting any sort of work experience for any amount of time is pretty ridiculous. Who doesn’t want people on work experience to run around the office for them doing all the rubbish jobs no one wants to do and making tea? I know as an employer I would welcome it, so what’s the problem? Why don’t they want us? Is this because we’re annoying, inexperienced and know nothing about the real world perhaps? Well, maybe it’s because we can’t get any work experience.

So many graduates are coming out of university and searching for jobs, and unable to get them. Partly this is due to the economic crisis and the high unemployment rates, lack in demand. However, if all the reports are true that graduates are not trained for the work place, it’s because they can’t get enough work experience. Work experience is key, not just so employers recognise you as a dedicated, reliable and responsible individual with the experience to succeed but so you can gain the vital skills you need to succeed in the work place, not just the classroom.

My first work experience placement was aged 15, compulsory as part of our school curriculum at the time. It was fairly simple to get the placement; I walked around my hometown and dropped into every shop, asking if it was possible to do two days work experience with them. I stopped by a café/bistro and they offered me a place. The last few days of my summer were spent making coffee, serving customers and helping prepare food in the kitchen (and I even got some of the money from the tips jar at the end of it). I’m very grateful for it as it secured me a job when I finished my GCSEs in Pret a Manger sandwich shop, which I love, and overall I really enjoyed the placement.

I’m not sure whether it was the local aspect of the placement that made it easier to get, or the fact it was the catering industry which could always use an extra hand. However, my next placement wasn’t as easy. The Buckingham and Winslow Advertiser took work experience placements months in advance and only for those over the age of 18. After a lengthy and argumentative discussion over email about my suitability and experience for the work experience with the owner of Johnston Press as I was just 16 at the time, I finally got a week’s placement at the newspaper. As my most relevant and engaging work experience yet, I spent the week researching, writing articles and reporting on local issues around the community, which was highly valuable for the journalism career I intend to embark on after university.

This brings me to today. After a year’s experience as Deputy and then News Editor of my local students’ newspaper The Boar, I’m looking for something else to set me apart from the others before I graduate and begin that long search for the job of my dreams. For the past three months of sending out covering letters, filling in applications and receiving rejections or no replies at all, I was about ready to give up. Email after email got my hopes up, and then deflated them again, which was utterly degrading.

But I soon realised that this is exactly why journalism work experience is so hard to come by; journalism is hard. There will be plenty of people ignoring me, rejecting me, shouting at me and slamming doors in my faces for hopefully many years to come. I have to learn to gain experience from it, to not get offended, to take the criticisms, move on and learn. This is just teaching me to be persistent, to keep going and not to give up, and is all simply a part of the experience. Only time will tell if this is the job I really want to have for the rest of my life, but rather than getting upset about my rejections and looking at other careers, I’m getting back on the horse and researching other options. Onto the next application.

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Filed under Journalism, Media, Work Experience

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