Making the most of the opportunities

To secure his “invaluable” placement in PR, Year 12’s Ryan Ratnam swung into action straight after last year’s Careers Convention. Unsurprisingly, then, his advice to others is: “Start early!”

Fellow sixth-former Harshil Shah relished the chance to use advanced equipment in a university Physics department during one of his placements, while at the other – in Shell’s finance department – he seized the opportunity to learn from staff at all levels.

During this summer, after completing Year 11, Ryan undertook his work experience at Madano, a PR firm on the South Bank in London. “PR was something I had relatively no knowledge of, and I was introduced to it at the Careers Convention,” he says. “I started looking for work experience placements at the start of Year 11 – something I don’t regret as many companies do not take under 18s, so it is important to start browsing and applying early.

“At the convention, I decided to go to the PR stall, not because of particular interest, but more in an effort to sample everything. Visiting as many stalls as possible was very useful in presenting a wide range of careers that I had never even considered before. It was also especially invaluable to talk to people actually in that field and to be able to put any questions I had.

“What drew me to inquiring further about the PR stall was the wide variety that the job entailed, with it offering the opportunity to work in many different fields, ranging from healthcare to energy.

“After sending over my CV, I had to wait for a couple of months, but was eventually informed that they wanted me to come in for an interview. This seemed to be slightly abnormal compared to other people’s work experiences, but, in preparation, I simply planned some answers for a few generic questions and took some time looking at the company website to familiarise myself a bit more with the company and the industry as a whole. I also had to submit two pieces of essay work (I chose a History essay and an Economics article I had written) and it was useful to ask my teachers to briefly look over them. After the interview, I did not have to wait long till I was accepted for the placement.

“My work experience placement was invaluable even in the non-industry specific experience it gave me. Having never been in an office before, I got a very good taste of office life and how important meeting deadlines is, with my work no longer being only relevant to myself, as it is in school.

“However, the most rewarding aspect was what I was actually given to do. Most placements seemed to have moved beyond the role of just giving interns tea and coffee to make and mine most certainly had. I was pleased to receive tangible work that was actually being used: whether it was compiling research logs on specific projects or partaking in making social media campaigns, I appreciated my work actually having an effect.

“It was also interesting to talk to others about how they had got to their position and what career decisions they had made. My work experience placement was extremely useful, giving me knowledge and experience of working in an office, as well as a range of industries: the opportunity to embark on a placement in Year 11 is something that cannot be missed.”

Harshil Shah’s work experience during the summer of 2018 had two elements. Firstly, he took part in a Physics programme at Queen Mary University London, which is open to Years 10 and 11.
“There were a series of workshops and activities along with a main project where we worked on an undergraduate practical research project in a team.

“I gained a good insight into what further Physics education is, and you get to use equipment you don’t in GCSE (such as oscilloscopes and electromagnets – depending on the particular project). At the end you present your research as a group; as the activities were almost all in groups, I improved my teamwork and ability to collaborate.

“At the Shell Centre–Finance, I was shadowing my dad. I learned about the office environment/workspace and day-to-day life and I was able to talk to people in a variety of positions in the company which was the most productive part of it. I spoke to interns (how they got the internship, how much have they learned), an engineer (his career path and recommendations for my own career path were I to follow a similar route) and recent graduates in the Graduate Scheme (how they got the position, university advice and that it is advisable to get into a graduate scheme).

“I also listened in on meetings and calls to learn about workplace ethic and how information is shared and presented, as well as learning about the omnipresence of spreadsheets!”