My son is eager to learn, but he's struggling to find work experience

I ask my son what he wants for supper. I receive a glazed-eyed look and a shrug. "What's the choice?" comes the reply.

I reel off a list of the regulars and we plump for the thrilling taste of "tuna mayo pasta". He stands next to me stirring, while I stare into the boiling water.

When the water bubbles over he casually says that one day he wants to work "in research". I'm lost for words. My son, in year 12, has never shown an interest in research before.

I failed chemistry so there will be no words of wisdom dropping from my lips. I won't be creating a Walter White lab and mentoring him as we cook blue crystal meth together.

That's when I suggest work experience. Surely that's the way to go. He's read plenty of leaflets about jobs, even watched a bit of YouTube, but after that he's operating on a hunch.

It must be better if he finds out a little more by experiencing what a job entails, so he's choosing the right university course before committing himself to a lifetime of unsuitability? An informed choice is the way to go.

"One day of work has got to be worth 20 books. Think of it as a taster," I say, as I eat my pasta. He looks at me as if I'm mad. Not surprising really. After a lifetime, I'm still trying to find the "right" job.

I'm learning that times have changed when it comes to finding work experience. I had no idea how difficult it is to "pop in" and get a few days of work. Nowadays there are so many obstacles to the application process.

He's keen enough – but he's part of the generation that is brilliantly concise and economical with language. With texting replaced by Whatsapp and Snapchat, he now gets answers almost before his brain's engaged. He looks on email as something from a bygone era.

Therein lies a small problem. Two actually. One, how to write a formal letter, and two, when people don't reply with an emoticon they are not being rude. Sometimes they are busy, but mostly they have no idea what he means.

His first enquiry took a while to construct and struck a good balance of being eager but not pushy. I was pleased and left it a while before suggesting he check his email for a reply. Nothing appeared on his screen. So he wrote another email. Still nothing.

On the third attempt and a month down the line, he was given the email address of another department. So the whole process started again. "See," he said. "They don't know what I'm on about."

I started to share his frustration when, after three months, he still had nothing definite. He was keen to learn and find out more, yet it was like he was asking to join the secret service.

So I phoned up a careers adviser and asked for their advice. National Careers Service adviser Victoria Matthews gave me these top pointers:

Advice on getting work experience

• Be clear on what you want to gain, so the work is meaningful and helpful in terms of a career goal.

• Be specific about the timescale and ask how the employer intends to structure your time with them.

• Be enthusiastic and get the basics of punctuality, reliability and flexibility right.

• Demonstrate genuine interest and look for opportunities to make a contribution then you will be noticed.

• Offer to do things, but do remain sensitive to the permanent staff and the culture.

(Source: TheGuardian)


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