Picture this; you’re 21, graduating from University, having written an extensive (if potentially boring!) dissertation, inevitably on something obscure. Now it’s time to put the past 16 odd years of education to good use. Yet, you’re faced with a world where over 50% of UK young people go to University, you’re under-qualified for an unpaid internship, and entry level jobs require 2-to-3 years of experience!
A degree is no longer enough to get you through the door (or past the application screening stage). Just as this realisation hits home, so does COVID-19. Businesses are cutting back, and working from home is the new norm. So how do you learn and experience office-life without being physically present? Well, it’s possible.
Do your research
As with everyone, businesses are trying to find their feet in this current climate. Know what you want to gain from your experience, and how you think you’ll learn this best. You may find yourself educating the employer on the process of virtual work experience rather than vice-versa.
Key business contact
Without looking over somebody’s shoulder, understanding all elements of a role can be difficult. Ensuring that there is someone in your corner can be invaluable. This person can be there to give the team a nudge now-and-then to include you in meetings and on projects. As well as keep you on track to gain experience across the whole role.
As the old adage goes, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The team you’re working with is unlikely to know what assistance they need, until the very moment they need it. Whether you’re using Slack, Teams, or good old E-mail, contacting your team and asking if they need any help is the virtual form of the office tap on the shoulder – a reminder that you’re there and ready to help.
Unless you’re watching The Big Bang Theory AND want to be a theoretical physicist, you’re unlikely to gain the insight you need from Netflix. Working from home, where none of your colleagues can see you, it can be tempting to give less than 100%. Don’t do that. You applied for work experience for a reason, so make the most of it, immerse yourself completely.
Virtual work experience has applications beyond this pandemic, such as being able to gain experience at your dream company in London, whilst avoiding the awkward stay at your Mums-Friends-Aunties house who happens to live there. Virtual work experience might be gaining popularity during this pandemic, but it’s not going anywhere! Although it may seem not as immersive as being in a physical office, it’s an amazing opportunity for young people to get in touch with companies and have their first taste of what that work environment is like.
To all the businesses and students who are thinking of doing virtual work experience, but are not entirely convinced, I have just one thing to say: do it, I can guarantee you won’t regret it.
By Emma Williams who undertook work experience with Sapio Research in March 2021