Work Experience is Life Experience…

“You still do work experience when you’re at UNI?!” These were the incredulous words of a bright eyed 15 year old school girl I met whilst undertaking my most recent placement at a well known Sunday newspaper. With slightly bruised pride I explained in my most patronising voice, “Well there aren’t actually any jobs at the moment…babe.” That showed her. However, of eight work experience places available over two weeks, a whopping six of them were taken by Year Ten students, still free of all responsibility, and also free of any knowledge of, well, anything. They were the children of the rich and famous, with many a connection, thus when their school required they experience the working world they went straight to the top. Said students had yet to even take their GCSEs and I’m almost certain that if you’d asked them who the president of the USA was they’d have answered Arnold Schwarzenegger. Around the lunch table on my first day at the paper, one boy yanked the headphone from his left ear, peaked through his lank skater boy hair and asked, ‘So are any of you guys actually interested in, like, journalism and shit?’ I wanted to hurl him against a wall and tell him to walk out the door so that someone who wanted his place could have it. However, this plan was immediately foiled when I noticed his endless chains and piercings and layers of adolescent puppy fat, rendering him impossible for me to even lift.

I was pre-historic next to them. I was also extremely jealous of their scheduled graduation date in around 2015, when surely all this recession business will be long gone. Nonetheless I was subjected to a fortnight of reading their instant messages, packed full of ‘lmao’s, ‘rofl’s and ‘lshmbh’ which popped up on the Office Communicator system. Apparently the latter stands for, ‘laughing so hard my belly hurts’ for all those born before 1993.

In the past year I have devoted several weeks of my precious holidays to perfecting my CV through the medium of work experience. Initially I completed two weeks at a woman’s magazine, where I witnessed the writers and sub-editors scurrying around terrified of their Editor-in-Chief. It might be a cliché but The Devil Wears Prada came to mind when I overheard the Editor explaining that she’d bought a dress but it made her look fat and old (I hate to break it to her but she wasn’t far off) but she didn’t have time to return it and she didn’t trust her nanny with her credit card. And with a false cackle she added that she was perfectly content to entrust her children to the same employee. Odious woman.

On another occasion the entire Fashion team were out on shoot, leaving a lonely work experience girl in the office to man 500 phones. A photo shoot that I had in fact helped them prepare for the previous two weeks (not that I was mildly bitter that I wasn’t allowed to go). At around lunchtime I received a call from the Fashion Editor who had illogically decided that the skirt selected for the model simply wasn’t voluminous enough and could I please courier something over within the hour to save the situation? Cue the mad dash down Oxford Street to find ANYTHING that might make a skirt look wider. Countless shop assistants gazed at me in wonder at such a request. Despite trying all the main street shops it was a tutu from a backstreet Emo shop that saved the day. I visited such shops in all seriousness at around the age of 14 in order to stock up on my enormous Starfish flared jeans which absorbed every inch of rain from the ground, resulting in every step becoming a workout as the denim was so heavy. Such a staple fashion item would of course have been accessorized with knee-high stripy socks, fingerless gloves, Slipknot hoodies and endless shades of Stargazer luminous hair dyes. Although I mock, the tutu was a triumph which put me on the map, judging from the offer of a further fortnight’s experience at the end of my allotted time. ‘I’m actually quite busy sticking needles in my eyes, but if it was ANY other week I would LOVE to!’

Despite having to assume the role of a babysitter, my time at the newspaper was far more exciting as I was a fly on the wall throughout various office incidents. For example, when AA Gill rang in furious that his piece about endangered polar bears had been tarnished with a headline insinuating that his mission was provoked by a mid-life crisis. Eventually it was decided that the line had been a parting gift from the Editor-in-Chief on his recent resignation. A fierce discussion ensued on how the writer was content to dish it, (remember him branding the entire Albanian race as ‘short and ferret-faced’?) but when on the receiving end he became a scowling schoolboy pointing the finger at his bully.

I was also able to sit in on a talk by Boris Johnson. Whatever people say about this guy’s ability to run the capital, he is seriously funny to laugh at and with due to his willingness to mock himself. When asked his most embarrassing moment as the Mayor of London, he replied that there were too many to mention and that he’d email the journalist his top ten. When it was suggested that the recent incident when he fell into the River Pool might feature, he replied on the contrary. He explained that the incident was completely intentional in order to gain additional publicity for his campaign to encourage Londoners to volunteer. He added that it simply wasn’t newsworthy otherwise. I’m sure members of the Quaggy Waterways Action Group whom he was aiding would have been thrilled to hear this. Particularly the man who was dragged into the boggy waters along with Boris.
He also revealed that his top tip for a family day out in London would be to take a disposable barbecue to one of the capital’s beautiful parks…until someone pointed out that this was entirely against his green policy.
So remember this when you’re dreading the prospect of two weeks unpaid slavery; despite the negatives work experience does give you some great anecdotes to recall.

Hattie Hamilton

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