Smart Living | Digital Parenting

Digital Parenting | 04 Jan 2022

Work experience: How to help your child find a useful placement

Preparing teens for the world of work can be a long process, but taking time to discuss careers and how to get necessary experience will pay dividends. Here’s how to get started.

From GCSE years

Careers guidance in most schools starts early, with teachers and careers counsellors ensuring that children understand the careers that their choices could lead to as soon as they start their GCSE options.

Most schools also encourage young people to do some form of work experience – often during Year 10 or 11, and sometimes again in the Sixth Form.

Career coach Jenny Stallard, founder of wellbeing platform, says that students should be encouraged to make the most of these placements.

“Try and make it work hard for you – by that, I mean talk to other people in other departments, be keen to join in, and ask for references,” she advises.

Parents can also help to get students thinking about work and building their confidence, says Rachel Schofield, a certified career and personal development coach.

“If you’re struggling with a new challenge in your own work, or trying to deal with a complicated situation or difficult colleague, ask for their view over dinner,” she suggests.

“To help them build their confidence and communication skills, find opportunities to get them talking to adults they don’t know – get them to make a phone call to sort out your new broadband contract, ask for help with the car, or fix for the plumber to come.

“Self-belief is a big part of stepping comfortably into the world of work.”

The resources you need

Whether your child is interested in an apprenticeship, or wants inspiration for the types of jobs that might work for them, there are internet resources to help.

The video networking site TikTok is full of career influencers, such as Jenny Logullo, who is on the site as Career Hype Girl, or Madeline Mann, who is on the site as Self Made Millennial. Even career charity The Princes Trust is on TikTok, sharing videos on how to change career or grow in confidence in the workplace.

To find apprenticeships for those aged 16 and older, try the Government’s site, or education site Amazing Apprenticeships. For those aged 18 and over, Euan Blair, son of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, has a successful apprenticeship business called Multiverse, which matches potential apprentices with top businesses including Google, Facebook and Morgan Stanley.

Fiona Taylor, careers head at Sydenham School in South East London, says that apprenticeships can be a great option even for those who have struggled at school.

“There is too much emphasis put on the illusion that if you don’t achieve academic success no employer will be interested in you,” she says. “This destroys the confidence of young people who are much better at learning on the job.

“Thankfully when they get out into the workplace they find that they are just as capable of doing the work as everyone else. If they choose the apprenticeship route they can often end up making a lot more money in their twenties than their friends who have gone to university.”

Other career resources will be available through your child’s school, while Youth Employment UK, a not-for-profit social enterprise has resources and lists of careers fairs you could attend. The Government’s National Careers Service has a function where you can match skills to potential careers, which could also generate some ideas.

Writing a CV

For anyone, writing a CV can be a tricky task, but it’s particularly hard when you are just entering the world of work. For parents, helping with CVs can be a minefield, not least because quite a few things have changed since they first stepped into the job market.

Career coach Stallard recommends using templates from sources such as the graphic design template platform Canva  to ensure that the document has the right feel.

“Don’t try and write an essay, imagine you are giving a short summary of what you’ve done so far,” she says.

“Thinking laterally about your achievements is also a good step – if you are or were captain of a sports team, you can add leadership and organisational skills, for example.”

Rachel Schofield, career coach, suggests using what she calls the STAR technique. You outline a Situation where you demonstrated a particular quality, explain the Task you had to complete, then describe the specific Action you took, and finish with the successful Result you achieved.

“You can support your teen to get more comfortable owning their abilities and talking about them in a way that feels authentic and not arrogant,” she says.

Next steps

Even if teens have decided on a career, training or first job, it is worth bearing in mind that there are still many different opportunities out there and that they may change their minds.

Continuing to think about new options and goals as teens grow and add to their work experience is important. Jenny Stallard suggests making a “dream goals” list with children to help them clarify and focus their ambitions.

“Write down things you’d like to do, everything from where you might like to work, to the kind of work you’d like to do. Do you dream of being on The Apprentice, or I’m a Celebrity? Do you dream of owning a certain bag, or item?”

All of these things – however specific or even tangential they may sound to you – can really help teens to define what will inspire them in the world of work.

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