Work Experience in the Pandemic: Thinking Outside the Box
Work experience has undoubtedly been a casualty of Covid: for the current grade 11s and 12s, there was no opportunity to undertake the usual post-IGCSE 2 week work experience placements. And even this year, many of the Grade 10s are finding that firms they are approaching are replying to applicants with a ‘wait and see’ non-committal response.
For those who have received such a response it may well be a case of persistence and patience. Sending follow-up emails as the situation (hopefully) relaxes will let the firm know that you haven’t given up and are serious about gaining this experience. In addition, students should be thinking more widely about their work experience, looking at job sectors rather than specific roles (eg. the health sector rather than doctor); a look at the Careers Library on Unifrog and search by Career Area can help here, something I’m happy to support with for those who are feeling a bit lost.
Another option is to look into virtual work experience. As in all areas, the many gaps caused by lockdowns and restrictions have been plugged by the virtual world, and work experience is no exception. Many large, international companies are offering virtual work experience in a wide variety of roles. While it is possible to go directly to the company’s website to find these opportunities, the easiest way is via portals that advertise and manage these experiences.
One of these is Springpod, a UK-based company offering access to both UK names (including a wide range of medical-related experiences via the NHS), international organisations like Nestle and Siemens and their own insight events into career sectors. Another is Forage, an Australian-based company offering ‘bitesize’ (2-5 hour) insights into a wide range of different sectors. Both are free to attend and do not require references, CVs or letters of motivation.
In Germany, I haven’t found a portal similar to the two mentioned above, but a number of companies are offering virtual experiences. Accenture in Germany offers their work experience virtually and Telekom are offering 5-day online placements. Deutsche Bahn has a week-long virtual work experience offer as ‘Fahrdienstleiter’ for the end of March (I’m tempted to enrol just to find out how you can be a virtual Fahrdienstleiter), so it might be that they open up more opportunities in the future or are prepared to on direct inquiry. Some Sparkasse branches, mainly in Bavaria, are even offering Schülerpraktikum über WhatsApp! And if the company of your choice isn’t offering virtual work experience, there is no harm in asking if they would consider it.
For grade 11s and 12s in particular, these virtual options could be a very useful compromise. For Grade 10s who are struggling to find meaningful work experience, they offer the opportunity to bolster a more limited ‘live’ option if, in conjunction with me, we plan out the two-week programme. As with most things over the last two years, everything is possible with an Internet connection and a bit of creative thinking.
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