Thursday, 4 March 2010

How to Hire Work Experience Students

I have always been a huge advocate of work experience within our industry. It's a tough one to crack, so sometimes it's the only way in. Work experience students can be enormously helpful whether you're starting out, established, or just crazy busy and needing an extra pair of hands, stat.

Additionally, undertaking work experience is also vastly beneficial to the student/worker: not only does it give them first-hand experience in their chosen field (often compulsory as part of their course), it also enables them to work out whether they actually want to be in the industry or not. As my wise father says, it's just as important to cross things off your list as it is to tick them! When I finished school I undertook work experience at The Daily Telegraph and CLEO. While I loved the time I spent at both, it wasn't quite right for me but I knew I was close! By being there I learnt more about the industry and discovered the PR & Events side - a career I have always loved with a passion.

Lesson: Never underestimate a work experience student!
A decade ago when I was at Spin, I had a gorgeous young intern named Kannon Rajah. We were chatting one day and I asked him where he wanted to be (when he grew up!). He said quite confidently, "Running the Victoria's Secret Fashion Shows around the world." I laughed and said "Good for you!", loving his passion but admittedly not quite believing he'd get there. Cut to a night 6 years later, me sitting on the couch in my jammies devouring a tub of Hokey Pokey, looking up at the TV to see Kannon with a headset on shouting "Gisele! Heidi! Adriana!"...yes - he now runs the shows all over the world, bless his cotton socks.

Social Diary members contact me on a daily basis enquiring about where to find interns, how to manage them etc - and I'm also contacted daily by students eager to break in. Hence, the reason for this blog piece.

What I've found (and I was definitely in this position years ago) is often people just don't know what to do with them once they've taken them on! And after 13 years in the industry and hundreds of work experience students, I've seen every kind - ranging from the ones who roll their eyes and groan when asked to do something to the ones you love to bits and hire in a heartbeat.

Some tips:

* Interview potential students as if you were going to hire them for a salary position. Don't just take on anyone who calls - they have to be the right fit for your company in personality and attitude - why should it be any different from full time staff?

* Put aside a list of set tasks for them before they arrive. Work out the kinds of jobs that can be easily explained and undertaken by inexperienced workers.

* 1 day a week is not enough. Personally, I prefer having someone in for 2-3 days a week for a shorter time period than 1 day a week over months. You can give them meatier tasks, and they really get a feel for the daily job.

* Mix it up. Imagine it was you - noone wants to spend a valuable 3 month internship doing clipping reports every single day. Make it interesting and nurture them.

* Don't put up with bad behaviour. Just because they are technically working for free, doesn't mean they should take advantage of you (we've all had some shockers!)

* Reward them. They should be appreciated. Give them goodie bags, product, and take them out to lunch.

* Hire them! If you love them, give them a job. If you don't have a position, do what you can to introduce them to industry contacts - or just send them my way, I can help!

Best resources for students:
Contact me! I get heaps of requests from students: tiffany@socialdiary.com.au
FBI Fashion College email train@fbifashioncollege.com.au
APM College of Business & Communication

This week I discovered a Social Diary member company who have developed a fantastic program that really makes the most of this symbiotic relationship: Klick Communications and their "KlickStart Work Experience Program".

I chatted to Klick Director, Kim McKay who explained the program runs for a minimum of 3 months, incorporates regular performance reviews, and the students recieve a certificate at the end. They currently have 3 people in the program, and after 1 year have employed their first graduate!

Kim says: "We believe the strength of this programme is tailoring the goals and objectives to suit the candidate - if they can achieve their own goals they perform better for us. And who knows, they may employ us one day!"

Congrats to Kim and the team at Klick for such a fantastic initiative.
For info contact florence@klick.com.au.

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