Careers planning starts with good work experience, that’s what the holidays are for.

It is done, summer is here – obviously only chronologically rather than meteorologically as I look out at the resolutely sullen British vista. My children break up for their holidays and although they are too young to co-opt into the world of work and I’m staring down the barrel of 7 weeks of Lego and ice cream, others amongst you should be making the most of your summer holidays and doing meaningful work experience. By others of course I mean every student aged 15 and over. If you’ve just done your GCSEs, congratulations, now start thinking about your future. If you’ve just finished your first year of A Levels, your future is looking dangerously close and if you’ve just finished your A Levels, your future has already begun. You are in it.

The biggest complaint I get from students is that they don’t have enough time to do anything. They are always so busy. What that means in reality is that they have a certain amount of time earmarked for doing ‘worthy, improving’ things and the rest of the time is theirs to squander indiscriminately. It is impossible to overstate the importance of getting work experience during your time off from school. In terms of careers planning and advice it is the single most important endeavour you can embark upon.

beach ball0003
Playing with a beachball can be fun but it’s not going to enhance your CV, career planning starts with good work experience.

If you’re just finished with your GCSEs and are A Level bound, you will have made certain choices already quite likely in support of a possible degree or career route. Now is the time to explore whether those decisions are accurate, if for example you are thinking you wish to study Law at university with a view to being a lawyer, try and get some work experience in a solicitor’s office, at a chambers, within the legal department of a larger company. Even a few days shadowing someone at a few different places can be immensely helpful.

Why, you ask? Because how can you possibly know what it is you want to do unless you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins? If it confirms what you want to do then great, now you’ve something to talk about on your personal statement, have built some professional contacts that you can call upon for a reference or further experience down the line. It may even have helped you refine what sort of law you may like to practice. If it throws your whole plan out of the window? Great, better to know now than in 3 years time. All that means is that you have the rest of the summer holidays to think seriously about your careers and pathways planning, to seek careers advice, speak to people and really explore what kind of industry you may be more suited to. By learning about the jobs that are out there you will gain a much greater insight into what you can do, where you will be happy and comfortable and you plot your A Level choices and university course based on knowledge not assumptions.

If you’ve just finished your Lower Sixth year, then, again prior to writing any applications for apprenticeships or UCAS personal statements, as you will have to do in fairly short order, your experiences can be boosted magnificently with actual examples of doing the things you claim you want to. It shows dedication, interest and engagement in the area and will make your application stand out far more than just doing the bare minimum as so many others will.

If you’ve just finished your A Levels, sorry bub, you’re already slap bang in the middle of your future, it began the moment you put your pen down in the last exam. Everything you do now will count towards your CV and will be the thing that people ask about once you start looking for your first job as a graduate. Think of it as investing in your future, what’s the point in slogging your guts out, revising and working hard all year to pass the exams if you’re not going to take the next part of the process as seriously?

I wrote about this before at half term, but I wonder how many of you actually did something with your time off or indeed how many of you have plans to do anything now. If you’re serious about getting the job of your dreams, creating the life you want, having a career you are proud of, that all starts today. So don’t waste time, get serious and go and grab the holidays by the balls and show them what you can do.


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