Wednesday, July 28, 2010

It's never too early for a foot in the door

Do you remember Work Experience? It all came flooding back to me when I read this post by the very talented Deer Baby (go look, you’ll love it – her name is Alison, how could you not love it?). The girl who wrote ‘Help, I’m being held prisoner’ inside the flap of the envelopes was truly inspirational. I wish I’d thought of that.

My recollections of work experience involve shoes that hurt, tights that sagged, and early mornings. For some reason, I, already a confirmed night owl at 15, chose to do my first lot of work experience at the local radio station, involving 5am starts. My second lot of work experience involved childcare and is best not thought about now. My third lot, at 16, took place at a metropolitan daily broadsheet, involved 5am starts and was responsible for my almost never becoming a journalist.

It wasn’t the starts (though I’m never at my best at that ungodly hour – ask my children). Rather it was the fact that day one saw me held captive ensconced in the office of the Letters Editor, reading page after page of semi-literate abuse. My second day saw me on the front steps of a suburban house in a suburban street, shadowing a ‘stick-one-foot-in-the-door’ reporter as he asked the family inside for pictures of two children who’d died hours before when a bomb went off in an airport overseas. Day three involved eight hours of excitement spotting spelling mistakes at the subs’ desk. Days four and five pass in the kind of blur that only victims of shell shock will understand.

Quite the introduction to journalism.

I went home and told my parents I’d decided to become a secretary.

In fact, I was lucky. Not that it felt that way at the time. But by the time I came into contact with work experience again – 10 years later, and this time as the experiencee, rather than the experiencer – I came to understand what a valuable program that paper had in place. I was given a very clear picture of each facet of working on a newspaper – whether I liked it or not.

In Magazine Land, work experience tended to involve waiting around the foyer, wearing your best ‘fashion ensemble’, waiting for someone to send you for a coffee. If you were lucky, you were chosen to package clothes up for return. Occasionally, someone would talk you through a story and possibly get you to write up a product review. On the plus side, you'd always be sent home with a beauty 'goody' bag, so it wasn't all bad.

It’s not that we didn’t care about our ‘workies’, just that, by then, magazines were already running on shoe strings, everyone was doing the work of two people and nobody had time to explain anything. Except how they liked their coffee.

It didn’t seem to deter the ones who really wanted to ‘get into mags’. You’d see their faces again a few years later, working as interns (read: for free) in the fashion cupboard, doing whatever it took to be in the right place at the right time when a job opening came up.

Now that’s what I call a ‘foot in the door’ approach.


  1. I managed to escape work scared the bejesus out of me at the time! ;)

  2. Great post - and thanks for the link. I knew you'd have some good stories to tell. Imagine having to doorstep people like that - when I did my journalism course they asked me if I would be prepared to go into people's houses and ask for photographs of children that had just been killed or taken. Or even lift them from people's photo albums. I replied that I could not. So they said I was too much of a wuss for news and that I would be better suited to 'fluffy magazines.

    On a lighter note, I'm trying to remember what I had to do for my own work experience. I went to a woman's magazine which I loved but yes, the stress of having to wear something fashionable every day was a bit much. And to a nursing one. And to a stage and theatre review one which I adored but was run by two old biddies and it was like a mausoleum. I was sent off to interview actors and on my first day was told off for quoting something which he said had been 'strictly off the record.' I still smart about that.

  3. I did my first work experience at a friend's dental clinic. I don't know what made me think of doing that but at the time I thought it was a good idea. I remember watching her do a root canal on a patient and I was the dental nurse. Anyway, having no real dental probs of my own I never knew the pain that some patients had to endure esp. a root canal. Well, it was all going well until I blurted out "Ouch that must hurt" to the patient who just glared at me. I quickly covered my mouth but it was too late.... my dental career ended that day!

  4. Al, isn't it uncanny that we have such insight as to choose the right industry at such a young age? My first work experience was in year 9 (or 10?) styling a magazine shoot for Home Beautiful with a friend of my Mums called Barb. I remember it vividly. 30 years later I'm still styling and writing about houses...

  5. My first work experience was in grade 10 at a Vet Clinic. Obviously the real vet nurses use this every year to get conveniently sick and left me there for 2 days on my own. On a day that the de-nutting of a big bulldog took place.

    Amazing how quick you realise you are actually squeamish at the sight of blood. I fainted and knew then & there, vet nursing was not going to be in my future.

    Although numbers and figures aren't all that exciting either. Need to find my middle ground and I'm 35 - scary.

    Great post A xxx

  6. My work experience was considered very cool: in a Perth radio station, 96FM. I was 15 at the time, and from memory, I wore a red cardigan with big white letters - like an American college sweater - for my first day. Oh yeah. Epitome of cool. *cough*

    Anyway, I mostly made coffee. I cleaned out the storage room (and was given a bunch of 96FM stickers) and fetched lunch for people. Yes siree - it was glamourous.

    The most exciting thing for me was walking around discovering the radio played from every single room. Even the bathroom.

    They gave me a $25 cheque at the end of the week. They weren't supposed to pay me and...well, they didn't. I fetched a LOT of lunches back then!

  7. Work experience didn't really bear thinking about. It involved, er, work. I made beds at the hospital for a week under thw guise of nursing and answered phones at the solicitors under the guise of being a solcitor. All I knew at the end of the two weeks was that I didn't want to work in a hotel or be a receptionist...

  8. I did a week in a nursing home and saw my first 86 year old ball bag. (Sadly I have seen more of these during my years in the hospital system.) *sigh*

    I then backed up with a week in a pathology lab learning to take blood samples (would have made a good junkie in the end), observing an autopsy and growing things out of 'samples', mostly provided by me e.g. snot, skin scrapings etc. What the?

  9. You had quite a number of unusual experiences early on; and none of them involved french fries- amazing! Great post kiddo!

  10. Hi kiddo. I need your help. Our littlest dog, Gizmo is desperately sick at the emergency vet. If you've got any extra prayers just lying around, please send them his way. Thanks, Michele


Thanks for popping by the Fibro. I love to hear from you!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...