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What did you learn? I learnt how to file…

I caught up with Adela at the end of her 2 week work experience placement and asked her what she had been doing and what she had learnt.

She said she’d learnt how their filing system worked, how to enter data into their database and how everyone in the department liked their coffee. No one sat down and talked about the business with her, no one took time to discuss their jobs, the work they were doing or interacted with her in any way. She wasn’t involved in anything that would give her an insight into the industry:- no reading, no book reports or slush pile, even though these were intimated when securing the placement.

Adela said if she had to rate this experience for others, she’d give it 2/10. Basically, everything she was doing was relevant to any office, anywhere. Nothing was unique to publishing, and she felt slightly taken advantage of that this had been advertised as publishing work experience.

We too feel slightly dismayed that the company concerned didn’t interact with Adela; if any company needs professional advice as to how to make short term placements work, for both the graduate and the company, we’d be happy only to help.

Given that we at are in a priviledged position and know which company this is, what do you think we should do, if anything, with this information? Particularly as we’d like to avoid others having a similar experience. Do you have any suggestions for us?

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4 Responses to What did you learn? I learnt how to file…

  1. Mary 18/01/2011 at 16:56 #

    Its crucial to preserve the placed person (Adela) from any negative implications, but equally crucial to try and stop this happening to other people. I would send a questionaire to the company, and indeed to a selection of others entitled How to get the most out of work experience placements. Ask probing questions about what they did with the placement person, and a corresponding what they (the Adela role) learnt against each question. BookCarreers could then offer a programme for publishers on how to do it right, like a training session/consultation. New strand to you business Suzanne !

  2. ex. publishing intern 18/01/2011 at 17:25 #

    Sadly I have to say Adela’s experience is certainly NOT unique. I have had some good experience as a work experience person in publishing but with the admin demands exerted on every department of a publishing house the work experiencers are too easily the butt of the office admin overload. While some publishers I’ve worked with try and balance out menial databasing with experience of specific projects and ‘real work’, others really do abuse the glut of possible candidates eager to join the industry. Moreover they sometimes assume the work exprerience person to do the job of an employee without any pay. I have worked as basically a temp assistant while technically still an unpaid intern.

    The only advice I can give to people applying for work experience is stand up for yourself. If you find yourself just doing admin and making coffee find someone nice and ask to sit down and discuss their job with you. In my experience they are unlikely to say no and will often give you more responsibilty if they know you can handle it. It would be nice if the industry changed and stopped effectively using work experience as free labour but it is unlikely to happen soon, especially not when they are all taking in their belts!

  3. Katrina 19/01/2012 at 15:26 #

    What happened to Adela? Any updates?

  4. Anon 02/08/2012 at 20:00 #

    Yes, what happened to Adela? Did this experiment work? Would be really good to hear what happened as this seemed to end quite suddenly!!

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