My Work Experience Experience.

When I was 15 years old, I had to complete a week of work experience as part of my school’s ‘student enrichment’ programme.

Initially, the prospect of doing work experience excited me.

I was eager to temporarily escape the classroom and enter into professional environment for the first time.

I envisioned myself working for the local news station or a cool hipster tech company where employees sat in bean bags instead of desk chairs.

However, my enthusiasm reduced significantly when I was placed at my local Garden Centre.

My supervisor at the Garden Centre was a guy called Alan who was relatively new to the world of work himself.

Alan was seventeen years old, had zero managerial experience and had absolutely no idea what to do with me.

After giving me some brief instructions, he handed me a t-shirt with the words ‘You Plant A Question, We’ll Grow You An Answer’ printed on the back and then made himself scarce.

I went to the bathroom, changed into the shirt and walked back out onto the shop floor.

Before long, customers that had previously been ignoring me started approaching me and asking me questions, clearly assuming that I was now a font of horticultural knowledge.

This wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d known a single thing about plants.

However, the sum total of my gardening knowledge came from an episode of The Teletubbies I’d seen as a kid where I’d watched a man tend to his allotment through the telly in LaLa’s stomach.

As a result, I was completely unprepared to answer any of the customer’s questions.

For the first three days of my work experience, I stood awkwardly on the shop floor, dishing out dubious horticultural advice to a series of confused and dissatisfied customers.

Eventually, on Thursday, one of the managers on shift took pity on me and took me off the shop floor.

She handed me a batch of Yankee Candles that had just been delivered and asked me to arrange them into a display.

After three days of talking to customers, I relished the opportunity to do something vaguely creative so I sat happily in my own little world, experimenting with different colour arrangements and taking the lids off the candles to smell the different scents inside. 

However, after a couple of hours, I was approached by an old lady who had been browsing nearby. I braced myself, expecting her to ask me a question that I didn’t know the answer to.

I was relieved, therefore, when she asked me to help her retrieve a trowel from a high shelf. Finally, I thought. A task that is within my capabilities. I can actually be useful and help this old lady fulfill her trowel-based needs.

I picked up a step-ladder and placed it next to the shelf. However, as I climbed up the ladder, I suddenly felt a bit lightheaded.

All the candle sniffing had obviously gone to my head and I swayed slightly, causing the ladder to rock dangerously.

I waved my arms about, desperately attempting to restore my balance, but to no avail.

As a result, I tipped backwards and fell directly onto a nearby cactus.

To cut a long story short, I essentially flattened a cactus with my arse.

Just in case you have never fallen off a ladder onto a cactus before, let me tell you, it is a pretty painful experience.

After I had gotten over the initial shock of the impact, I tentatively raised myself to my feet and, for a few moments, stared blankly at the plant that I had obliterated with my butt cheeks.

I wasn’t sure what to do about the state of the cactus or, for that matter, my arse.

I remembered the adverts that I’d seen on TV offering compensation for people who had had an accident at work but I’d never seen one featuring someone falling onto a cactus. I wasn’t sure if it even counted as an ‘accident at work’ but I reckoned it would be worth looking into.

At the very least, I thought I should probably report the incident to my supervisor so I handed the trowel to the old lady and went looking for Alan.

When I found him, I was still slightly traumatised by the incident. My brain wasn’t functioning properly and I couldn’t think clearly about what I was saying.

As a result, I ran up to him and the words, ‘Alan, I’ve got some pricks in my bum!’ just fell out of my mouth.

Alan was, understandably, quite taken back.

Alan gasped and looked quite worried.

I was initially quite touched by this. I thought that maybe I had underestimated him as a manager. It seemed that he really cared about my wellbeing after all…

Despite my unfortunate encounter with the cactus (RIP), I managed to get through the rest of my work experience unscathed.

The following week, me and the rest of my year group returned to school where we were asked to write a reflection about our experience in the world of work.

Needless to say, mine turned out a bit different to most other peoples’.

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I Am a Very Small Fish in a Big, Massive, Confusing Ocean.

When I was in school, I used to feel quite important.

My social circle was quite small and I was confident that I was going to achieve all of my goals and everything was going to go swimmingly.

I was essentially was a big fish in a small pond.

However, as I have moved up through the educational system, I have gradually come to realise that this is not the case.

It turns out that I am a teeny tiny fish in a significantly larger body of water.

img_0016If you enjoyed this post, feel free to check out some of my other posts. For more blog posts and drawings, you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitterand Instagram.

Interview Advice – Just Be Yourself… As Long You’re Being A More Organised, Eloquent, Functioning Version Of Yourself That Is Better Than Your Actual Self In Pretty Much Every Single Way…

Growing up and entering the real world can be a confusing and overwhelming process.

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A big part of becoming a fully-functioning adult is finding a job, which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that finding a job can be quite hard.

Sometimes, looking for a job can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack and, when you finally locate the needle, another slightly more qualified person comes along with a big massive magnet.

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Other times, it can feel like trying to find Wally in a ‘Where’s Wally?’ book.

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But you’re up against a guy who already has contacts in the business.

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I have been looking for a graduate job for a while now and am therefore quite familiar with the application process.

A lot of job applications begin with a CV.

A CV is a summary of professional and academic achievements but it might be better described as a Verification of Awesomeness.

Sometimes, the pressure of living up to the sheer magnificence of your on-paper personality in an interview can be overwhelming.

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When I first started doing interviews, I used to get quite nervous, something that manifested itself in a somewhat debilitating tendency to panic and say the first thing that came into my head.

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Occasionally, I would find myself on the verge of an existential breakdown.

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I would practice questions for hours before an interview.

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Only to completely lose my grasp of the English language once the interview actually commenced.

dRecently, I have been actively trying to improve my interview technique, something that has enabled me to answer a wide range of questions more effectively.

However, I still encounter questions that completely throw me.

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Due to the increasingly saturated nature of the graduate job market, the hiring process is more complex than it has been in the past.

Modern technology has enabled the traditional face-to-face interview to mutate and evolve into various different subspecies.

As a candidate, you have to be highly flexible and ready to make a good first impression in any of these mediums.

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In addition, many companies now implement a multi-stage application process in order to gradually whittle down the high numbers of applications that they receive.

In order to access their suitability for the job, applicants have to face several tasks which is a bit like competing in the Triwizard Tournament but with less mortal peril and more collaborative group-based assessments.

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Due to the competitive nature of the graduate job market, it is important to remain resilient in the face of rejection.

Over the past few months, I have developed some coping mechanisms which have really helped me deal with some of the setbacks that I have encountered.

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Despite this, it is sometimes quite difficult to remain positive.

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If the World’s a Stage Then I Am That Kid in the Nativity Play Who Forgets Their Lines and Never Quite Recovers From the Trauma.

As babies, we do not have many expectations of ourselves or others.

For the most part, we operate outside of social convention under the direct influence of our basic needs and emotions.

However, as we mature into adulthood, behaving in this way becomes increasingly unacceptable.

For example, as adults we are expected to eat in a dignified manner.

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We are expected to exert control over our bodily functions.

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We are expected to read age appropriate literature.

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We are expected to rely on ourselves as opposed to our parents.

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In order to retain our place in the bubble of social acceptance, between infancy and adulthood, we are taught to act.

We learn behavioural mechanisms which allow us to cope with certain social situations in a suitable way.

With enough practice, performing in a socially acceptable manner becomes habitual.

I encountered the first true test of my performance skills on my first day of primary school.

I knew that I was supposed to be interacting with the other children but my ability to do so was impaired by the fact that there were lots of people that I didn’t know.

This was overwhelming and then totally paralysing to my four year old brain.

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My reluctance to speak was troubling for my teachers, although I am unsure if this was due to the fact that it affected my ability to participate in their lessons or because I regularly looked like one of those kids from The Shining.

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After the shock of my first day, my stage fright extended for several months into the academic year.

Eventually, I did develop the ability to say words.

However, I soon discovered that saying words when you are in group of people often results in you becoming the centre of attention.

For me, being the centre of attention was a lot like being the centre of the Earth in that it made me feel under a massive amount of pressure and my cheeks had a tendency to become very hot.

As a result, I tried to divert any form social attention away from me.

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As a child, your understanding of the wider world is limited and it therefore easy to operate under the misconception that you are the most important thing in existence.

As a four year old, I believed that I was the centre of the universe.

On top of this, not interacting with people left a lot of space in my brain for thinking about other people interacting.

This manifested itself in an unhealthy tendency to assume that when people were talking without me, they were talking about me.

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In fact, it is much more likely that they were talking about something infinitely more interesting.

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My uncomfortable relationship with social interaction extended outside of the educational environment.

When I was 10, my mum decided that I was old enough to order my own ice creams.

This was a distressing development because I liked ice creams and was now required to interact with a human that I didn’t know in order to obtain one.

I cannot remember exactly what the lady at the ice cream stand looked like when I first ordered an ice cream but I’m pretty sure she was over sixty years of age, had soft white hair that looked like a small cloud floating on top of her head and was wearing woollen top with an image of a cat embodied into it.

I was terrified of her.

I was fully aware of the fact that, at that specific point in time, the lady’s primary purpose was to sell ice cream whilst providing me with a satisfactory customer experience.

However, a part of me still assumed that she would be shocked and outraged if I asked for one.

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As a teenager, I didn’t like the taste of coffee very much and was therefore excited to discover that you could overwhelm its natural bitterness with the sickening sweetness of artificial flavouring by buying a caramel latte at Starbucks.

I was less excited about the fact that I would have to order it.

However, repeated exposure to the source of fear can be an effective technique in reducing many anxieties and, by this point in my social development, I had developed a sufficient amount of self-awareness to realise that my initial feelings of stress and anxiety were often due to the fact that I had imagined an intimidating social situation in my head.

I knew that the best way to address these feelings was to face them head on and to immerse myself in the social situation before I had the chance to overthink it.

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I practiced my lines for a few minutes, saying the words ‘one medium caramel latte please’ to myself over and over again, before heading into the shop.

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I am gradually learning that the world doesn’t revolve around me and that most of the time people aren’t actually that bothered about the things that I do.

If I have an awkward social interaction with someone, the likelihood is that they won’t lay in bed that night thinking about how strange and weird I was and are instead much more likely to be thinking about how strange and weird they perceive themselves to be.

I actually like socialising now, although I am unsure if I am enjoying the experience of connecting and communicating with people or the rush of triumph I experience after performing a successful interaction.

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