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... to feel so sad for my best friend's son and his shitty luck?

(13 Posts)
londonshoes Thu 23-Jun-11 21:24:07

(I've name changed just in case my friend recognises me I know she's been on MN in the past since I've posted some private stuff in Relationships recently.)

I was chatting to my best friend after tea (on the phone - we live a few hours apart since I moved), and she mentioned that her son - my godson - has had some bad news for the summer work experience thing he was supposed to be starting in the first week of July. He was so looking forward to it, he's been talking about it for literally months since Xmas, a friend of his mums runs his own firm and had promised 2 months of work shadowing for putting on his uni application... but due to redundancies/other reasons there's no place for him now. So no work experience placement any more.

Basically he wants to apply to uni, but couldn't when he left school due to a number of factors (shaky situation with BF's ex, there was a court case, basically GS saw a lot of what DV went on as he was a teenager and if affected him quite badly, he has taken a couple of years out to just get back to normal and get his confidence up again, he'd not taken his a-levels so had to re-do them - not failed, he just had a terrible time of it when the exams were going on).

Annnyway, he's thinking of applying to uni next year, but the course where he wants to do it is highly competative, and there are only 4 or 5 unis that do the course in the UK (he doesn't want to move away completely from his mum just yet while he studies). UNfortunately, apart from getting amazing a-level results (which he did eventually get) and work experience placements, I can't think of any advice to give the poor lad that would help him achieve what he wants to do.

Due to the competition for the course and his preference to get into THAT uni, I have a feeling that without the work experience there's nothing else that can make him stand out - the uni doesn't do interviews, it's not a course where they accept portfolios, etc.

I did my degree in business over 20 years ago, but she thinks I might have a better idea of other stuff he can do over the summer which would help his application next year. But i don't have any ideas for her! I can't think of anything else to add "wow" to his application! Having a degree myself doesn't help here - AIBU to point that out?

AIBU to feel so so sad, that here I am seeing a hard working, honest but unconfident lad with my own eyes, who has achieved so much despite all the odds being against him, and I can see that he's probably not going to get on the course he desperately wants to, because of the work experience promise being a let down?

What can I say to my friend or her son to console them? I guess I can advise that he prepares for rejection with a plan to work for a year (unlikely that he can get a job in his course field tho) and just try again?

AIBU to see the newspapers constantly talking about the feckless youth of today, work shy etc - yet here I am feeling heartbroken that they never focus on the teenagers of today who want to get on, they just don't have the opportunity or 2 parents to support their dreams!

bethelbeth Thu 23-Jun-11 21:49:05

I'd tell him that the Uni would want to see candidates that are making the best out of a bad situation, as there will be a lot of people sitting on their hands and just waiting to reapply for courses if they don't get in the first time around.

I'd tell him to get a job to tide him over, earn some money and some self respect and while he is doing that to look for another work experience or job that would tie in with the course that he wants to do.

It's not ideal, and I know it will knock his confidence at first but by getting a job that can create such a great sense of self worth.

Just out of interest in case any mumsnetters can help in the field, what was the course that he was interested in?

razzlebathbone Thu 23-Jun-11 21:57:01

I'd be inclined to advise him that realistically he'll have to compromise on either course or location. To be honest I don't really think many people can expect to just apply for one course and assume it's unfair to have other options. It's hard if he's fragile and lacking confidence but perhaps it wouldn't do him any harm to also apply for the course at the other institutions too.

londonshoes Thu 23-Jun-11 22:00:18

Hello Bethel,

I can't recall the official name of the course but it was similar to product design (but not that) - that was my understanding of it. Basically most of the specific UK unis that do his wanted "combination " (mix?) for the course do require a portfolio, but the one where they live does not (local uni - would allow him to stay at home at least for the first year. And that's why i don't know what to advise her, because when i did my degree nearly 2 decades ago you just applied, put your results on, and that was that - it was nowhere near as competative as it appears to be these days (and since my DD has decided to go for a vocational hairdressing course, i'm still not familiar with how it works these days). it all seems much harder than i remember it!!

He has had a part time job in a local shop (tesco) for the last year whilst he has been sorting himself out, but that's obviously not really ideal for putting on the application. the firm his mum arranged the placement with was a design firm that imports products from around the world and markets them to the UK market (deals with the manufacturers, creating prototypes and all that stuff, not that I understand that much about the side of things - it sounded interesting when her son was chatting to me about it though).

I will tell him to put that on the application to make sure he incldues it though!

ZillionChocolate Thu 23-Jun-11 22:04:42

He should/could look for unpaid placements in suitable companies. They don't need to be as long as two months.

bethelbeth Thu 23-Jun-11 22:07:49

It's not ideal but I'd suggest looking slightly further afield. This is actually what my SIL did at Uni (Strathclyde in Glasgow) a few years ago and also my other SIL about 10 years ago.

Both are now very successful so it's obviously a good thing to get into if you have a passion for it.

I'd suggest that he looks into starting his own product design company. Obviously nothing huge- but for example my SIL enjoyed carpentry- she created some sort of ergonomic chair which won an award and then was all over national press. This was before she went to Uni and I daresay it probably went down very well on her application.

You never know, he might even come up with something that is so successful that he can surpass uni altogether wink nothing wrong with a bit of optimism!

PurpleCrazyHorse Thu 23-Jun-11 22:12:56

I'd suggest he gets as much experience in his current job as possible, can he take on some more responsibility to add to his application? I did a gap year and just by being available, ended up managing a small department within a high street store, it gives you lots of skills and shows you're willing to work hard. Maybe talking to his branch manager might enable him to find out more about product design (or similar) in Tesco, especially if he's thinking of continuing to work for them while he's at uni. Could they send him on a secondment or a work placement at HQ? Definitely worth asking if nothing else.

I'm not so sure that work experience is necessarily the be-all and end-all, especially if you're just photocopying and a general dogs-body rather than actually doing anything. I think showing that you're a hard worker and keen to improve yourself, is likely to be good too.

Make sure his spelling, grammar and presentation is brilliant on his application though. There's nothing like a sloppy form to taint an otherwise great candidate.

RosieMapleLeaf Thu 23-Jun-11 22:56:05

I would ask whoever promised him the job whether he could do the shadowing without being paid, just for the experience, meanwhile keeping the job at Tesco.

Tell him to apply for internships for 6-12 months. A lot of large companies do them, mine included. What area does he want to work in op?

MsChanandlerBong Thu 23-Jun-11 23:05:44

As per Zillion and Rosie's comments, I think unpaid work will have to be the way to go if he wants to boost his application credentials. Realistically at the moment, lots of graduates are having to do unpaid internships post-graduation because the job market is so horribly tight. So getting some paid work, for a long period, before he even starts Uni is going to be impossible really hard.

Even if he just gets a week or two shadowing someone unpaid, it will show that he has ingenuity, ambition and 'get up and go' which will really make his application stand out. And advise him to be brave and phone up all sorts of big companies. At aged 17 I managed to get a week placement at Central TV, just because I was one of the few that asked!

Oh, and he shouldn't see it as shitty luck, it is just indicative of the whole job market at the moment, but that doesn't mean he should give up!!

annh Fri 24-Jun-11 00:31:11

Why is this one company the be all and end all of work shadowing? He needs to get out and organise his own work experience if this one has fallen through. I know it's difficult but he must at least try. You say your friend organised the last placement for him, he needs to do the next one himself. Alternatively, is there some kind of foundation course or part-time training he could do next year in an area related to the one he wants to work in? He needs to think laterally on the shadowing front. Anything that is even approaching the area he wants to be in will show his enthusiasm and dedication e.g. if he wanted to do textile design, working in a fabric shop or an interiors store would be better than the local supermarket. He could even spin working in the local t-shirt printing store into something!

zipzap Fri 24-Jun-11 00:42:30

Might also be worth him chatting to the mum who had to let him down and see if he could chat to her for an hour or day or as much as she was able to and see if she could give him pointers on the industry, what trade mags, papers and websites to read etc. Plus point him in the direction of other companies doing similar stuff or related stuff he might be interested in and if she would give him some names of people to contact or would be happy for him to include her name when contacting them.

It might also be worth contacting organisations like the local Rotary, round table, lions and chamber of commerce as they will often have schemes to do stuff like help find internships (probably unpaid ) or do interview practice.

I'd also suggest he checks out if there is a local junior chamber of commerce or toastmaster organisation near him. Will be scary to go at first but as a shy young thing myself once I steeled myself and went to my local jc group and stayed several years, gaining friends, confidence, opportunities, contacts, knowledge etc. Definitely worth a try if he can.

acatcalledbob Fri 24-Jun-11 02:18:08

Having worked in university careers, I would advise him to take any work, paid or unpaid, that will help him towards his course. Failing that, anything that will develop his soft skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership etc. He should definitely go back to his mum's friend and ask to do some unpaid shadowing.

Although he doesn't want to leave, he should seriously consider a period of work abroad, also award schemes such as Duke of Edinburgh or similar and voluntary work.

Basically, everyone gets great A level results and everyone works in a shop or a bar (I know people with 3 or 4 A*s who have shopwork experience and who only get one offer out of their list) - these are good achievements but does nothing to set him apart from the other gazillion applicants.

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