It’s that time of the year again when we get inundated with requests from high school students to spend a week working for us.
One of the weirdest things they do in Australia is make high school students spend a week doing “Work Experience” in an industry they’re interested in. I’ve often questioned the wisdom of this: do a lot 16-year-olds have the vaguest idea about what they want to do when they leave school? What can you give a 16-year-old with limited skills and experience to do in your workplace?
[A 16-year-old high school student, Milo brought this in to show us last year and we were so impressed with it that we offered him work experience]
Back in my day…
As it turns out, an animation studio is a pretty attractive place to do work experience. Eddie, James, Brodie and I were all extremely fortunate to all get the chance to do work experience at Anifex. I think I spent a week hand-sculpting blades of grass out of plasticine for a Mitsubishi commercial. It was a lot of fun and I got a buzz when I finally saw the TVC months later.
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy for us to take on students for work experience for a number of reasons:
- If we’re operating at full capacity, we can’t really fit them in. In fact, at full capacity, my workstation gets commandeered and I end up working from home via VPN.
- If it’s quiet and we’re not at full capacity, then there probably isn’t much to do, and we have a whole different set of problems to worry about – like how we can get back up to full capacity.
- Who do we get to supervise them? We really don’t have people here who have spades of spare time.
- What can we get them to do? The work we do is challenging enough with our best and most experienced people on it. There’s not a lot of other things that need doing round here. we don’t really believe in getting people to come in and make coffee and photocopies.
- Unfortunately, the ideal times for us to accommodate work experience doesn’t always coincide with when work experience week or school holidays are on.
So we usually have to politely say no when someone asks us. But there are exceptions to every rule and we have on occasion taken on students.
We’ve always hired talented people straight out of universities and colleges without industry experience. If we are impressed with their talents and are serious about giving them some work, we’ll usually give them a day’s work experience just to see what they are like to work with. Without previous experience and a personal referral it’s always bit of a risk taking them on, so getting them in for a day before we put them on a job prevents a lot of headaches. “Tests” and “trials” are not uncommon in our business but should be kept to a minimum.
Besides that, we sometimes take on high school students for a day or two if they are exceptional. In which case they’re accomplished enough to work on something that will see the light of day. But it is easier for us to say no than it is to say yes. So what can help you maximise your chances of getting work experience here if you’re in high school?
- Don’t get your mum to ask us (unless she actually knows us, or is the CEO of Dreamworks). Initiative is definitely something that impresses us. It’s important to sell your personality as much as your talent.
- Show that you really want to do this. People who do work experience here do it because they see it as an opportunity to get closer to doing what they are truly passionate about. Not because it’s something that seems more interesting than spending a week doing photocopying in dad’s office. We really have better things to do with our work week than find stuff for someone to do who doesn’t really want to be here.
- Be talented. Otherwise, what else can we get you to do around here besides write stuff for our blog?
- Be persistent. Some of the people that got to do work experience here, and even some of the people that eventually got jobs here had to keep sending us stuff until we saw something special in it.
- Be flexible. A lot of our projects have short lead up times, so we don’t always know what we’ll have on several months in advance, and things can change quickly in our line of work. We may have to change or reduce days.
- Be prepared for maybe only 1 or 2 days, and having to find a “Second job” to fill out the week. And besides, it’s not that far off of what starting out as a freelancer is like!
[For his work experience, Milo ended up making our Christmas card video]