Industry Insights: How to Shine During Your Work Experience

Work experience generally involves a week’s placement for secondary school students within a corporate environment. Employers provide an insight into the workings of a specific industry and produce valuable opportunities to explore potential career paths, improve maturity and develop employability skills whilst students are still at school. For us here at Shine, work experience is a great way of engaging creative minds early on. It gives the youth of today a taster of what’s to come and fuels their creative fires, so to speak.

The design industry is a fantastic career path to take, with over half of designers claiming to be happy in their current positions. The sheer diversity of clients and challenging deadlines also ensures that there’s never a dull moment. New designers are constantly learning, expanding their minds and developing skills for their future roles.

Whilst this may be the case, this industry requires commitment and perseverance – design agencies are a tough crowd to please. The design world demands individuality and you’ve got to grow tall to stand out and get your work noticed. Creating an inspiring and imaginative CV and portfolio can do wonders for getting you through the door. To make sure you have things to talk about on your CV, gaining valuable experience whilst you’re still in education shows a budding enthusiasm and motivation for what’s ahead.

Work experience is undoubtedly a valuable resource when it comes to applying for a job in design. However, like most things worth having, it’s not always easy to come by. Not only can a lack of time and energy discourage small businesses from inviting newcomers to learn the ropes, looking beyond the realm of school and education can also be a daunting prospect for today’s students.

To understand where we’re all coming from and ultimately increase your chances of joining forces, we thought we’d smash together the heads of our founder Sam and our most recent work experience candidate, Jess. Here, we argue for why experience truly is the best teacher and how to maximise its potential for both sides of the coin.


Ask the Employer…

Sam is the innovative powerhouse behind Shine Creative and, after 30 plus years in the industry (19 of those running her own agency), she has fostered lots of young talent along the way. Sam is a firm believer in supporting the youth to develop their creativity. Whilst the realities of running a business can sometimes interfere, inspiring fresh eyes should be made a priority if we are to invest in the future of design. 

“Let’s be honest here, small business owners are generally stretched for time and pulled in every which way. The ‘mums of’ usually start to fire out their emails around Easter time, proclaiming how interested their kids are in the world of design, or gently reminding you of that favour you owe. Considering the number of these emails which flood in everyday, it’s only natural that we take a big sigh and contemplate how much handholding little Johnnie will require, as well as what on earth we can keep him/her occupied with for the next 5 days.

But then I think back to 34 years ago, when I myself sought the experience to start my journey into design. I too ventured into the commercial world, hoping to find an unsuspecting company that would take me under their wing and show me the ropes. Any experience was valuable – I just needed something to rid me of that nasty nylon Grammar school blazer and help me figure out what it was I could possibly do. Trust me when I say that I wasn’t the best-behaved student and didn’t necessarily show much of an interest in the stuff that you’re supposed to be interested in! With all this considered, I set out to test the waters…

I was lucky that it wasn’t long before a family friend (one of those ‘favours’ I mentioned earlier!) put me in contact with a small design studio, right in the heart of the ‘cosmopolitan’ Slough Trading Estate!

They threw me straight in, head first at the deep end. Before I had time to think about what my mother had packed me for lunch, I found myself helping with design scamps, creating illustrations and putting simple artwork files together. I was actually doing real work!

Following my 5-day stint, I was invited back in the school holidays and a number of times over the years. This is where my career in creative design first began.

I wholeheartedly embrace the concept of work experience. Engaging young minds enables them to find their passion early and start to fly.

My attitude to design stems from pure creative, conceptual thinking – an approach that I believe is rarely taught to the modern design student. I think it’s important to pass on the traditional methods and ensure that we are nurturing new creative thinkers, not just Mac operators. Our industry is lacking this raw talent and we need to tap into creative brains early to capture it. Creativity is a gift not to be wasted.

I’m also a true believer in not taking advantage of age and inexperience. I’ve always paid students for their efforts, if I think that they have something to offer.

I’m pleased to welcome Jess to our Shine nest. Her original email caught my eye immediately. She was polite, showed personality and straight away outlined her interest in illustration. This week, I have asked her to create her own visual interpretations of our Shine core values and I’m excited to see what ideas she comes up with.

I genuinely hope she leaves with a fresh passion for creativity and continues to explore a future career in design. We may even pick up a few tips from her along the way!”


Ask the Work Experience…

When Jess first applied for work experience at Shine, her attitude was everything. As Sam explained, Jess announced her enthusiasm for illustration right from the cuff, immediately giving Sam an insight as to where Jess could fit within the business. The secret is to be as mouldable as possible. Here, Jess answers our questions on how she intends to make the most of her week and what she can contribute moving forward.

We hear you’re very much into illustrating! We’re a big believer in taking inspiration from the everyday. Are there any experiences – work related or other – that have contributed to your own artwork?

My artwork tends to be inspired by other artists on social media, whether they have thousands of followers or only a few. I’m also inspired by artists like Picasso, Paul Gaugin and Stephanie Ledoux. My surroundings are another big source of inspiration. Each landscape, be it country fields or a city scape, creates a different mood and causes a unique artistic piece to unfold on my page.

So you’re here for the week… what are you most hoping to achieve during your time here at Shine? It’s short but sweet, but how do you intend to make the most of it?

I intend to complete the tasks that I have been given to the best of my ability. Working to a deadline is a skill I wish to develop, so this week provides a great opportunity for me to get a feel for the fast-paced nature of the job. It’s also helpful to put the skills which I have learnt at school into action. I have spent most of my time this week illustrating the core Shine values. These are principles that I would like to carry with me, not only for the rest of my time here but throughout future work placements as well.

Work experience is a great opportunity to introduce yourself to skills that you otherwise may not have learnt. What are you looking to learn more about, or what mediums are you excited to trial?

When I arrived, I was immediately presented with a Mac computer which made me very optimistic for the week ahead! This was exciting in itself, as it contained software and features that I wouldn’t normally use. I was also introduced to some really positive people, who made me a little less nervous about stepping outside of my comfort zone. I now hope to learn more about what goes on within a creative job and how to explore a creative freedom whilst working alongside the guidelines.

You’ve been creating some illustrations this week, centred around our Shine values. What motivated you to get in touch with Shine specifically? What do you admire about the way that we work?

With Shine, I was intrigued by the work that you have done for other companies. The diverse range of clients, from small companies to larger cooperations, was something that attracted me. I struggled with finding work experience at first – I knew what I wanted to do but couldn’t find anywhere that was interested. However, when I looked closer to home, Shine outshone (pardon the pun!) a lot of other businesses and I knew an email had to be sent. 

We do like to ask questions… now it’s your turn! Is there anything you’d like to ask us, in regards to how work experience can work for you or what more you can learn about the industry?

Gosh, there are so many questions I could ask.

-How did the business grow in popularity? Was it difficult to get heard?

-How would you describe the feeling when you succeed in delivering precisely what the customer asked for?

-How do you feel about Shines values? Do you feel that they motivate the company to work well together?

-How would you suggest that a business gets noticed, in order to become successful?

We will be answering these questions over on our Twitter, so head on over there to find out some #IndustryInsights. We’d love to respond to any young minds out there who want to learn more about the way it all works, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Comment your queries below or send us a tweet!