Could the future of work experience be virtual?
– Andy Golpys is the co-founder of web design agency MadeByShape
When we were contacted by 21-year-old Fashion Art Direction student, Mia Edmond, to explore the idea of a remote work experience placement, we at first thought it to be quite out of the ordinary.
But after explaining that she didn’t want to sit idle after completing her final university project, which happened to coincide with the start of Britain’s coronavirus lockdown, we decided to give it a try. And it quickly proved to be highly beneficial for both our agency, and for Mia.
While we receive many requests for work experience placements, Mia’s really stood out. Proposing the idea of a remote placement really showed initiative and tenacity, and we felt it was worth a shot.
The nature of remote working has made it very easy to identify a self-starter and has encouraged Mia to make her own decisions and solve her own problems as there is no one readily available to answer those queries.
For Mia, she has quickly learned how self-sufficient she is, in turn, giving her the confidence she needs to run with an idea or concept without fear of failure.
She is enjoying working on her own initiative and getting stuck into ‘real’ client work, something that often lacks in an actual studio environment given students are often, sadly, the designated tea-maker.
Virtual work experience could help hone key professional skills
Not only is remote work experience instilling a deeper level of thinking and problem solving in Mia, it has also heightened productivity and teased out lesser considered skills such as time management.
Naturally, in a studio environment, there is chatter, noise and distraction however, working from home has really focused Mia’s mind on the task in hand, and forced her to think about timelines. A skill that is vital in the working world and that shouldn’t be underestimated.
Of course, there are aspects of a remote work experience placement that fall short of the ‘real’ thing.
While Mia is learning a huge amount, both about the work itself and also about herself, she has admitted to us that she is missing the personality and atmosphere that only being in a studio can provide. Zoom is a great resource, but it isn’t quite the same as getting to know people face-to-face.
That said, I think the advantages of remote work experience placements far outweigh the disadvantages.
Remote working removes geographical barriers connecting business with employees
From the agency’s perspective, removing geographical boundaries means we can invite applications from anywhere in the country, or even the world, ultimately raising the standard of person entering the business on placement.
Virtual work experience for students like Mia means they don’t need to feel bound by location or logistical barrier.
With the virtual and digital elements more at play in the design industry than ever, and the current crisis giving it even more focus, it’s crucial that students have an innate feel and understanding of how to operate within and be at the forefront of this – not only in terms of their design skills, but also their ability to connect and work remotely in both an efficient and professional manner.
Work experience placements offer a wider understanding of the industry and as such, I would highly recommend that any student that gets the chance to undertake this, whether remotely like Mia or face-to-face, should seize the opportunity.
Not only will they improve upon technique but the studio experience – even in an online capacity – gained with the team is priceless and will no doubt put them in good stead with their degree studies and career path.
Pic: Chris Montgomery