The simple fact is that it’s no longer enough to leave education with only academic qualifications. At least, not if you really want to give yourself the best chance of finding a career you enjoy, you’re good at, and you’re passionate about.
Don’t worry, we’re not saying you need to have loads and loads of work experience behind you. All you need is a bit of time spent in a professional environment and some knowledge of what it’s like to work in an organisation. This will help you to prepare for life after school.
The reason why it’s the perfect time for girls to get involved in work experience – especially technology work experience – is because companies are making a really big push to get more females interested in pursuing careers in this sector.
This is because there’s still a lack of women working in the world of digital and IT, with females outnumbered by men, particularly at senior levels. In 2014 it was reported that “women occupied 11.2% of technology leadership roles in Europe, the Middle East and Africa”, showing how great the gender imbalance is. This explains why businesses are so keen to get more girls passionate about technology during their school years and early on in their careers!
Communities for girls and women in tech
However, it’s not just the companies that are trying to make the IT industry a more diverse and enticing place for people from all backgrounds.
Lots of female-led tech groups have also sprung up in recent years, with aim of creating supportive networks that help women connect with other women in the sector, to learn and mentor each other, and also help women learn the skills they need to thrive in technology. We’ve listed a few below, but these are far from the only ones, so make sure you do some research to find out what other groups are out there:
What is work experience?
Don’t worry if you’re unsure what work experience is, as it’s never too late to learn. For starters, one thing to be aware of is that there’s not really a ‘one-size-fits-all’ example of work experience.
Lots of female-led tech groups have also sprung up in recent years, with aim of creating supportive networks
Different organisations structure their programmes in different ways, based on their size, specialisms and projects, so you could spend time at two different companies and work on completely different things at each one.
Check out the videos on this page to see real-life examples of what some of the Next Tech Girls have been working on so far.
Essentially work experience is time you spend working on location with a professional organisation, learning about what it does, shadowing its employees and finding out what skills you need to have if you want to work in that sector in the future.
Why should you do work experience?
We know, the last thing you want to be thinking about already is going into full-time work. But while the idea of having a ‘career’ may seem a long way off, it’s never too early to start thinking about what you like doing, and what you think you might want to do in the future.
Gaining a little bit of work experience while you’re still young can help you a lot in the long run. It only has to be a week or two – so not a huge amount of time – yet you’ll get a lot out of it. Some of the main reasons why you should do IT work experience include:
- There’s great demand for people with digital skills, as companies look to grow their tech teams
- This demand is only going to continue growing as more jobs are created, meaning there are plenty of fantastic career opportunities
- Companies want to actively hire more girls, in order to diversify their workforces
- You can learn a lot about what’s required to succeed in a professional setting
- You’ll get to meet a lot of people and may well make influential connections
- You’ll get something great to include on your CV and have more experience than many of your peers
Our best work experience tips for girls interested in technology
There’s a good chance that the work experience you get involved in will be your very first taste of the working world. After all, everyone has to start somewhere.
As such it’s worth doing some research before you start, to find out what’s expected of you, and how to act in a professional environment. This doesn’t just include stuff like what you should do, but also advice on what you definitely should NOT do if you want to come across well and make a good impression on the company. We’ve included some of our own top tips below.
What you should do on work experience
- Do turn up on time every day and find out what hours the company wants you to do
- Do dress professionally, or ask the company what its dress code is
- Do act with courtesy and politeness towards everyone you meet or speak to
- Do smile, be friendly and approach the experience with a good attitude
- Do be positive and use the opportunity to get involved in different projects
- Do learn about what different people do and ask if it’s okay to shadow them
- Do ask whether the company is likely to have any future opportunities for you to go back
- Do thank the people you’ve been working with, or anyone who’s helped you
What you shouldn’t do on work experience
- Don’t turn up late, leave early or take long breaks / lunches
- Don’t turn up in casual clothes like a t-shirt, jeans and trainers (unless you’re 100% sure that the company is happy for you to)
- Don’t be rude to anyone you meet
- Don’t appear uninterested or bored
- Don’t waste your chance to learn about what the company does or get involved in interesting projects
A lot of this is just common sense, but it never hurts to give yourself a little reminder every now and then about how you can get the most out of the experience.
Where can you do work experience in London?
There are a lot of amazing technology companies in and around London that are working with Next Tech Girls to offer work experience opportunities, and the list is constantly growing as we’re adding more all the time.
If you want to see some of the tech businesses that have already hosted girls on work experience, take a look at our How to Support page.
While Next Tech Girls is mainly working with companies in London at the moment, we fully intend to expand this initiative in the near future, so make sure you keep an eye on what we’re currently up to.