Here at Cosmic we have hosted students on their work experience weeks many times. Each year we have more requests than we can accept, and truly embrace the spirit of work experience to give young people a great time, good learning and plenty of food-for-thought about their future career choices. A story which is very worth sharing is one which started with a work experience in July 2011, and has evolved into us welcoming a fantastic addition to our staff team – Justin Wong.
Initial Work Experience – Mini-Internship
Justin approached us initially for work experience in May 2011. Unfortunately we weren’t able to accept him in the time he needed, but we considered him to be a very strong applicant and offered him an alternative approach – in Justin’s words :
“I reached out to Cosmic because I was searching for work experience opportunities to help enrich my employability. Instead of an offer for work experience however, I was offered a four-week internship, which would be able to give me a more detailed look into the inner-workings of the company and industry, and this I gladly accepted. Seeing as it was my first “office job” I was not quite sure what to expect. The environment was pleasant, being both friendly and professional which let me hone my communication skills in the workplace.”
It became clear very quickly that Justin’s talent in relation to our business lay in his web development skills and so he was placed in work alongside our web team.
“Having only being self-taught in the very basics of HTML and CSS, the web team guided me well in terms of coding and also general web programming and design thinking, but without giving me all the answers straight away. This helped me a lot; it gave me the skills to research efficiently, discover new things and experiment on my own to complete tasks; skills which I still use on a daily basis. I was also exposed to all the other aspects of Cosmic’s services such as training. At the end of the internship period I felt I had developed a good range of skills that could make me more employable, such as technical skills (coding, Drupal, CMSMS) and also ‘softer’ skills (communication, critical thinking, researching).”
Working flexibly for Cosmic whilst studying at University
Justin’s skills development and his talent in web development had become very valuable to our team and our business during his summer working with us. And so we were keen to find a way to retain him and support him at University.In September 2012 we agreed a flexible role which was achievable on a remote basis (i.e. from his university residence), and with the added benefit of him linking back in with the team in person when he returned to his local home whilst on university holidays.
“Being a student is often viewed as synonymous with having a limited budget, but with regards to this, one obvious benefit of any employment is the financial stability it can give. So having the offer from Cosmic before University took a bit of pressure off my mind, such that I would not have to really worry about that aspect as much as my peers. This meant I could focus more on the actual studying. Also with the nature of the contract, it was very flexible and was easily manageable around my education.Also a more subtle benefit from it was the psychological aspect of the job — seeing as Cosmic is a local business, I felt that I was bringing something from home with me, and something that supported me. Some students when they start out at higher education can be prone towards feeling homesick or some related anxiety, but I feel that this — though subtle — helped ease any pressure or anxieties I was feeling towards this. The job was also kind of a ‘getaway’ too. Even though it did help me feel at home, I felt it was far enough away that I could use it as an escape from a bad day for example. This is because I enjoy the work that I do.”
Back in the Cosmic team on holidays
“These times kept me busy. Without the office time especially, I think I would start to get lazy, so this helped me keep my production levels high and really keep me going in the correct work mentality. I think this is really important since the brain is really another muscle, that needs to be stretched an exercised regularly lest you lose its strength. The office visits also helped with context on projects and general briefing. These were generally important for getting extra information and technical specifications that can be more easily discussed face-to-face. It was also seeing Cosmic change too. Over the past several years Cosmic has grown and seeing them in incremental vertical slices in the holidays was a different perspective as each visit had more of a pronounced change than when going to the office every day.”
How we supported Justin’s learning and development whilst he was at Uni
We were very conscious that Justin had to dedicate most of his learning and knowledge development to his three-year degree programme and so had to establish a very flexible and supportive approach to his skills development for the business. The main ways in which this was achieved was to add support on a project-by-project basis, allowing Justin to learn and be supported in the context of working on a specific development. “Intermittent check-ups as well by senior staff guided me as well and ensured I was developing skills in the right ways for future projects too.”
From Graduate to Cosmic Employee
Justin made it clear to us that his ambition was to take-up full-time permanent employment with us following graduation. And this news was very welcome to the business and his colleagues. He had become a very valuable and valued member of the team, adding his own input not only to those projects which he was directly involved in, but also supporting many of the wider business developments and projects.Almost a year before Justin’s graduation we put in place a clear growth plan for web services in order to ensure his employment offer could be made and sustained.
Our project coordinator Pete Goff said: “Justin since joining the team on his 6 week placement, showed a massive amount of potential and a thirst for developing his skills. He enjoyed programming and would self-teach from books and internet research with support from our team.
That drive to learn and keep on top of the newest web technologies is still evident as he starts his full time work with us. Bringing a great amount of knowledge and a willingness to research and try new things. As a design graduate he also brings an understanding of the importance of style balanced with functionality.
He now works as our Front End Developer which means coding the design onto our websites and all his strengths come to bear on the work he produces”.
Justin’s views on the benefits of being able to return to the local area with a firm job offer with us
“Final year can be a stressful time for students, with final exams and assessments that weight heavy on their shoulders. Also for a lot of them, this is the last year before they have to go into the ‘real world’, on their own. Employment is the other obvious worry too. However, with the job offer from Cosmic, most of these worries were alleviated for me; employment was sorted and I knew what I would be doing. This meant I could just concentrate on the final assessments with firm motivation and concrete determination.”
And so Justin took up his place, full-time and permanent with us in June of this year.