Elmwood: Day Ten

Ok, so this post is two weeks later than it should have been, but my excuse is that ever since I finished my work experience I've been incredibly busy trying to catch up on all the university work that I didn't get done whilst I was at Elmwood.

With two weeks gone since my final day there, I've had some time to reflect on the experience, and the main thought I keep coming back to, is the amount of pressure I felt I was under to have an enjoyable time. Not pressure from Elmwood, pressure from everybody else. What I mean is, for some reason, whenever I've done work experience, not just at Elmwood but anywhere, I've always felt like there's this immense pressure to have a really great time. Whenever people ask me, "oh, how did your work experience go?", I feel compelled to answer "Brilliantly! It was so unbelievably awesome, I just love the world of work!". And I can't help but feel that if I answered "Well, it was ok, but I don't think I really fit in very well, and to be honest I was bored a lot of the time", people would consider this, consider me, some kind of failure. Maybe it's normal to think this, or maybe I have some kind of complex? Who knows.

To be honest, if you'd asked me on day one, I would have said "yeah, pretty good, I like it so far". Ask me on day five, and I'd have said "eugh, it's a bit shit, no one really acknowledges that I'm even there, and I would happily not go back for my second week". Ask me again on day ten, and I'd say "actually, I almost don't want to leave, I'm actually starting to feel quite happy here". So, for want of a better metaphor, it was a bit of a rollercoaster.

Day ten was a good one. It wasn't a full day as I had to pop into uni for an hour in the morning for my weekly session with my tutor to discuss the progress, or lack thereof, of my work. So by the time I got to Elmwood it was about 11am, which meant I'd missed the Friday morning TED talk and bacon butties. Very disappointed about that. From what I remember (it's not quite so clear in my mind now that two weeks have passed), when I arrived I just sat down opposite Mr. Grumpy and got on with my work, and it all felt quite routine. I think I was finally starting to feel comfortable and relaxed and generally accepted there, and it was all starting to seem rather normal. Even the commute didn't seem quite as bad as it had done at first. Typical then, that this feeling only properly arrived on my final day.

At lunchtime, some of the staff from Elmwood went out to the local pub for a drink, as I believe is customary on a Friday afternoon. Feeling very courageous, I actually went with them, and I bought Alex a drink as a way of saying thank you for putting up with me for the last fortnight. Surely all the great work I produced for them for free is thanks enough, and should negate the need for a free pint as well. However, I believe it is the polite thing to do, and as my father would say, it might just increase my chances of being offered a job.

Now there's an interesting thought: being offered a job (which I wasn't, just for the record). Before I even began my work experience, literally everybody I spoke to said "ooh, if it goes well, maybe they'll offer you a job", or something to that effect. Now there's some pressure. I must have heard it so many times, I felt like if came away from my work experience with anything less than a guaranteed job offer, I would be failing in some way.

After all, I will be finishing university in May, and after that I actually need to do something with my life. Something other than being in education, which is what I've done, in one form or another, since the age of four. Some of my friends from back home have already secured jobs for themselves upon finishing university. One is going to become an investment banker, with a starting salary of £40,000 per year. Yes, I said starting. One is going to work for a big accountancy firm (or something like that) that I can't quite remember the name of. Another is going to be a primary school teacher. And then there's me, who is becoming increasingly confused about what he wants to do with his life.

If I'd have been offered a job by Elmwood on day one, I almost certainly would have taken it. If they offered me one now though, well, I'm not so sure. I did like it there in the end, and I think I could be happy working in that kind of environment once I'd made a few good friends there. However, it's not really what I want to do; a lot of the work that they produce seems to me to be very generic looking, safe, and generally a bit dull. In the entire time that I was there, I didn't once see any design work that made me think "wow, that's great". If I want a career in design, is this the kind of thing I have to sign up for? Right now, I'm so confused about what I want to do post-uni, the thought of a month or two doing nothing at all sounds most appealing.

Anyway, I haven't told you how Friday afternoon went. After the pub, which went surprisingly well, and didn't consistent of any awkward silences, it was back to the office for my final few hours of work. The time was spent tweaking my animation yet again, and trying to make it more 'blue' wherever I could, to fit in with the client's new colour scheme. By the end of the afternoon, version 14 of my animation was complete, and looked like the most suitable version yet. I showed it to Alex for the final time and he said it was great, and mentioned that he'd shown an earlier version of the animation to his design director, and that he thought it was great too. He even said that if the client liked it, then they would commission me to make a series of similar films for the website. However, I've got a feeling the client won't like it, as it doesn't quite look corporate enough for them. And that was it really, I shook hands with Alex, thanked him for the "experience", and left Elmwood for the final time.

So, as feared, I did leave without a job offer. Although, Alex did say that I was welcome to go back any time and do some more (un-paid!) work experience with them, so I can't have been too bad if they're willing to have me back. I suppose then, in theory, I did get a job offer, just not for a job that would earn me any money.

I know I keep going on about the money aspect, but in total, with all the petrol money (and the parking fine), my 'prize' for being the most memorable student on my course, ended up costing me about £200, plus two weeks of my time, which should have been dedicated to doing my dissertation and my independent project. Was the 'experience' worth it? Well… I can't decide.


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