Daughter two had an interview for work experience last week. I had emailed her some bullet points about the obvious questions after an unsuccessful earlier coaching session. They covered everything from why do you want to do work experience here and what is it that draws you to this profession to what subjects do you like. I listed subjects that daughter two actually likes and added a few that might look appropriate. I ended with a joke in brackets [I LOVE maths!]. Daughter two has had a long-time loathing of maths which began with a titanic struggle in primary school to get her to accept the concept of odds and evens. Daughter three grasped it before her sister.
“Can’t you come in with me, mum?” she asked. Daughter two is 14. She seems very confident at home, but out in the real world she is incredibly shy and wary of adults she doesn’t know. Even at parents evening the night before she had adopted a kind of Mona Lisa pose and just smiled enigmatically as the teachers generally said very nice things about her. I said I would wait outside the interview room for her. In the event, daughter three decided a work experience interview might be quite an adventure and came too. We went into the building only to find all three of us being ushered into the interview.
Daughter two smiled her way throughout, but didn’t say very much. What subjects did she like? She began listing a few – drama, religious studies, English. “Oh, and I love maths,” she said smiling serenely. I looked at daughter three. She looked slightly surprised. I almost let the side down and burst out laughing. I was hoping there would be no follow-up questions probing her passion for maths. Daughter two was asked if she had any questions. She smiled and opened her mouth. Everyone looked at her. Minutes passed. Nothing came out. I asked something about where the toilets were – the kind of crucial question you need to know on your first day.
Daughter two starts in June. I am sure she will do a good job once she gets to know people and she will develop her confidence. Confidence seems such a huge issue these days. How do you build it? On the one hand, teenagers’ lives have never been so exposed with social media and the like; on the other it is very easy to hide behind screens. Daughter two spends a lot of her life painting and watching old films. She loves drama and acting, but she finds it hard to talk to real people. I told her to consider work experience like an extended acting job. “Fake it; it’s what everyone else does,” I said.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.