Student skills shock bosses

23 Sep

There’s no news in something predictable and expected (‘dog bites man’). So seek out the alternative (‘is it new or is it surprising?’ I was once asked when phoning the Telegraph’s environment correspondent with some PR story or other).

So how’s this? I have plenty of anecdotal evidence of our students impressing employers; take this about Wolfstar intern Natalie Smith (‘the best student we have ever had’ according to Stuart Bruce).

Don’t be too impressed, because I’ve selected this example to quote. But I’m asking a colleague with extensive market research experience to look at the following anomaly. Having assessed 180 students on their paid year placements, I find that the area in which they gained highest marks was that element influenced by employer feedback. Employers consistently rated our students a whole grade higher than my university colleagues did.

I mean to research this further to explain this apparent anomaly. Not that I’m complaining: I prefer it this way round. ‘Student skills shock bosses’: just don’t leap to conclusions.

7 Responses to “Student skills shock bosses”

  1. Lauren Vargas 23/09/2008 at 8:46 pm #

    What do you attribute this to? Just off the top of your head?

  2. Richard Bailey 24/09/2008 at 7:58 am #

    In a word, motivation.
    Students are rather more motivated to perform in the workplace (where there’s the incentive of pay and the close proximity of colleagues and supervisors) than they are in the more relaxed atmosphere of university.
    But supervisors are also motivated to give them good marks. That’s because a poor report would reflect badly on them: on their ability to recruit and motivate members of their teams.
    That’s my working hypothesis…

  3. Stuart Bruce 24/09/2008 at 11:01 am #

    We’ve had lots of really good students come in to Wolfstar. Some are good writers, others good on the phone, others ‘get’ social media.
    But I think Richard is right about motivation. What impressed everyone at Wolfstar about Natalie was her attitude, enthusiasm and common sense. Technical skills you learn during your placement and as you progress through the course, but attitude is the most important thing that you bring.

  4. Zoe Lavender 25/09/2008 at 9:47 am #

    I think ambition is worth mentioning as well. Without my ambition to do well and develop in my career I don’t think i’d be as motivated to learn the relevant skills, ask the right questions and be as enthusiastic. It’s about enjoyment and knowing that the field you currently work within is right for you. This is something you can’t ever truely know until you start doing work experience or placements.

  5. Natalie Smith 26/09/2008 at 10:07 am #

    It may be quite true that the new working environment motivates the student to work harder and perform to a higher standard, but from personal experience, this new motivation also affects University work. Since spending the summer at Wolfstar I’ve found I’m even more determined to gain the highest marks possible and am constantly looking for opportunities to improve my portfolio and CV.
    I think it is definately vital to enter a new placement/job with a “can do” attitude and of course ambition in hugely important. Without ambition, how can an individual really progress in the workplace?

  6. Nathaniel Southworth-Barlow 28/09/2008 at 2:10 pm #

    Part of it, I suspect (and something I realised on my foreign placement over the summer) is there is a set “end” to the work in these sorts of temporary placement.
    You could draw parallels to some of the theories on culture shock: someone who knows they’re only going to be staying somewhere behaves differently to someone who feels they’re in for a more permanent stay. Someone on a placement retains their enthusiasm because the end is coming soon, there isn’t much more to do, and they’re going to do it well so people remember the good they did.

  7. Hasina Joseph 01/10/2008 at 6:20 am #

    I would assume that after receiving years of positive criticism from professors, the competitiveness of Public Relations, and the excitement of figuratively “cutting the umbilical cord,” students can’t help but to be motivated and have a positive attitude in striving to achieve great results.
    It’s a foot-in-the-door and no one wants to get shut out when the internship is over. Once you’re on your own you need to prove to your potential employer that your worth something; thus resulting in positive feedback, recommendations, and of course, a job offer.
    Its all about survival mode (somewhat corresponding with Nathanial’s point on culture shock.) Students are in a completely new atmosphere and know that an internship is a do or die moment in their careers..After all, the PR world is a very small world.

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