What our work experience students taught me

By Emma Kane

There are very few things in life where success is due to the hard work and talent of just one individual. Behind every Wimbledon tennis champion there will be a big team of experts, each of whom has played their role in achieving victory – the coach, nutritionist, sports scientist, psychologist, the school teacher and parents who spotted the innate talent and nurtured it in the first place.

It is therefore imperative for children and teenagers alike to have exposure to all the component parts of a business or industry. Not everyone will be the Forbes-front-cover CEO, landslide-winning Prime Minister or “King of the World,” as Conservative leadership favourite Boris Johnson once reportedly wanted to be.

There are thousands of roles that are critical to achieving the winning results. These include the accountants, secretaries, nurses, builders, cleaners, project managers, quantity surveyors and manufacturers. They’re not flash – they ‘get stuff done’.

This fact was really hammered home when we recently had the pleasure of hosting six students from an East London secondary school for a week’s work experience.

I love my career because of the creativity that comes to play every day and the impact that we have on helping our clients achieve their business objectives through problem solving and powerful campaigns.

So, when I asked our young guests what they had particularly enjoyed about their week, I was not expecting the response: “I really want to be a credit controller”.  I shouldn’t have been surprised, but, alas, I was.

The experience that had gripped that student was not how we build brands and protect reputations. No – they admired being part of the team that allows us to do the work we do, the team without whom there would be no tomorrow.  All ‘credit’ (pun intended) to our finance team, who take real pride and passion in their roles and clearly showed how they are the heartbeat of our business.

What young people need is the chance to know that there are so many ways that they can be part of the winning team in whatever industry they are interested in. I worry that we could obsess the next generation with becoming the next Reed Hastings (Netflix CEO), Jeff Bezos (Amazon founder) or Tim Cook (Apple boss).

No offence, Reed, Jeff or Tim, you’ve all done pretty well, but we have a duty to showcase the whole team; to shine the spotlight on all the people who use their individual talents to achieve the target results. And we should let those who are yet to decide on their career have the opportunity to consider for themselves where their future might lie.

Of course, once you have that talent across your business, you need to create an environment for success.  There are so many examples in football – we are coming off the back of hugely successful Women’s World Cup – where the team has cost millions, but the results continually disappoint.

As the saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link.  And, even if each member of the team is at the top of their game, there is only one person to blame – the leader.

The manager’s, CEO’s and boss’ role is to ensure that every member of the team understands the vital role that they play and what is expected of them. The winning team has a clear vision and a culture, set by the leader, to provide a framework for success.

Nurture passionate team members and the shared purpose in achieving a clearly articulated goal, and it should be game, set and match.

Emma Kane is CEO of Newgate Communications

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