Shout out to myself - Louisa's story

In The Nine to Five with Stacey Dooley on BBC iPlayer, Stacey takes five school leavers into four different industries that are crying out for young workers. They each get to spend two days doing the ultimate work experience. If the teens do well in the jobs they are given, Stacey rewards them with the national apprenticeship wage at the end of each day. But she also deducts money for poor performance, and so those who don’t make the grade can come away empty handed.

Here, Stacey talks about the challenges of work experience for 17-year-old Louisa who had no desire to join the rank and file of ordinary workers, she wanted to be fast-tracked to be the boss.

Shout out to myself

Across my time on The Nine to Five, I have been lucky enough to meet some truly inspiring bosses, some have started their own businesses, others have been brought in as managers. All of them share one standout quality - from head chefs to care home managers, builders and zookeepers – it’s their passion for, and understanding of the business they run. One of the hallmarks of a great employer is someone who has walked a mile in their workers’ shoes.

One of our teenagers in this series, Louisa, was very accomplished and confident and she began her work experience wanting to be the boss from the start. That is a very big ask for anyone! When I took Louisa to one of the UK’s leading salad growers, which supplies many of the country’s major supermarkets, it was a bit of a shock to the system when she was asked to do tasks that she initially thought were beneath her.

One of the hallmarks of a great employer is someone who has walked a mile in their workers’ shoes.

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I have nothing but respect for Louisa’s ambitions - go on girl! - but she had her eye so focused on her goal of being an employer that she couldn’t see the point in being an employee.

She questioned why she should have to do anything that didn’t take her fancy and rushed through a lot of the tasks she was given because she didn’t see the point in getting to grips with the detail of them.

As someone who already had a part–time cleaning job to support her studies, Louisa’s attitude was a big surprise and massively let her down during her work experience. So when Vince, the salad farm boss, saw from afar that Louisa and her teammate Kieran were ignoring their actual jobs in the cucumber greenhouses and racing each other through the aisles of plants on trolleys, he was shocked.

Watch Louisa's Bitesize story here!

Building from the bottom

Vince started the business with his brother, and they had painstakingly turned a one acre salad farm into thirty-two acres of high tech glasshouses. The only race he’d taken part in was picking as many market-ready vegetables as he could to make a profit and help the business to thrive. He was taken aback when he met Louisa who was talking the talk about wanting to be an employer, but acting like she thought she was too good for the work she was being asked to do.

So he sat her down and gave her some much-needed personal advice….There’s a reason people say, “Don’t run before you can walk!” If you hurtle forward before you are ready, you’re in danger of stumbling and making mistakes. Worse still, you earn yourself the reputation for being unreliable or uninterested. Actions speak louder than words in the workplace.

Take your time

Telling your boss you can’t be bothered to do a job because you already know how to do it is underestimating your capacity to learn and gain new knowledge. Give things a go. Take. Your. Time. Get to grips with what is being asked of you and pay attention. Doing a slapdash job is worse than not doing it at all.

Also be big enough to take any help offered to you by your teammates. An old friend told me that to get the best out of work, always assume your colleagues know something you don’t. Your mentors and peers aren’t offering you guidance for the good of their health - they do it to enable you to be the best you can be. A supportive team can help you climb up the ladder way more quickly than you can by yourself, especially if you walked in assuming you knew everything and were being dismissive of the tasks you were given.

Stacey and Vince have a chat with Louisa about her behaviour during one of the task.

Louisa listened intently to Vince and her teammates and it was a turning point for her. She thought about all the places she had been working in and spotted a pattern. Across the various industries, she saw that those who got their head down and showed dedication and an eagerness to learn, were the first to be recognised and rewarded by their boss. It was a lesson that became increasing clear to her as her work experience went on, and one she won’t forget.

Louisa saw that being a boss doesn’t mean sitting in a swanky office and watching the clouds roll by. They are continually assessing and reassessing what is working and what isn’t, what is making a business grow and what is holding it back. Then they act on those judgments to make things better and to build an increasingly successful business for them and their workers.

Vince has a frank conversation with Louisa and it changes her mindset completely.

In today’s instant age, we are far too used to immediate gratification. If you want something, it’s probably already been delivered and dropped off at your doorstep five minutes ago. But there is no such thing as a delivery career! Acquiring the skills to lead a business takes time and effort - an investment that everyone can make and then see where that takes them. Master the basics, concentrate on the step in front of you and the money and status will take care of itself. Louisa talked openly about being motivated by money and Vince told her that getting the job done well is the first step on that road.

At the end of the day, building to boss level takes time and patience. Bosses become wise through perseverance and application. But do remember - even bosses don’t know everything! They’re human too and part of being human on this beautiful planet is that there is always something to learn.

Most people start their career from the bottom rung of the ladder. Like Jack looking up at the peak of the beanstalk that seems to rise to the eternal heavens, the climb might seem momentous at first. You may want someone to forklift you to the penthouse level, but there are lots of reasons you should see value in the climb.

Louisa learnt how to weld while on her plumbing work experience and excelled at it.
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