I had always fancied visiting New York and the opportunity to live and work there for a few months sounded amazing.
I took enough funds to support myself for a few weeks and chose to job-hunt on arrival (against everyone’s advice!). I walked the length of Manhattan every day and handed applications into about every shop that would take one (always ask for the manager!). I was lucky enough to be offered a job in French Connection in Soho and I started work a couple of weeks after arriving in NY. The first couple of weeks I lived in a hostel and as soon as I had a job, I started looking for a room in an apartment.
Most weeks I worked 40 hours, sometimes more. The store I worked in was the U.S flagship, so as you can imagine, there was a lot to do. My shifts could be anything from 7am–4 to 3pm–12. Everyone in the store including the managers were very nice, which helped.
My general day consisted of being on the shop floor advising and helping customers, and working on the tills. If I were in early then I would usually be cleaning, if I were in after store close then I would usually be replenishing stock and tidying. Shifts were generally 9 hours with a 1-hour break.
Impact on career progression
I definitely think my experience is a major benefit to my C.V. Nowadays, so many employers ask for personal experiences and achievements out with University and I feel my experience would be the kind of thing that sets me apart from others and shows my initiative.
Working in New York, and Soho was an experience in itself and could sometimes be very hard work. Working until all-hours in the morning and then starting the next day at 9 was not easy, but always remained enjoyable as I got on with all the staff and there was a great atmosphere in the store.
On my days off I got to see the sights of New York. The Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, The Natural History Museum, Central Park, The Bronx Zoo and especially Times Square at night are all amazing. Then of course I got to go shopping and spend all my wages in the summer sales! My flatmates were both really nice and took me around as well to some nice places that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.
I learned a lot from my time in New York, firstly that everything doesn’t always go to plan – but not to give up.
I got to live in a new city for almost 3 months and by the time I left I felt like a local – I could navigate the subway, knew my way around the city, and met lots of new people. I was living in a part of Brooklyn which wasn’t the best area, but it gave me an insight to what New York life is really like and I saw the parts that you don’t see on TV.
I definitely realised that sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in a day – having to do small things like open a bank account, apply for your social security number, do your weekly shop, go to the laundrette and especially hunt for an apartment (sometimes viewing a few each day on opposite ends of the city) can be incredibly time consuming.
It does sound clichéd… but my experience was definitely one that “money can’t buy.”
Qualities needed for work experience
I had worked in a few clothes shops in Glasgow, so I think this definitely helped with my application. When I was applying, most shops did ask for, or highly valued previous experience.
As far as general qualities, anyone working with the public in the States has to be extremely outgoing, enthusiastic and friendly. Customer service is huge over there. And of course, as with any job it is vital to be hard working and to listen to your employer.
Advice for people wanting to do work experience
Think carefully about the programme you want to do and choose one that you think you would enjoy and get the most out of. I personally chose Work America as I liked the idea of independence and working in New York, a place I had always wanted to visit.
Do some research on where you are going and make sure you have enough money with you. Small things like travel and guidebooks are always useful and will help you find your way around, but don’t be scared to simply ask people as well.
And if you are looking to arrange a job before you go – apply early!
Find out more about Work America