Hmm..what shall we talk about today? It’s that finger drumming time of year so I thought I’d show you a few of the outfits I’ve been wearing recently. It will give us a chance to have a little chat about what’s been going on too – I have a story that I’ve been meaning to tell you for a while about the trials of student internships.
A school mum outfit
Some of you may have seen this on Instagram. I wore it last week when the youngest was a finalist in his school’s Masterchef competition. I find this sort of thing really exciting because there are so few opportunities to go into the boys’ worlds now that they’re older. I was mindful of the last time though – I don’t know whether you remember me telling you about the supper run when I wore slouchy trousers and Stan Smiths. The son had a discreet word with me on the way home, helping me to understand that he clearly didn’t like the outfit!
So, this time I went with the brief “not too London” and dressed as a proper grammar school mum. Everything was fine, I even got away with the ruffle and the yellow sandals!
The competition theme was ‘a dish for your hero’ and I winced as boy after boy came out with carefully prepared presentation boards, explaining earnestly how they had been inspired by someone like Darwin or Newton. Our son proceeded to wing it by telling a story about why he had created his Jumbleberry crumble for Robin Hood. He didn’t win but he made the judges laugh!
A date night outfit
This was last weekend when Mr MC and I popped out for an early supper…
…I wanted to show you the back of this top because I’ve been waiting for it to come into stock for ages and now it has. This little black cat was looking shy…
…so I used my cat whispering skills to win her over. By the way, Baukjen have now moved into further reductions with 60% off a lot of great items and good stock available here.
A London press show outfit
On Wednesday this week, I went down to London for the House of Fraser Christmas press event. House of Fraser isn’t a brand I have covered on here before, largely because I felt they lacked a strong point of difference when set against John Lewis. After some serious financial investment that seems to be changing though so I’m watching them with interest.
The mood for Christmas this year seems to be all about nostalgia. I suspect that with the current economic outlook this will be a prevalent theme. In my experience, when times are good, the Christmas retail trends are space age and futuristic. You also see a lot of frosty graphics such as icicles and snowflakes. When there’s a downturn it veers towards warmth with Santas and fairy lights. Not every retailer follows this of course, but if their creative teams have their fingers on the pulse they do.
So, bright pink worked well on a grey London day and I was actually stopped seven times by women asking me where this dress was from. After the show, I had a cup of tea and a chat with Avril from ALifeTo Style. Avril has been blogging for much longer than I have and she was incredibly supportive when I started, sending readers my way.
This is the second time we’ve met in the flesh and we just click. If you like my blog, I think you’ll like hers so if you don’t already follow her, pay her a visit. She’s younger than I am at 44 and yet we lead similar lives and share a similar outlook. She also has three children and juggles her career with her blog. While we were chatting we decided that we are both outgoing introverts – I used to feel that I was quite alone in this but I’m discovering that there are more of us than you realise.
A doing chores outfit
You could say that yesterday was a less glamorous day – here I was dragging a very reluctant 13 year old for a hopi ear candle session. His right ear is blocked and we’re soon flying off for a holiday where he will want to spend all of his time under water. We’ve been in this situation before with him and he has ended up with terrible ear infections on holiday.
GPs no longer offer ear syringing and I’ve tried both Earrex and olive oil so this was a last resort. He insists it hasn’t helped so if you have any other suggestions I would be eternally grateful if you could add them in the comments. Last time this happened it was like having a newborn on holiday – he woke every hour, screaming with pain.
Anyway moving on to the outfit. You probably already know that the swiftest way to add a 2017 update to your classic jeans and blazer outfit is by adding a slogan or graphic t-shirt and block heels. The high fashion approach is to wear a rock band t-shirt but it always seems a bit fake to me if you don’t honestly like the band. I can just imagine the relentless mickey taking I would get around here if I started sporting The Ramones across my chest!
This t-shirt is a new one that I picked up in London on Wednesday. The print has a glittery sheen which makes it feel premium. It’s oversized so if you like a neater fit, go down one size (I did).
A goodbye outfit and the trials of student internships
And so that brings me on to the pictures that I couldn’t face posting last week: the departure of the eldest as he headed off to work in London. He hasn’t finished his degree (in Management and Marketing) but he is now going into the third year which is when they have to secure a placement in industry.
Let me tell you how brutal the journey of an intern is. With minimal support from the universities, they have to find the openings and go through intensive application processes, pitting themselves against all of the bright minds from other UK universities. It has been a white knuckle ride for our family and if you have teens in the house who will sooner or later be emerging into our changing workplace, our story might be helpful.
It all began last October. The boy was confident and keen to work for a blue chip company. He was willing to bypass his lifelong dream of working for a big sports brand as long as he gained a year of good experience. So, despite me advising him to play the numbers game and apply for absolutely everything, he was selective and cherrypicked about eight companies.
It all started well – before the applications were even in, he was headhunted by Apple via LinkedIn. Now the selection process is roughly the same for each company. They begin with a number of online aptitude and numerical skills tests that are designed to whittle the thousands of applicants down to the final 16 or so who will be invited for interview. I have to say that if your offspring have been through the eleven plus, it really helps here because a lot of students fall down in the verbal reasoning tests. If you’ve experienced them, you’ll know what difficult tests they are for anyone who isn’t familiar with them.
The candidates are scored and ranked against everyone else who has entered. This can be disheartening and in fact at this stage, quite a few of our son’s friends decided to opt out of the year in industry altogether. Fortunately the eldest did well and was fast tracked straight to the assessment day at Apple. I watched as his confidence grew… and his applications for other internships diminished. The next stage was the day itself when 16 candidates were invited down to the London HQ for a day of tasks and observation.
The first hurdle
Can you believe that Apple expect students to arrive for assessment at 9am and yet, believing it to be a blessed opportunity, they arrogantly offer no contribution towards travel, accommodation or subsistence? I am going to take this opportunity to shame them publicly. As a world leader they should treat students who are already burdened with debt better than this.
We were told that the assessment day would go as follows: there would be a series of tasks in the morning after which eight candidates would be knocked out and told to go home. After lunch there would be interviews where two more would be sifted out, the last six would then be whittled down, one by one, to the final successful candidate.
I spent an excruciating morning in the office. When we still hadn’t heard from him by 2pm, Mr MC and I looked up from our desks and shared a smile. 3pm came and still no phone call…at 4pm his number flashed up on my mobile and my heart sank. He’d made it to number six but no further and was on his way home.
You can imagine what that phone call was like, it must have been so hard for him to leave after such an exciting day where they’d signed an NDA and seen some of Apple’s forthcoming developments. It’s awful to be a mum and have a crestfallen son on the end of the line, trying to make his way home through an unfamiliar London.
However, he brushed himself off and realised he needed to step it up with his applications. There followed a fraught few weeks. As Christmas approached he had a number of assignment deadlines that counted towards his final degree as well as endless rounds of online assessment tests for internship opportunities.
Christmas came and his girlfriend (who is doing the same course) was offered internships at the first two selection days she went to. She opted for Danone and I saw my son’s mixture of pride and panic at her success. However, soon after Christmas we heard that he had made the final assessment days for Warner Bros, Hilton and Toyota. He even decided to try for his dream post at Nike but didn’t hold out much hope after one of his flatmates unplugged the router when he was halfway through the tests which you only have one chance to complete.
The selections began, each one involving a trip down to London or further but at least these brands covered expenses. At Warner Brothers he was told he gave the best interview but one other applicant showed more passion for the industry. At Hilton, he was told he gave the best interview but one other candidate showed more passion for the industry. At Toyota he was told … you’ve got the gist by now – it was gruelling. However, since he was tiny, my son has always amazed me with his buoyancy and resilience. Each time I saw his confidence dip for a while and then he picked himself up and moved on… but by March, he was running out of options.
Then out of the blue, Toyota called him back and said they had been so impressed that they’d like him to go and interview for Lexus. Our hopes were raised, this felt positive. He made yet another long journey to Surrey, returning feeling hopeful. The following week he was told (you’ve guessed it) that out of the two they’d invited, he gave the best interview but the other candidate showed more passion for the industry… I could tell from his voice that he was really struggling this time.
Mr MC and I quietly began to discuss a Plan B. We could go through our London contacts, we have a lot of good connections… he could live at home and work for us for a year… Then, suddenly, he got an email from Nike inviting him to their selection day. It was the opportunity of his dreams that he had discarded as a lost opportunity.
So, off he went on a Friday during the Easter holidays, down to London again. Once more there were 16 candidates but at least this time it wasn’t a knock out round. Instead they were told that the team would confer at the end of the day and inform the successful candidate the following week. He came home bubbling over with the joys of Nike. I can confidently say that there is no other job in the world that he would have wanted as much as this one. As with all of the other interviews he’d had, he felt the day had gone well. However, experience had taught us that this meant nothing.
And so the wait began. We spent the weekend playing it down and he dedicated his time to researching other opportunities (I suspect that the thought of working for mum and dad had spurred him on). We didn’t hear anything on the Monday and so it seemed that once again, it would be bad news. On the Tuesday, I was working from home and was deeply engrossed in something when he burst through the door of the office with a beaming face and the words “guess who is the new Nike digital intern?”
The moral of the story
So, as in all of the best tales – all’s well that ends well. The eldest has been obsessed (and I mean that) with sportswear since he was about 4 years old. He makes your average ‘sneakerhead’ look like an amateur. As you may have noticed from his appearances on here, he rarely wears anything other than sportswear – much to my chagrin. There is a lot that you could say about serendipity and synchronicity but in the end, it was this passion that helped him overtake the 5,000 other candidates to secure his place.
I am telling you this story not just because I am the proudest mum in the world (and still would have been if he’d had to swallow the bitter pill of working for us for a year) but because of what it confirmed about the job market. You see the eldest has a stellar CV with work experience at both Saatchi and Saatchi and Ernst Young. He is workplace ready having worked long stints in our business. He has intelligence and charm but this still wasn’t enough.
Recruitment into the workplace is clearly changing. Employers are aware that millennials have different values to our generation. Unlikely to be burdened by mortgages for a very long time, they are freer than we were to chop and change in their career. If they don’t like a job they can move on. I suspect this is why companies are looking for recruits with a genuine passion for their industry – they are looking for candidates who will want to stay.
So this was our goodbye last week…
Cropped trousers (in the sale); t-shirt (sold out); White Company sandals (sold out)
… you can see the panic on his face as the train pulled in and he realised I was going to cry. I never cry.
And off he went.
In the end it was a tough experience but it was a really good one for him. He has loved every second of his first week at Nike – they are giving him fantastic experience by throwing him straight into important projects. My only concern now is where do you go next when you’ve achieved your dream at the age of 20? Back to university next year my son, then we’ll see!
Have a brilliant weekend everyone. I have a heavy workload so I may not be able to post on Tuesday but if not, I’ll be back next Friday. Keep in touch – and don’t forget my plea for advice about blocked ears. Thank you!