Ask Fiona: My daughter is struggling to get work experience

Columnist and trained counsellor Fiona Caine offers her perspective on family dramas, emotional issues and dysfunctional relationships. This week, work experience, promotions and wanting to be famous

If you miss out on a promotion, ask the company for feedback

MY daughter is due to start work experience soon but although she's written to about 30 different firms, none have come back with an offer of a placement.

I am at my wits end – I don't have many contacts in business as I'm a stay-at-home single mum.

She's getting really depressed about it and it seems really hard that her working life should start on such a negative note.

She'd really like to do something connected with maths or the theatre.


FIONA SAYS: Have you checked the way she has written her letters to make sure they are polite, accurate and reflect her abilities?

It might be worthwhile following the letters up with a phone call.

Quite often companies hesitate to take on a young person for work experience as they know they will have to provide some kind of structure and supervision.

If she were to offer to do something particular for them whilst she was there, it might help focus their thinking.

She could, for example, offer to analyse audience data at the local theatre as she has mathematical skills and is interested in this area of business.

You say you don't have many contacts in business, but it might be worth trying social media.

Sadly, in this, as in so many other things, it's often about who you know.

Your friends have friends who might be willing to help and I know two people who have recently found placements for their children with an appeal on Facebook.


I joined my present company last year with four others.

At the end of the year, we were all in line to be promoted to the next stage, but I got an email from my area manager saying I hadn't made it.

The other three did, so I was really upset and asked for clarification, but the answers seemed very woolly, so I pushed further and involved the union rep.

The rep organised a meeting with the manager where it came out that some of my colleagues said they lacked confidence in my work.

The manager hadn't explained properly in the email because she had been trying to cushion the blow.

Now I feel dreadful because I thought these people were friends I could trust, but they've been running me down behind my back,

Do you think I should leave and start again?

The manager thinks I just need more experience and greater attention to detail and doesn't want me to go.


FIONA SAYS: It must have been very hard for you to be singled out as the only one not going forward.

Be completely honest with yourself: are you ready to move on to the next stage?

Think about what that will involve – will you be supervising others, for example, and are you up to that?

It's hard to hear that other people "lacked confidence in your work", but that doesn't mean they've been running you down.

Asked if you've been doing well, a comment like, "Well, I'm not sure..." could have been enough to make your manager hesitate.

If you enjoy the work, stick with it for now and do as your manager says - perhaps ask for extra supervision or training as well.

You could find, in a few months, that everyone feels more positive about what you're doing and you'll get that promotion you're after.


You'll probably say I'm too young, but I'm 15 and really want to start a band.

I've got a pretty good voice and I have a couple of friends who are keen to join me as musicians.

We're willing to do anything to make it work, but our main problem is not knowing where to start and who to contact.

We have been told that we should get an agent, but here again we have no idea how to do this.

Please help as we're really determined to become famous rock stars.


FIONA SAYS: It's a good thing you're determined because if there was ever a school of hard knocks, it's this one.

You need huge amounts of determination, a mega-thick skin (so negative comments don't hurt you) and plenty of talent.

Very few get to the top in the entertainment business and even fewer get to be 'stars'.

I don't want to put you off, but do be realistic and realise how hard this is going to be.

It's too soon to think of an agent – they will only sign you when they think you have real talent before they commit their time and resources.

Practice as hard and as often as you can. Contact people and offer to gig at parties, in pubs, anywhere that has live music.

Enter talent contests and work at getting noticed. That way, if you're any good, agents will find you.

You're going to need parental help – if only for transport to and from events – so be appreciative and offer help with domestic stuff in return.

If you are very lucky, you may one day start to get regular paid work.

Do be realistic though – look at shows like X Factor and The Voice – how many people enter; how many actually appear on screen and how many get famous in the end? It's pitiably few and some, in the past, have been really good.

Don't give up on your dream, but work hard at other things too – especially school work.

Very few stars have life-long careers and you need something to fall back on when the applause stops.


I recently moved into a block of rented flats that has a communal hallway. The neighbours aren't particularly friendly and the communal areas weren't very clean.

In an attempt to spruces the place up, I cleaned the windows and washed the curtains. I also put out some plants.

We didn't expect any thanks, but were surprised that some people seem to resent it.

A couple of people said they think we're mad and when we approached the landlord to ask for repairs to the guttering, they said we were wasting our time.

Surely, if we don't ask then we won't get? I just don't understand them.

It's all making for a bit of an atmosphere and I'm beginning to wonder if we should have bothered.


FIONA SAYS: Although you were well-intentioned, you've shown your new neighbours that you don't need them and may have even embarrassed them by showing up their mess.

You might win them round by showing you need them for something – lock yourself out and ask to use their phone to call your partner, for example.

You'll need to be a bit subtle as they know you're capable people.

If you continue to appeal to their better natures, I'm sure you will eventually win them over – and if you manage to get the repairs done, they may even start to respect you.

If they don't come round, then you'll just have to keep to yourselves or, if it gets too unpleasant, consider moving – and start slowly next time.


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