What do you get out of work shadowing? We asked two students who did it with WPP

Work shadowing is a different beast to an internship or graduate job but it can help build your future. Two Debutants found this out at WPP.
Alex Ekong
Alex Ekong
work shadowing

As a young person searching for a career, you’ve probably – and understandably – explored every possible option to find that job you’ve been waiting for. But there are many routes to Nirvana, it’s not all about getting an internship or a graduate job right off the bat. If you’re nearer the start of your university journey rather than the end, you might want to look into work shadowing.

What is work shadowing, you might ask? Well, it’s more than just being invisible. Work shadowing allows you to step into the shoes of someone who’s already doing the job of your dreams, learning everything about the skills you need to excel at it in the process. Two of our very own Debutants got the opportunity to do just this after watching WPP discuss their Health Fellowship on DebutLive.

After getting the exclusive application details, they each sent in a video submission for the chance to earn two weeks’ work shadowing at a WPP agency. Their videos were deemed by WPP to be head-and-shoulders above the other candidates, and they each got their wish. Now, Arllen Orias and Jemma Savage have come back to Debut to tell their fellow opportunity-seekers all about day-to-day life at WPP, and how work shadowing benefited their careers.

Arllen’s experience

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“To apply for the WPP work shadowing scheme, I was equipped with only two things: a genuine curiosity for the world of health communications and the Debut app.

“Surprisingly, I was selected. With no previous industry experience as a guide, I started at Cohn & Wolfe, a WPP agency. The next two weeks would be a baptism of fire into the working world. I participated in account meetings, inventive brainstorms, media audits and learned about the intensive amount of groundwork behind impactful and important global health campaigns. The diversity of work available was truly eye opening, and it meant that I was able to gain valuable experience of different projects at various stages!”

“As a science graduate, I think career options at university often feel restricted to medicine, research or industry. Health communications may seem obscure enough to be daunting, but do not be fooled. It is an interesting, lively and varied avenue of work for all scientists who may be seeking a way to combine a passion for cutting-edge science with creative projects.  

“So, if you’re curious about learning more, and you have the app, then you have exactly what I had when I first applied! I had a fantastic experience at Cohn & Wolfe and I would highly recommend other science graduates to keep an eye out for any future WPP and Debut opportunities.”

Jemma’s experience

work shadowing

“As a first year, it can be really hard to find your feet when it comes to work experience and you can spend ages trawling through things that don’t seem so relevant to you. This is where Debut comes in handy because you can tailor the type of experiences you’re looking for to your interests. I had expressed an interest in PR and communications on my Debut profile and from this, WPP contacted me to alert me about the Health Fellowship.

“The introductory live stream gave a really interesting insight into the industry from experts within WPP, which offered a fantastic opportunity for them to really convey what they were looking for from applicants.

“The video submission really challenged me to thoroughly research beforehand and this opened my eyes to the work healthcare communicators do. Also, it was a great way for them to see how we fit within the company, where effective communication is key.”

“I found the WPP work experience most interesting because it offered an opportunity to work on a small team within Hill and Knowlton, shadowing a number of individuals on different projects. Over my time there, the thing I was most amazed by was how much research goes into each project or campaign.  Each member of the team was working on two or three projects at a time, which posed one of the biggest challenges for me. However, they explained to me how each of them balanced their workload, arming me with helpful tips for my own time-keeping strategies – something I hope to further apply to my university work!

“The atmosphere both within and between teams was so supportive and helpful, creating a really dynamic and empowering place to be. This, however, seems to be the ethos of many WPP companies, especially when it comes to professional development.

“My work shadowing experience this summer has made me so excited to apply for the Health Fellowship once I have completed my studies and hopefully will increase my chance of successfully applying for WPP’s fantastic new opportunity.

“To my fellow STEM students who are considering this field, I would definitely encourage them to sign up for Debut. WPP offers some of the most prestigious graduate schemes and so to see how their companies operate, so early on in our academic and professional careers, is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.”

And there you have it. More important than anything you can learn about a career from researching it, work shadowing gives you the chance to get your hands dirty.

Through their respective work shadowing experiences, Jemma and Arllen learned the ins-and-out of the WPP Health Fellowship and saw the potential for careers beyond what’s so often laid out for science students. They also learned more about their strengths, limitations and interests in just two weeks than they had before. With a minor assist from Debut and a forward thinking company like WPP, this could be you. You may be able to see your future clearly, but with work shadowing, you can shape it further.

If you want your own WPP experience, applications for the WPP Health Fellowship are open now on Debut.

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