One of our student bloggers, Katy Edwards, spent a very busy summer completing a range of work placements and has taken time out from her final year studies to share her insights and tips…
Just like every other undergraduate, it has become increasingly clear to me that to stand any chance of finding gainful employment after graduation, relevant experience is vital. With that in mind, I decided to spend the summer between my second and final years at Warwick undertaking a variety of work experience placements, within the PR, comms and charity sectors. Here are a few things I learned along the way.
Work experience is the perfect opportunity to ask those who’ve successfully navigated your chosen career path how they did it, and most will be happy to hand out helpful advice. Do they have any specific qualifications? How did their career progress? What do they recommend as the next step for you? It also offers the chance to ask questions about what a job in the sector really entails, away from the standard job description you might be more familiar with. And don’t forget the crucial one: do you employ graduates? I gained useful advice on what to do next to try and secure a job, and learned about where opportunities for graduates are currently.
Don’t get complacent
It’s easy to feel that after proactively seeking work experience and working hard you’re all set for a job. But experience won’t guarantee employment, and this was made very clear to me! Continue the hard work, maybe with a longer placement, further and more specific experience, or something different like joining a university sports team. It was suggested to me that I might like to become a student member of the PR professional body to boost my CV and stay up to date with topical issues, and read blogs on the subject.
Understand its utility
The whole work experience exercise can become extremely futile if you can’t demonstrate what use it was. Understand what skills you gained from the experience, what you learned about the area of work, and most importantly how this makes you a better prospect and more employable.
Entering into a new work environment is a golden opportunity to network and gain some more contacts. So get connected on Twitter and LinkedIn and stay in contact with people and companies. These connections could prove useful for landing a job, staying up to date with sector news, or a port of call for advice.
What if it’s not for me?
If your foray into work has made you think that maybe it isn’t the job for you, this is far from a disaster! It may even enable you to focus your job search and make informed choices about what you want to do, while proving to prospective employers that you know what’s out there and what’s the right fit for you.
Take a chance
Although paid work experience is preferable, it’s not always easy to find – particularly in certain sectors – but the Warwick Bursary can help offset some of the costs, so don’t count yourself out just because the placement is unpaid. You can receive up to £200 through this scheme if you’re doing unpaid work experience, which helps pay for any subsistence expenses. Why not intersperse this with part-time work to help keep your cash flow going?
It’s a great opportunity to try new things, meet new people and tentatively venture into the world of work, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities for some fun! This summer I found myself 60 metres up in a crane, meeting a director from the BBC series Coast, and turning my hand to a bit of photography. I thoroughly recommend embarking on work experience; I loved it.