It is well known that in today’s job market, having a degree isn’t enough to guarantee a graduate job. With so many students securing a 2:1 or above, extra experience can be a deal breaker for employers when selecting a candidate.
I know how incredibly frustrating it can be to try and get a place on an internship or work experience scheme. I applied to every publishing work experience scheme I could find – Penguin, Hachette, you name it. It was, however, fruitless, which sent me into a panic. How could I possibly get a job in an industry that is known for having so few jobs for graduates, but also for which experience is essential?
Across the board, other students seem to be having similar experiences. With so many applicants competing for the limited places on work experience schemes and internships, what can you do to ensure you get that vital work experience?
Eventually, I did in fact manage to secure some work experience, and it was easier than I imagined it would be. On a whim I attended a talk by alumni discussing their graduate jobs, and a few of the speakers mentioned they had done some work experience at an independent publishing house on the Royal Mile. I sent an email enquiring about their work experience scheme, and the following day after a couple of emails and a phone call, I had secured a two-week placement.
That brings me to my first tip – send emails. It sounds obvious, but emailing anywhere you can think of that could help you out with some work experience is easy, quick, and often useful. Even if they can’t take you, they might be able to point you to somewhere that will. Remember, the worst they can do is say no.
It is also worth attending the various careers events at the University. I’m guilty of deleting emails announcing careers events without a second thought, as I’m sure plenty of others are too; yet the first one I actually attended led to my first work experience placement.
It’s easy to tell yourself you’re too busy, or you have plenty of time to think about careers and graduation. But, we all know your time at university flies by, so making the most of the careers resources whilst you can is crucial as chances are, you won’t have access to these resources once you graduate.
For a long time, I was making the mistake of only trying to find experience in the publishing industry. Whilst work experience directly related to the field you want to work in is probably the most useful, both for your CV and to learn the relevant skills, you can still branch out. More than likely, you’ll find it easier to find some sort of work experience if you don’t limit yourself to one field. Any experience is good experience, and realistically, who knows what industry you’ll end up working in? Plus, you’ll get to brag about all the ‘transferable skills’ you’ve learnt.
We’ve all heard that having ‘connections’ is important, but the prospect of networking is daunting. For me, networking summons up images of people making small talk and handing out business cards – not something many students find themselves doing. Networking doesn’t have to be like this. Just doing something as simple as asking friends and family whether they know someone connected to the field you’re interested in does the job. Chatting to alumni at careers events is also a great way to build connections; if you can let people know you’re looking for work experience, pass on your email, then you’ve successfully made some connections. People like to hire people they know, and by making an effort to ask someone for help with work experience, you’ve shown how committed you are.
Searching for work experience and internships can be stressful, especially with the knowledge that it’s nearly always a fundamental requirement of securing a job.
But don’t let it worry you, because chances are if you persevere, you will eventually find a placement that will look great to future employers – it might even be fun.