Preparing for your future, Work Experience

How to get work experience and develop your career – a personal account

Gerard Harris, Cardiff Business School alumni and now editor of Tuppence Magazine talks about the importance of practical experience to starting and developing your career…

work exp

When it comes to finding your first job after finishing your degree or getting the graduate placement you’re hoping for, the difficulty can often be the lack of work history you have on your CV. Luckily, it’s also the same problem that all new graduates face.

The challenge of getting a graduate placement

Looking back on my own scary few weeks following graduation, things could have been much easier if I’d understood the opportunities a little better throughout my time in university. With no job lined up and the prospect of temp work at a call centre looming it started to feel like an anti-climax to all of the time and effort I’d put into my degree.

 

As a former Cardiff University student, I know how tough it can be to juggle everything, but still have an eye on the future. I graduated more than ten years ago, but my CV was pretty bare of good work experience at the time, which made me feel nervous about my prospect of finding the right job after university. Luckily, I did eventually get on to a graduate placement scheme and I’ve had a great career in marketing and website management ever since, but having at least some work experience on my CV might have taken some of the heartache out of the situation.

 

That aside, getting my graduate placement in the marketing department of the Welsh Development Agency (now a part of the Welsh Assembly Government) was largely down to striking up a good rapport with the interviewer, who went on to be my manager for the next two years. Second to experience, the way you come across in an interview is one of the most important factors in landing a placement. If you’re relaxed, professional and engaging in answering interview questions, and you can comfortably talk through your CV and degree then that’s half the battle won.

 

Landing the interview in the first place was the tricky thing for me, because I had no work experience to talk about. As a result, I had to focus my CV around the relevant topic areas in my degree to the roles I was applying for. By concentrating on what I knew and understood about the discipline I was able to compensate for my limitations elsewhere, while still keeping things positive. This approach, combined with an unrelenting barrage of applications to any relevant placement schemes I could find meant that I managed to turn things around just in time.

What I learnt from my experience

If I could go back in time, the most important piece of advice I’d give myself would be not to worry quite so much. Things tend to work out in the end and getting stressed about the situation wasn’t helping me with my job search. The reason things came through for me in the end is that I was relentless in applying for every marketing graduate placement I could find. With a CV as threadbare as the average streaker’s birthday suit I was left with the only strategy available to me by then, which was throwing everything at the wall and hoping that something would stick.

The biggest piece of advice I’d give students earlier on in their degree is to take advantage of any opportunities available to you as soon as possible. The most significant of these is getting work experience under your belt, which will help you to demonstrate that you have some experience in a working role. If you can take a couple of weeks in the summer of your first or second year to get some experience then it will definitely be worth the effort when you come around to trying to get your career up and running.

It will give you good ammunition to evidence your skills in a practical situation, helping you to stand out from the crowd in what is already a very competitive marketplace for jobs. In addition to that, the people you work with may also be happy to act as a reference for you in the years to come, which will also give potential employers confidence that you’re more of a sure bet than the next applicant.

Further career benefits of work experience

It may not be as pressing a benefit as landing your first job, but work experience can also help with developing your career later on down the line. When you’re looking for promotion or applying for your next role, only having one job on your CV just doesn’t look as impressive as one that is also backed up by work experience.

During my time as a marketing manager and website editor I’ve screened hundreds of CVs and sat through a lot of interviews in the process of recruiting people. When you get inundated with applications it’s the simple things that stand out in the first instance and one of the most important is experience. The more you have in your career history, the more chance you’ll have of making it through the screening process to land an interview. Work experience can be a good way to build this out and show that your working career has good variety and credibility, even though you may have only recently graduated from university.

 

To get your search for work experience underway, you can read Cardiff University interns Phoebe and Will’s recent posts, Need work experience? We did and here’s how we found it and Improve your prospects with Work Experience – Register with us for Student & Graduate Opportunities.  These contain useful links and practical information on how they tackled their own hunt for work experience opportunities.

Flexible work experience at Tuppence Magazine

With volunteer project commitments or summer temp jobs taking up efforts outside of university, not everyone can take time out to do a two-week work experience placement. As a result, I’ve created a flexible option for students to get work experience writing at Tuppence Magazine, the entertainment news website I’m the editor for. It allows you to contribute as much or as little as you want, while giving you both credible work experience and a reference to add to your CV. For more information visit our work experience placement listing or contact the Work Experience Team.

 

Register with the Work Experience team

To register with the University’s Work Experience team simply visit https://cardiff.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/expworks201516 or search ‘Work Experience on’ on the intranet and click ‘Register for an insight or internship opportunity’. The team will be in touch via email and opportunities are often sent out in the format of a newsletter, to avoid bombardment and to enable students to see a variety of options from different career sectors.

Best wishes

Gerard, Tuppence Magazine
Guest post on behalf of Careers & Employability

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