Work experience: Not Just For Your C.V.

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During the summer many students will be taking Work Experience around the country, Julia Topazio talks about her experience including all the ups and downs of working life.

Work experience is sometimes hard to come by, but every student should persevere as it is, undoubtedly, a vital experience when it comes to the job-hunt at the end of your degree.

Ok, admittedly my first ever work experience of working at a conservation centre (involved cleaning out lots of slug-homes…) was not particularly beneficial to me, but my two-week placement at a London magazine certainly has been! My first day certainly had the potential for disaster though.

I arrived in Farringdon half an hour early to allow myself time to find the offices, which I did so quickly, and just as the heavens decided to open. I couldn’t afford to let my hair, make-up or clothes – all of which had been so carefully selected that morning – get soaked, and lacking an umbrella, I legged it to the bus shelter round the corner. I then proceeded to sit there for half an hour apologising to every bus driver who stopped to let me on. In the end I just opened my London map and hid behind it, figuring I’d just blend into the multitude of lost tourists at peak-time on a Monday morning…

9.55am I walked into the offices and was told to take a seat until the man who had agreed to mentor me came down. When he arrived, I stood up and we did the hand-shake and introductions. He then suggested we have a coffee in the canteen, so I bent down to pick up my handbag. Then I noticed that my foot had somehow gotten caught up in my bag handle. I’m sure he didn’t notice me bending over trying to extricate my foot before finally following him…

Later in the morning, after I’d been briefed and set my first task of the day I made a toilet trip. That is when, whilst undoing my trousers, the fastening button decided to pop off. Just what I needed on my first day! Luckily, sneaking back to my desk while holding up my trousers with my hand and then stealthily attaching a safety pin did the trick. Nevertheless, bad things, or in this case awkward moments, only come in three’s, so at least I knew I was safe for the rest of the day!

My fortunes did change – for a start, my trousers didn’t fall down – and I ended up having an amazing experience in London!

My fortunes did change – for a start, my trousers didn’t fall down – and I ended up having an amazing experience in London! I fully expected to be doing my fair share of filing, photocopying and tea-making, but the first thing I was told was that I would be doing actual work. Over the course of the two weeks I wrote three articles, both for magazines and online, worked on the picture desk and learnt about the less creative, but equally as interesting, account management side. Admittedly I spent one afternoon photocopying – but one afternoon out of two weeks really isn’t bad at all! Amazingly, one of my articles is now due to be published in September, showing just how worthwhile my work experience was!

It has become my dream to one day return to this company and work there.  This was the type of place where I saw the boss chuck a couple of chocolate fingers across the room at the Editor one afternoon and he retaliated, launching a chocolate finger fight! I should explain that the boss didn’t have anger management issues, just that everyone was so friendly and relaxed in the office. I want to work in a place where I get to throw chocolate fingers at my boss – that is the dream! Plus I got to wear jeans to work – what more can you want really?! Oh actually – there was free hot chocolate as well, all day every day. There, now what more could you possibly want?!

Whether you know what career you want to pursue or not, it is definitely worth the effort to find yourself a work experience placement. You might not enjoy it as much as I have and you might end up hating the business, but the earlier on you find this out the less time you’ll waste pursuing it as a career.  Not only does experience provides you with valuable knowledge and insight as to which career path is for you, but it can also open your eyes to the multitude of jobs that actually exist, but which you’ve never heard of – this was certainly the case for me!  Not only do I now have more of an idea of a future career path, I also have some experience of it under my belt, a handy list of contacts and a published article.

Two weeks well spent I’d say!

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