Securing a Graduate Career: Work Hard, But Don’t Panic!

POLITICS STUDENT, FIONA, TELLS US MORE ABOUT GAINING WORK EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR CV…

It’s National Student Employment Week! But that doesn’t mean that you have to lock yourself down to a niche career as soon as possible. There’s a lot of pressure on young people to make big decisions about their future from as young as 14 with GCSE selection.
I’ve felt the pressure for years but finding new experiences and getting involved has kept me on track, even when I’ve changed my career aspirations. The simple fact of the matter is all of your experience counts, even if it just helps you rule out something you don’t enjoy.

 

From science A-Levels and looking at careers as a medic, sports scientist and stunt double (?!) I’d grown up and moved on over 6 years, finally settling on a degree in politics and international relations. But, having changed my mind about a career so many times, I was back to square one on my future after university. In fact, for the first year and a half of uni, I barely thought about graduate careers at all; I just got involved with events and societies that I found fun and interesting. For me this was student radio and my course society as well as a part-time job as a bartender; this brought opportunities in local radio and networking, and by the time second year ended I’d worked my way into committee positions for student radio and the politics society, which look great on a CV and demonstrated loads of useful skills. From here, I started to lean towards a career in media and journalism.

 

But, in the summer of my second year I was left without the hallowed internship I’d been told I needed if I wanted a good graduate career. It was at this point I remembered that while internships and related work experience are highly valuable, there are many skills from other work that transfer and apply to all sorts of careers. I applied mid-summer to a brand ambassador job with Virgin Media for some work experience and a flexible summer income as I could work from home; this gave me sales, customer service and social media experience. In a last-ditch attempt for some journalism experience at the end of the summer, I was lucky enough to secure a place on the Reading Festival press team with the University and try some music reporting, photography and a little bit of social media marketing. This was amazing but it did show me that journalism isn’t for me, even though I love to write. This brought me where I am today: finally, at the beginning of my third year, I decided that I wanted to work in PR and communications.

 

Most graduate schemes open roughly a year in advance of your future start date, so there’s still time to find related experience while you’re applying for these. It’s a good idea to know what you want to do at this point; graduate applications are intense and take a decent amount of time so only apply to ones you actually want. To help with my applications and show a desire for the field, I approached the University Press Office and started a one-day a week placement to learn about communications and started writing travel articles for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as a brand ambassador.

 

So, I started with different types of work experience: retail, hospitality, branding, sales, media and journalism. I ruled out what I didn’t like and I remembered what I loved, to find a career that matched, then moved on to finding relevant experience and streamlined my job hunt. CV building never ends, but it gets much easier once you know what you like. All experience is good experience and never turn down a good opportunity: seize them.

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