Maximising your work experience – tips from a Graduate

Jade Simpson graduated from the University of Leeds in 2011 with a 2:1 in Geography and Transport Planning.  Jade was successful in gaining one of two Graduate Intern Roles with us in the Careers Centre and worked (excellently!) with us from October 2011 until July 2012.  Here she outlines her experience, how she feels this benefitted her as well as sharing top tips for making the most of your experience. Following her internship with us, Jade secured a permanent position with the Faculty of Arts at the University of Leeds where she now works as a Marketing Assistant.  If you like the sound of Jade’s internship, why not apply to be our next Graduate Intern? We are recruiting now for a 2012 University of Leeds Graduate to join us for an 8-month internship.

Having graduated in 2011 with no fixed career route, I felt that, being just 21, I really wanted a job that I enjoyed, rather than having a fixed ‘career  plan’ as such.  I saw the advert for the Careers Centre internship on the Careers Centre vacancy database, thought it sounded interesting and applied.  I was invited for interview, which consisted of a group session, formal interview and ten minute PowerPoint presentation, and successfully got the job!

Next stop: An office, staff card, name badge, fellow graduate intern and my name on the door!  The first couple of weeks helped me find my feet and gave me the opportunity to try and remember all the names of the people I had met during my tour of the office.  First point to note from this post: try and remember the names of your colleagues, even the guy who you think you will never work with because you probably will at some point!

When I started telling family and friends about the job they made all the usual jokes of about me becoming the tea lady and how much photocopying had I done that day. But the joke is on them. It is hard to put into words the experiences I have gained from my internship but I do know it has made a massive difference to how I feel about entering the graduate job market. Second point to note from this post: take up all the opportunities you are offered, because you will learn from them. Also, tell people that you want to work with them, speak with your mentor or manager and express your interest in projects or everyday tasks and it will show that you are a real member of the team, not just an ‘intern’.

One of the major projects I was involved in was the launch of the Careers Centre social media presence. The Careers Centre didn’t have a Twitter or Facebook account when I started so one of the first tasks I was given was to was to carry out market research on other Careers Services across the UK and overseas and find out how they were embracing and using social media. Straight away I knew this would be interesting and would make use of my market research skills from my dissertation. I found out a lot about different Careers Services and audited how they were using social media, then fed back the results to my colleagues in a report for the social media team. After this, our Twitter and Facebook accounts were born and we now have a dedicated team at the Careers Centre keeping it up to date. I also supplied the social media team with tweets for upcoming events and interesting news for our followers.

I was lucky that 2011/12 was a huge year for the Careers Centre in terms of development and I managed to get right in there and share my ideas, assist with developments and make a valued contribution to these. If your work experience is only going to be over the summer or Christmas holidays then I would honestly say the same applies, get stuck in and really make the most of it. Go out of your way to chat with everyone, it’s all about networking and it’s natural and completely acceptable to speak to colleagues and ask them how they got to where they are today in their career. Plus, you are much more likely to get a valuable insight this way rather than sending off an email to Joe Bloggs on a company website and hoping that he responds! Point three: network, network and network!

I know that working in a professional environment has not only meant I have something to add to my CV, it has developed me personally (cheesy I know, but true), and opened my eyes to the real world of work. I really can’t stress to you how important it is to be proactive in your internship, summer job or part time work, you never know how it might pay off but at least you’ll be able to know you made the most of the opportunity. Never be afraid to say, “Let me know if I can help.”

Summary of Jade’s tips:

  1. Make an effort to remember everyone’s names – you never know when you may work with them!
  2. Seize all opportunities you are offered and be proactive in seeking out new opportunities
  3. Use the opportunity to speak to a wide range of people and network, network, network!

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Filed under How I got my job, Work Experience

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