Carolina Fefer is a second year BA Management with Marketing student at the University of Leeds. Originally from Argentina, she grew up in Paris, finished her last year of school in London and came to study in Leeds.
Here she talks about her first work experience as an intern in Marketing and Communication at EDF Energy.
One of the main things they tell us in the Business School (and they are right) is how much companies value work experience. You can imagine that having never worked before and listening to my peers talking about how many jobs they’ve had so far, I was thrown into a state of panic.
Employability and careers can seem very overwhelming as a first year student, and sometimes you can feel a bit alone in this situation- but you aren’t! Everything you’re experiencing your peers will have probably faced as well- as did the people who boast impressive job titles today. This is why I am here to tell you about my work experience and how I got my first summer internship, proving to you that anyone can find a happy ending (or should I say beginning…)
Application Process & Using Your Network
I applied at the end of May 2019 to EDF Energy in London. One of my relatives who works there told me about the job opportunities they had and gave me the email address of a person to contact. I wrote to tell him about my current situation and interest in the role. They asked me for a CV and a cover letter, which I submitted a week later, and two weeks after that I got a reply to confirm the offer.
That was a quick turnaround, and I was certainly helped along by the network I had. When looking for your first work experiences, it is very important to utilise your professional contacts. By using them, you can gain work experience that will develop you personally and professionally and recruiters will look very favourably upon this later on.
You might think this is cheating, but it’s better to use the networks you have access to, if you don’t take the chance someone else will. And, remember, you’re just starting out so asking for help is normal. For those University of Leeds students who don’t have personal networks in their chosen field, there is the Leeds Network a database of Leeds alumni who are there to guide you, plus you can always search for Leeds alumni on LinkedIn– this is your ready made network!
Working in a company, especially under a department that relates to your studies, is a very rich experience. Of course, you learn more and you get to see how theory is put into practice, but I would say that the most incredible gain was the chance to challenge myself. By this, I mean the opportunity to see what you are good at and how to develop skills and personal attributes to help you in the workplace. The summer internship at EDF gave me more confidence in myself, including being more outgoing, taking the initiative and boosting my assertiveness, which for me is the key skill for a good marketer: being confident of who you are to convince others of what you are worth. This works as well with “Believe in the product you sell if you want others to buy it”. Make yourself valuable!
I didn’t exactly know what to expect, having spent almost all my life in France, not knowing much about work culture in the UK, I guess I thought it would be more pressured with a lot of stress. However, I found the work environment calm and positive, allowing me to develop new skills whilst feeling confident and secure.
Tips and advice
- Remember the people applying to the same role have also read the job description and seen that the opportunity matches their skills. To help recruiters choose you, show them how you are different from other applicants, or what you could do better than them: it could be your ability to speak many languages, an award or simply your motivations and interests.
- Ask for help. Don’t be shy or phased by big titles. Whatever you don’t understand, you can just ask! Don’t forget, recruiters and bosses are people like you and me and have probably been through the same thing when they started out.
- The same goes with using all the support you can get: not just your network but also the Careers Centre, which is a fantastic resource for boosting your employability. So, book an appointment through MyCareer to build a great CV, prepare for interviews and ask all the questions you have!
Challenge yourself! You are still learning and free to experience the world. Get to know yourself and especially value every small thing you achieve. Be open to learning and seize all the opportunities you can get as a student.