No matter what your degree, or what profession you want to go into, one of the things that has been constantly drilled into us as university students is the need for work experience. As any third year will be able to tell you, gaining this mythical work experience is much easier said than done. There are countless websites that claim to find you that perfect internship, while the university careers service CEEC will give advice on unconventional ways to show off your skills to potential employers (read ‘beg desperately for any work at all. Please. Anything’). Despite having used these methods for over a year now, I have yet to find something that caters to the kind of job I want to go into. Don’t give me any of that ‘transferable skills’ crap, I would really like to experience the work I want to do, however amazing skydiving in Malaysia or saving orangoutangs in Nepal would be.
I’m also not the only one to struggle with finding relevant work experience – as the market for graduate jobs becomes smaller, the competition for an internship that might lead to future work becomes fiercer. So that’s why I was pleasantly surprised, and eminently grateful, to bag myself a weeks work experience at a commercial journalism company in London this summer. Not exactly what I want to do, but much more relevant than working at ‘Camp America’. How did I get this opportunity, you ask? Tell us your secrets, do I hear you cry? Well, in an incredible show of skill and innovative thinking, I… asked my cousin very nicely if I could come and work with her for a week. Ahem.
I know, I know, using family connections does seem like cheating, but I am not ashamed! It’s true what they say, it’s not what you know it’s who you know, and considering our prospects I think it’s fair enough we take hold of any advantage we can get. Generally, unless you want to do something incredibly obscure such as becoming an underwater demolition expert (that job really exists!) it’s likely that someone you know is involved in your chosen profession. Somehow. Whether your boyfriend’s uncle is the CEO of a company, or your mate’s next door neighbour freelances for someone you want to work for, you can find all sorts of connections if you look hard enough.
Of course, in the best case scenario you will have some sort of direct link to the employers, as I did with the help of my cousin. In this case you have the added benefit of actually knowing one of the people you will be working with! It sounds small, but doing work experience can be daunting and the regular staff (lucky, paid people) can seem intimidating. If there’s a friendly face to greet you at work every day the experience becomes much more relaxed, and you will impress your employers more when you can be comfortable and yourself.
So join me, fellow job seekers! Join me in bumming off of your friends’ and family’s connections. Hunt down opportunities wherever you can find them. Be cheeky and sleep on someone’s couch during that all-important stay in London. Because trust me, we need all the help we can get.