Last week, I travelled back to my university to support the ‘Career Conversations’ event for current students. I loved my three years at the University of Essex and was glad to have an opportunity to give back.
The event was really well organised, with small groups of students sitting down with alumni to ask questions and make connections. It was fun to share my career story and talk about how I got to where I am now with such an engaged and enthusiastic group.
I was in the Business, Marketing and Technology set, talking to students studying for degrees as wide-ranging as English, History, Law and Languages.
There was one question that I was consistently asked throughout the evening:
How can I get work experience with Marketing or PR companies?
By doing work experience with a PR agency and keeping in touch with them during the final year of my degree, I secured my first job as an Account Executive when I graduated.
What was interesting, though, was that these students were only thinking about formal work experience schemes and internships which I largely steered clear of. For me, it made far more sense to avoid the battle with hundreds of others for just a few places and instead target companies I wanted to work for and make a direct approach. When I told the students this, they admitted it wasn’t something they had considered but definitely would now.
The other point I was keen to make was the importance of keeping in contact. There’s little use doing work experience with a great team then disappearing completely afterwards. It may get you some bullet points on your CV, but you’re likely to be quickly forgotten by that company.
By following up a few times when you’re back at university (“How did that campaign go?”, “What’s the latest with that client?”, “Did XX have her baby yet?”), the rapport you’ve built during your work experience could well translate into an actual job or, at the very least, a more personal and persuasive reference when you need one.