With the employment market more competitive than ever, securing a work experience placement could really put you ahead of the pack Getting a degree is no longer a fast track to automatically landing the job of your dreams.
The growth in the number of graduates and relative lack of top jobs available means that more and more young people each year are finding it impossible to land that high-flying and well-paying role, despite their impeccable educational credentials. So when a good degree from a first rate university is not enough to distinguish you from the tough competition, what can?
Boost your CV
Work experience is becoming an increasingly vital addition to any serious CV and a work placement at a good company in summer holidays, during a sandwich year or after graduating can really make you stand out from the crowd. What’s more, a work placement is the perfect way to prove to a prospective employer that you can do the job well and fit in with the company, so it’s not uncommon for a placement to result in a permanent job. With the recession still affecting businesses, employing a graduate with little or no actual work experience is too big a risk for many companies so proving you can do the job through these opportunities makes sense.
Work experience works
Liz Goldie, a communications executive in the media and marketing department of James Caan’s private equity company, Hamilton Bradshaw (HB), assists in the day-to-day running of the department and was herself an intern there last year. ‘After graduating from the University of Leeds, I worked as a communications assistant at an international art centre in Newcastle, where I grew up,’ says Liz. ‘Moving to London was naturally the next step for me so I decided to take the risk and moved without a job. I soon secured temporary work in some fantastic creative agencies. This gave me the opportunity to decide which area I wanted to work in.
‘A few months later, I saw an advert for a one-month internship at HB and sent my CV off. After a few weeks, I received a call from Sally Poinsette; now head of operations at HB. Sally is straight to the point with a ‘get things done’ mentality and asked if I could do an interview the following day. I spent the evening swotting up on everything I could but nothing could prepare me for the interview itself. I was pretty nervous in the interview and why wouldn’t I be – sitting opposite a ‘dragon’?
‘James asked me to talk him through my background and experience and why I wanted to work for HB. I didn’t know much about private equity at the time but I played on my strengths, highlighting my experience in communications and media and how I believed I had the transferable skills that would benefit the media department. It must have worked, because I got the placement! ‘I started off by helping out with the research that is involved when working on potential and ongoing projects. I made sure I was involved in several different types of projects to really get the most out of the opportunity.’
The next step
‘Towards the end of my placement, I approached James and told him I was looking for a permanent job. He assessed me and asked me to talk him through every project I was involved with and explain why I thought HB should employ me. It was a bit of a Dragons’ Den experience in a way, I really had to sell myself! James is great because he genuinely believes in investing in people and if he sees potential in you, and there’s an opportunity, he’ll hire you. I went in as a media assistant and within a few months, I’d been promoted to my current role as communications executive.
‘My time at HB has been a whirlwind, there have been some tough times but I enjoy every day that I am here. We have a new communications manager, Nicki Shepherd, who oversees the strategic elements of the marketing department while I look after the more day-to-day work and some of my own projects. Every day is different, one day I could be working on the website, the next researching commercial activity, and the next putting press releases together for the media. I’m really interested in social media marketing and believe there is so much more to come from the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn and mobile marketing.’