Is Work Experience Worth It?

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People often have a rather cynical view of work experience and in this economy, we are seeing a lot of youth unemployment. Many of that is down to no experience or a lack of motivation to go out and find a job and yes, I know the government has a part to play in this and they are offering a lot of training opportunities for young people who do not go to university. However, unfortunately, if we do go to university, a degree is simply not enough. In any sector now, you need to have some kind of experience outside of education and many of them are unpaid.

In 2012, I completed eight unpaid work experience placements and now, with me being in my final year of university, I have a lot of experience under my belt for after graduation. One of the reasons why I excelled at getting those placements is because luckily, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I was simply aiming for that, which does makes things easier.

There is nothing wrong about not knowing what you want to do but that is what work experience is for. Finding out what you are good at and where you want to go. When people think of work experience, they think of a job that you want to do in the future but that is not necessarily the case at all. If you don’t know what you want to do, I suggest you think long and hard about what you like, what you don’t like, what you are good at, what you are not good at and find a sector that you think you may want go into and research that.

I have had ambitions ever since I was young to work in the media, specifically in the music industry. I got my first work experience placement at a music studio in Year 10 and I really enjoyed it. Since then, I wanted to be a music journalist because I loved new music and I was obsessed with certain bands – I thought I really wanted my future to be based around the music industry. A few years down the line, I could not have been more wrong and that is down to work experience.

When I eventually got my first undergraduate work placement during my first year at university, I did something that was nothing to do with music. I worked at BBC Radio 4 for one month and then I did a lot more unpaid radio and TV work placements.

By meshing all of those work placements together, I am now confident enough to tell you exactly what I want to do as a career because I had a lot of different experience to come to a decision about what I really want to do. Sometimes, you may think a certain job is so amazing yet you have not had a chance to work there but when you eventually do, it may not be what you were expecting and vice versa – a job that you really think won’t be to your taste but when you do it, it may perhaps be your dream job. So, do not knock it, until you have tried it.

What I am trying to put across is that, do not be put off by unpaid experience because all my placements made me gain so many skills and industry based knowledge. It did a lot to improve my confidence and self-esteem. I also got to see how the world of work will be like, so it has prepared me for the real thing. Most importantly, I made amazing contacts (who I hassle now and then for a job). Now, I will not have to do what many students do after I complete my degree – go out and look for unpaid work experience, which to me is a waste of time after graduation. I do not want to be unemployed after I leave university.

Also, what I want to stress is that, people think work experience is just making tea. Well, I do not know about other industries, but certainly when I was on work experience, they basically threw me in at the deep end straight away and I had to do big tasks. They treated me like I was an actual member of the team and people relied on me to finish a task promptly. I did not even have to make a single cup of tea to be honest with you. So, it may be unpaid but it may not be what you are expecting it to be like and you get so much out of it for the future.

So, in a nutshell, what I did was, whilst being at university, I did as much unpaid work experience as I can to make myself ready for employment freshly out from university in 2014. That is what employers look for, experience as well as qualification but to me, experience overshadows everything.

I am in my third year now and along with two dissertation to do, I am also starting to think about if I want to do a postgraduate degree or apply to paid graduate schemes or even proper jobs and applying to graduate schemes and jobs feels right because I feel qualified and ready, or rather I will do after I graduate and perhaps after working in the industry for a couple years, I may want to get back into education to do my Masters.

To me, work experience is so important. In fact, it is a must if you want to get a good job. Work experience can also be life-changing, because for me, it was and to answer the question of this article, yes, work experience is so worth it.

How To Find Work Experience Placements/Internships

ImageThey say experience matters over qualifications but I think both of them go hand in hand depending on what career field you are aiming for. My field is within the media and in this industry, you need experience more so than qualifications.

I have been on many work placements and internships and people often ask me how I actually secure them, as I went from one placement to the next very quickly. In 2012, it seemed like I never stopped working and chasing those dream placements. I have completed work placements at BBC Radio 4, Absolute Radio, Channel 4, Whistledown Productions for BBC Radio and Global Radio – LBC 97.3 as well as work shadowing placements at BBC’s Radio 1, 2 and 6 Music. I completed all those placements in the space of 9 months and to many people and to myself, that is pretty impressive. So, how did I get all those placements and what tips can I give you to secure one yourself? Keep reading to find out!

How I Secured My Work Placements

I have always wanted to work for the BBC ever since I was little. That is like the dream. I wanted to work at BBC Radio (any station) for my Year 10 work experience but that was proving to be rather difficult. You could say that I was not that creative then and also not that confident. However, it was a dream that I was determined to achieve so I kept on applying and applying via the BBC Careers website and got a lot of rejections but I still never gave up.

When I was 18, I got into university to study a media related course and within 4 months of being on that course, I got my first ever BBC work experience placement at Radio 4 for one month, which quite literally changed my life. I guess you could say that being on an undergraduate course at university helps you to secure those placements because it shows that you are studying the field and therefore employers are more likely to hire you for a week or two. Luckily for me, there was a module solely on work placements and we were encouraged to find a work placement and then evaluate it in an essay form after we completed the placement. I did mine on Radio 4.

ImageThis is a picture I took of the old BBC Broadcasting House where Radio 4/Radio 3 broadcasts from as well as the BBC Radio Theatre.

ImageA picture I took of the Channel 4 building in Horseferry Road, London during my placement. This was during the London Olympics/Paralympics hence the Paralympics ‘4’.

ImageI did some interviews and reporting for LBC News with this LBC microphone.

Throughout my time at Broadcasting House (Radio 4) I made a lot of amazing contacts. I was determined to get into Radio 1 and so someone kindly gave me their Radio 1 contact. Through that, I got to work shadow Fearne Cotton’s show on Radio 1 for two days which was absolutely surreal. I then made more contacts and got work shadowing placements at Radio 2 and 6 Music. I got my LBC placement through a contact too, but I applied for Absolute Radio and Channel 4, and made sure my application form stood out and had a unique twist to it and I got them!

So, my main tips to get a work placement are…

Never Give Up!

You will get rejected. That is a part of life. The main thing is to never give up. If you truly want something in life, you should never give up because speaking from experience, if you keep trying, one day it will happen. So keep applying!

Make Your Application Stand Out

Making your application stand out is often always said but how do you make it stand out exactly?. Well, for me, I decided to add a unique touch to mine. For example, in my Channel 4 application, I said that in my culture, the media industry is looked down upon and there is not many Muslim/Asian people working in the media and I said that I wanted to change that. If I was part of the C4 HR department, I would be pretty impressed by that sentence because I said that I wanted to make a difference and I guess they liked that and offered me a chance to work there. So try to add something in the application that shows how you will benefit from the placement.

University? 

This is obviously optional and university is not for everyone but for me, I really do think that university helped me get those work placements, or at least the first one. If you are at university,  go to your careers departement and ask them for help on CV’s, application forms etc… If you are not at university, try to do something else as a hobby that can show your interest in the field you are applying for. For example, if you want to work for a magazine, start a blog and state that you love writing and your blog could be the proof.

Clean Up Your CV

Your CV is the most important thing. Clean it up. Update it and keep it simple. Tailor it to the position you are applying for. Get it checked by someone.

Contacts, Contacts, Contacts! 

NETWORK. Make contacts. That is the main thing that got me most of my placements. I made a lot of contacts and they recommended me people I could talk to. Email them showing your interest in their company, do your research and ask to meet for a quick chat. Keep in touch with them. You must make contacts because you never know, in a few years down the line, they could give you your dream job.

On top of all that, I think passion and determination is what you need  to secure work placements that actually will benefit you and help you in your journey to your career development.