How To Get A Job

On my 2014 round up/looking forward to 2015 post, the lovely Hannah left me a comment asking if I had any tips for getting internships/jobs. I have to admit, when I first read this I was surprised. I’m no expert and didn’t think I was particularly qualified to give advice! However, when I thought about it I figure I have now got a job in London after all, so I guess I am as qualified as anyone else.

Despite the horror stories you hear about having to do a year of unpaid interning before even thinking about permanent employment, my internship with my current company was actually my first ever one. However, that’s not to say I hadn’t applied for any. I had applied, for a lot of positions, and I’d had a good amount of success, actually. I’ve compiled some tips based on my own experiences, and I hope they might help some of you!

  • Figure out your limits. One thing I did which may or may not have been a mistake was apply for a lot of unpaid positions that, when it came down to it, I knew I couldn’t actually take. Unpaid internships tend(ed) to be easier to get because a) I imagine slightly less people applied and b) most companies are more likely to take a bit of a risk on someone who’s not on their payroll. I was offered a couple that I ended up not taking, but (while I imagine the companies in question might have been a bit irritated), I wasn’t willing or able to get myself in tons of debt for the sake of a couple of months’ experience that didn’t guarantee me anything but the end of my overdraft. Luckily, things are changing fast and it’s now much more “the norm” for positions to be paid, even if it’s minimum wage.
  • Stick to your guns. In the end, I resolved to only apply for paid internships, and grad schemes that promised at least a year of guaranteed employment. I had varying degrees of success with these. Some companies, I didn’t anything from at all, which is to be expected. Most often, my CV and cover letter passed the test and I was invited to a fair few interviews, whether they were phone, skype, or in-person interviews.
  • Go the extra mile (to the office). I fared much better in “real life interviews” than anything else. It might be a pain to pay for & organise travel, especially when these interviews often last 30 minutes max, but it is so, so much easier to make a good impression in person than it is over the phone. I also think that in-person interviews show commitment both from you and the company, and it’s also an invaluable chance to assess the atmosphere in the office, and maybe even meet the team – not to mention see how easy the commute might be.
  • Keep your options, & your mind, open. As I said, I applied for a LOT of positions. Some were at companies I knew would be a good fit; some were companies I hoped would be; some were prestigious names I knew would look great on my CV. It’s easy to decide that one career path is the one for you (I had my heart set on food PR for a long time) but without stepping foot in an office, it’s impossible to know. Apply for a range of roles and don’t rule anything out (within reason! Keep within your interests and talent range, obviously).
  • Sell yourself. At uni, I wasn’t on a sports team and I wasn’t particularly involved in any society. For a while, I was convinced that this would be my downfall. But then I had a think through all the things I had done throughout my 3 years at uni and I realised that I could definitely make something of them all. I helped out at open days in my first and 3rd year, in both voluntary and paid positions, for both the uni as a whole and for my department. In my 3rd year, I was also put forward by a lecturer to act as a 3rd year rep for English, which meant giving a series of speeches to prospective students & parents. None of this seemed like a big deal at the time but in terms of my CV and in interview, it was a great thing to talk about as it showed commitment, enthusiasm, public speaking ability, and so on and so on. Likewise, I was surprised by the positive reception my blog got. I thought everybody applying would have a blog but it turns out not. Researching & writing regular posts, editing photos, taking part in social media and learning basic SEO are all skills that are super helpful in the real world so make the most of it and tell people about them!
  • Don’t give up hope! I tried not to set my heart on any one position, and to put equal amounts of effort into every application. This is really important because it means you can gauge your success more accurately. As I said, some companies didn’t get back to me. But plenty of others did, and I took this as a sign that my CV and cover letter were not completely hopeless or misdirected, or that I didn’t interview horrendously. If you are consistently failing at the same stage, then read up (on interview techniques, or CV tips), and if you have someone you trust, get them to tell you honestly how they think you could improve.

Well, that turned into an essay! I hope it helps any of you recent graduates or 3rd year students (or keen 2nd years looking for summer work!). 18 months on from our undergraduate graduation, all of my friends are now happily settled in their first jobs and many have even started thinking about, or moved onto, second jobs. Finding a job/internship takes effort and commitment but it doesn’t have to be the nightmare that the media would have you believe, I promise!

Advertisements

adventures in the city

This week has been a busy one – between seminars on Monday and today, I fitted in a little jaunt to London for Tuesday and Wednesday. There is a productive reason I promise: I was asked to go up for an interview for an internship and since I’d be there anyway I decided to make a little trip of it and arranged to meet up two of my BFFs from our year abroad, Emily and Josie.

My interview wasn’t till 3:30 and so after the longest, dullest train journey from Exeter in the world, I arrived at Shepherd’s Bush with just enough time to have a little wander around Westfield before I had to venture back out into the cold to find the Sauce office. Before I left Exeter I’d been literally terrified by the prospect of this interview – as far as I was concerned it was my first proper big girl interview. The girls that interviewed me were both absolutely lovely though and made me feel very at ease. It seemed to go well and as soon as we can sort out dates I think I’m set!

I spent a happy couple more hours in Westfield (where I basically tried to buy everything in Zara – their sale is just too good) before it was time to head to Oxford Circus to meet with the girls. We’d sensibly agreed to meet “outside” Topshop, but I just couldn’t resist wandering in and admiring all the nail varnishes…at which point, obviously, my phone died. No worries, though, eventually we all found each other and were happily reunited. We settled on The Diner in Soho for dinner: our friendship was born and bred in the US of A and it seemed only fitting. The menu is mostly burgers and hot dogs, but with serious amounts of different variations, and they also have a “blue plate” section just like real US diners, and my favourite – an extensive cocktail list.

Soho2

Actually, the menu is so large and we’re so indecisive that we had to take at least 20 minutes to look it over and then had a slew of questions for our waitress, who was very patient and very very helpful. In the end, I opted for the “Yankee Pig Dog.” which was a hot dog topped with pulled pork, pickles and mustard. I thought the mustard was going to be a strange accompaniment for the pulled pork but it actually worked very well, and the roll was really nice, too – it was almost like pretzel bread. It was a lot of meat though what with the sausage and the pork, and I ended up leaving half the sausage for Emily to finish. To drink, I had the “Kentucky Mule,” which had Southern Comfort in place of the vodka usually used in Moscow Mules. It was strong, but tasted good – I’ve recently developed such a taste for cocktails involving ginger beer.

The Diner also do hard shakes, which we were intrigued by, but we decided that they would be too ice-cream-y and filling and we were already really full from the huge burger/hot dog situation! So instead of dessert we decided to head over to Covent Garden to visit one of my very favourite places, Adventure Bar. To anyone that hasn’t been: GO. You will not regret it. It was 8PM on  a freezing cold Tuesday and we were slightly worried that it might be a bit dead but no, the place was buzzing and we had sooooo much fun. All the bartenders are great; this time, we befriended Robin, who had us shaking our own cocktails and chatting away about life. Plus, every week day (I think – don’t quote me) they have 2 for £10 on certain drinks, and if you sign up to the mailing list you get a free drink – bargain! The bar just kept filling and by the time we left just after last orders at 11:30 it was completely packed. Really fun crowd and a cocktail list I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of – trust me, go there.

adventure bar

Next morning, I joined Emily on the bus to Oxford Circus, waved her off to work, and headed on my way for a morning spent wandering the streets. I decided to treat myself to breakfast at Patisserie Valerie, alone, which felt half terrifying and half liberating. Since it was so cold outside I went for green tea and apple and cinnamon porridge, which was full of seeds and absolutely delicious. It’s actually the only thing I got to take a picture of the entire day/weekend, so here you go:

IMG_0194

Apologies about the shadow – I was already feeling quite awkward & lame enough taking a photo of my solo porridge trip. Anyway, the staff at PV were really lovely and wished me a very cheerful farewell as I left which left me feeling very chirpy as I headed over to Liberty, which is basically my favourite place in the world. I could honestly live in the stationery room, and I spent a very happy hour or so stroking the leather of all the bags and plotting which ones I’ll buy when I have a real job and a real salary (as if).

Eventually I headed over to Covent Garden, where it started to snow! I was very, very tempted to go to Meat Market and got as far as walking down to look at it, but it was still too early for lunch really so I just wandered some more and eventually ended up buying a delicious chocolate praline cookie from Ben’s Cookies, watching the snow for a while, and then succumbing to the cold and parking myself in Starbucks with one of my dissertation books until it was time to head to Waterloo to catch my train back to Exeter.

All in all, a very successful couple of days (assuming this internship comes through – I’ve suddenly become hesitant to say I’ve got it!) and a lovely little break away from uni. Apologies about the lack of photos in this post: my iPhone battery just couldn’t take the pressure!