Student Learning CentreThe ExperienceCase studies of work experience by University of Leicester students www.le.ac.uk/ssds
2 UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER · STUDENT LEARNING CENTREContentsPAGE 3 PAGE 10 Introduction The Entrepreneurial Experience Graham Smith, LLB (Hons)PAGE 4 PAGE 12 The Eight Week Placement The Graduate Experience, Experience Part One Clare Farrow, BA (Hons) English Lukwesa Burak, MSc Geographical Information SystemsPAGE 6 PAGE 14 The Summer Placement The Graduate Experience, Experience Part Two Sara Rafice, PhD Chemistry Caroline Pickering, BA (Hons) European Studies with FrenchPAGE 8 PAGE 16 The Voluntary Experience For more information about Vincent Ade, LLB (Hons) Work Experience “ At Allen & Overy we like to see candidates who have been proactive in getting a range of work experience, legal and non-legal. Through discussing projects or tasks completed“ Our Summer Vacation Scheme is an excellent opportunity for students at Leicester to gain hands on during a period of work experience, candidates can demonstrate a range of key transferable skills including experience on a project from day one. It will enable time management, team work, and dealing with them to develop transferable skills during their challenging situations. During our vacation placements and internship that can be used when returning to university open days, students gain a real insight into the realities of after the summer. Further to this, it will enable them to working for a City practice and the skills required as a gain a permanent offer on our graduate training solicitor, both of which we think are incredibly important in scheme after completing their internship. ” FRANZISKA NIEMANN, their decision to pursue a legal career. ” Recruitment Officer, CAROLINE LINDNER, Accenture Graduate Recruitment Officer, Allen & Overy LLP
THE EXPERIENCE 3IntroductionWork experience! Why bother? You teamwork, communication and more. students, past and present, who allmay have asked yourself this question Increasingly, graduate employers are took part in some form of workduring your time at university. However asking for more than just a good experience; everything from summerthe answer is simple. Work experience degree, especially as competition for work placements to voluntary work.is an integral part of your time at jobs increase. Suitable work experience The benefits that these students gaineduniversity and will significantly improve is still the best way to distinguish from work experience have enhancedyour career prospects and professional yourself from the crowds of their career prospects tremendously.development after you graduate. students/graduates competing for the We hope that these positive case studies same job. Don’t believe us? Then take aAsk any graduate employer about work inspire you to start applying for suitable look at the quotes in this booklet byexperience, and they will stress how work experience in the first instance! several well-known graduate employers.important it is for developing those all-important competencies such as This booklet gives you an insight into Best wishesproblem solving, analytical skills, the positive experiences of six Leicester Student Learning Centre“ Work experience comes in all forms; internships, placements, part time work, volunteering and running a student society. What matters most and “ Logica really values students who have gained work what makes any work experience of value is not purely the quality of the experience prior to starting with experience but the reflection on the skills developed. Most employers dont us, as we find they are able to care how you got the skills but that you have them. adapt to our working So value everything you have done and enhance its value by reflecting on environment and start delivering the skills you learned and then practice verbalising the skills gained from value to our business much the experiences you have had. ” SIMON REICHWALD, more quickly after they join. ” GARY ARGENT, Managing Director, UK Recruitment Operations Manager, Graduate Success Logica
4 UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER · STUDENT LEARNING CENTREName: Clare Farrow · Degree: BA (Hons) EnglishEmployer: Success MatrixThe Eight Week Placement Experience hree years ago, my CV credentials were far from Upon commencing my English degree atT impressive. I remember trawling through the careers the University of Leicester, I decided that a new ambitious person would evolve. Itguides at school, the glossy covers consisting of a good was whilst seeking advice from the Careers Service this time last year that Ilooking student standing vacantly at the crossroads of life. came across a brilliant opportunity.When I look back, I recall the phrase that was constantly Never heard of Shell Step? Neither had Irepeated inside those magazines: “Work Experience”. until I had approached the Careers Service. The Shell Step scheme is a national programme that provides penultimate year undergraduates with the chance to gain valuable paid work experience for a period of eight weeks
THE EXPERIENCE 5over the summer vacation. The scheme is not about testing organisational and I.T. skills have improved and have assistedyour filing or photo-copying skills; your involvement in the me in the last year of my degree in a variety of ways.company is to deliver genuine business projects. It is an ideal The most rewarding aspect of my work experience however,platform to test your personal and academic skills in the was seeing the effect I had on the company itself. The lengthbusiness world and the company gains from the fresh insight of the placement allowed me to fully settle into my role andand talents of an undergraduate. witness my marketing strategies really take off and generateThrough a successful online application and interview, I was interest and revenue for the company. Working for Successplaced with a company called Success Matrix, a business Matrix has also enabled me to network with professionalsupport organisation specialising in student placements and people in the business world and to build a reputation forgraduate recruitment services. Success Matrix is also Shell myself. I know my colleagues at Success Matrix will strive toStep’s main student provider, co-ordinating projects across find me a job when I graduate.Central England. I was interested in applying for a job that I hope I have made clear the benefits of doing workinvolved PR and marketing, as these are potential career experience. The fact is, in today’s competitive graduateavenues for me. Therefore my responsibilities at Success market, work experience is almost essential if you hope toMatrix were ideal as the company utilised my skills as a enter your desired professional field after university. Workproject co-ordinator. experience has certainly sculptured my skills and my persona; IOver the course of the eight weeks, my main task was to hope it does the same for you too.market their newly launched product ‘graduatefusion’, a To apply for the Shell Step scheme, visit the website atcomponent for their graduate recruitment service. I also had www.step.org.uk.responsibilities to run the events management for Shell Step.I soon realised after my first week, that my placement wouldprovide a high level of accountability. My colleagues treatedme as a professional member of their organisation and were “ I soon realised after my first week, that my placement would provide a high level ofinterested in what I could contribute to their company. I hadmy own desk, my own phone, my own email account; accountability. My colleagues treated me as aeverything was set up to make me feel like a valid member ofthe working environment. professional member of their organisation andWith some research in my spare time at home, I quickly were interested in what I could contribute tolearned the history of the business and the competitive natureof the graduate recruitment world. This made me aware that their company. ”my competence in marketing skills would be essential.I enjoyed the freedom and independence I was given to runwith my ideas and my colleagues regularly instilled confidencein me to meet this challenge.My main reason for taking part in the Shell Step scheme wasto test the skills I had learnt during my time at university. Untilyou gain some valuable work experience you cannot be certainwhat you are capable of and what your strengths andweaknesses are. I also wanted something on my CV thatwould show I could conduct myself well in a professional rolewithin an organisation. Shell Step enables you to do that.So what skills have I developed since working for SuccessMatrix? The placement has certainly increased my confidencein the business environment. My business acumen,
6 UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER · STUDENT LEARNING CENTREName: Sara Rafice · Degree: PhD ChemistryEmployer: IAESTEThe Summer Placement Experience am currently studying a PhD in Chemistry at the University The organisation was founded atI of Leicester. Prior to my PhD, I came across an Imperial College, University of London, and was originally made up from 10 European countries. Theorganisation called the International Association for the organisation has since grown toExchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE), include more than 80 countries world-who offer international summer work placements. IAESTE wide and annually exchanges approximately 6,000 students.has been running since 1948 and aims to provide students The organisation offers students paidin higher education with technical experience relevant to technical work experience abroad for skill enhancement. All students receivetheir studies. Additionally, it provides a source of cultural full support and guidance through theenrichment for students. IAESTE support network and support
THE EXPERIENCE 7with practical arrangements (e.g. work permits/ visa, The experience of working in a foreign country, learning theaccommodation and travel). language and using it on a daily basis during both work and socialising was awesome. In addition to this, IAESTE encouragedI had four months during the summer before starting my PhD cultural experiences. At the weekends, we went on trips toand I decided I wanted to travel. IAESTE provided me with the major cities in Poland including Warsaw, Kraków and Gda.opportunity to travel whilst gaining valuable technical workexperience. I completed the application form in December and I highly recommend summer work experience placements,the following February I received a list of approximately 120 especially in an international context. The experience was veryplacements around the world that I could apply for. I chose an useful for my academic studies and my research skills. Myeight week research project studying treatments for current work as a PhD student actually builds upon thetuberculosis in Lódz, the second largest city in Poland. research skills I developed during my time in Poland.This work experience opportunity was life-changing. I I also developed a wider range of transferable skills andarrived in Poland to be greeted by two Polish IAESTE competencies whilst on my work placement. These includedadvisers and then introduced to the people I would be living time management, IT skills, networking and most importantly,with, who were from around the world. We had a few days interpersonal skills. The international aspect also added culturaltogether to familiarise ourselves with the area and to get to enrichment to the work placement. Learning about so many different cultures and making friends from around the world isknow each other. certainly a life-changing experience and one that I will cherish.I made four close friends with people from Greece, Croatia,America and Austria; however only the American knew someSlavic. So I took it upon myself to learn basic Polish taught byone of the Polish advisers. By the end of the trip my “ I highly recommend summer work experience placements, especially in an internationalconfidence in communicating in Polish had increased to thepoint where I am able to talk to native Polish people about context. The experience was very useful for myday-to-day topics such as the weather etc.My typical weekdays involved working at the Medical Biology academic studies and my research skills. ”Centre, University of Lódz. I worked from 09:00-16:00 with aone hour lunch break. The research laboratory work focussedon the molecular study of non-pathogenic mycobacteria usingspecialised techniques that I studied in my degree.Additionally, I was able to socialise with other students in theevenings, typically heading into the town and learning moreabout different cultures.
8 UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER · STUDENT LEARNING CENTREName: Vincent Ade · Degree: LLB (Hons)Employer: Age Concern LeicesterThe Voluntary Experience am presently in my second year of my Law degree Through ‘Contact Student Volunteers’ atI at the University of Leicester. I have a passion for the University, I was able to engage in rewarding voluntary work. I work withhelping a cause I believe in and being able to see it Age Concern Leicester, which involves me helping out at the Day Care Centrethrough. I am also enthusiastic about giving in the city. This is a facility for elderlysomething back to the community. These values and people to come together to socialize and utilise various facilities on site. The Daypersonal interests led me to consider volunteering Care Centre employs professional carewhilst at university. workers to care for users and volunteers like me to help support this provision. A typical day involves getting up early in order to arrive at the centre in good
THE EXPERIENCE 9time. On arrival, I join one of the drivers and together we I would urge fellow students at the University of Leicester tocollect service users from their respective care/nursing homes consider some form of work experience, whether it beand take them to the Day Care Centre. At the Centre, I help voluntary work, a summer placement or any other usefulout in a range of activities. I help serve hot drinks and meals extra-curricular activity.and, most importantly, I socialise with the service users. I often If, like me, you have a passion for helping others, then Ido this by playing board games with them and conversing suggest you do your research and find a project or cause youwith them on all manner of subjects. believe in. I also suggest speaking to the staff at ContactTypically, the day’s activities will finish at approximately 3pm; Student Volunteers as they are able to signpost you to relevanthowever, my day does not end there. I have the task of projects and organisations.making sure all service users are returned home safely and in Oh, don’t doubt yourself or think that you don’t have enougha timely manner. Therefore the driver and I make a return trip time to commit to volunteering. There is never a convenientto all the respective homes; so my working day finishes time to start volunteering so just get on with it as soon as youaround 5pm. can. Everything else sorts itself out.During my time at Age Concern Leicester, I have observed(especially from the professional care workers at theCentre) just how important it is to have stronginterpersonal skills. “ My confidence in interacting with a wider variety of people has been enhanced. I feel moreWhilst my intentions were solely to give something back to confident being able to relate to various peoplethe community and help others, I have benefited immensely and being more adept at networking andfrom this experience, particularly through the acquisition ofimproved skills. Through regular contact and communication socialising. I feel these skills will be crucial after Iwith different people in a different age bracket from mine and graduate as they are skills/competencies that havefrom a different background to my own, I have enhanced myinterpersonal skills significantly. application in a wide variety of careers ”I have even managed to assess how to communicate todifferent audiences, gauging subtle nuances and speakingwithout the use of colloquialisms that would beincomprehensible for service users. I have learnt the importanceof listening, something that we probably take for granted, butis a competence that is often overlooked or neglected.My confidence in interacting with a wider variety of people hasbeen enhanced. I feel more confident being able to relate tovarious people and being more adept at networking andsocialising. I feel these skills will be crucial after I graduate asthey are skills/competencies that have application in a widevariety of careers. My improved team working skills have beena surprising and positive revelation from this experience. This isanother quality that will put me in good stead after I graduate.I believe the balance of academic studies and voluntary workhas enriched my time at university and is definitely mypreferred lifestyle while I am an undergraduate.I have no doubt that the skills I have acquired during myvoluntary work, will be invaluable to me when I pursue acareer to become a solicitor. To become a solicitor, it isimportant that one is an effective communicator and aconfident well-rounded individual.This experience has helped me achieve the right blend of skillsand competencies, as a solicitor’s role involves gettingmessages across coherently and dealing with clients’ needsand checking that they are satisfied. I acknowledge that asolicitor needs good organisational and time managementskills and I am confident that through this voluntary workexperience, I can demonstrate my acquisition of these skills.
10 UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER · STUDENT LEARNING CENTREName: Graham Smith · Degree: LLB (Hons)Enterprise: GIS InnovationsThe Entrepreneurial Experience n the first year of my Law degree at the University Fortunately, later that summer, II of Leicester, I had my sights firmly set on becoming rediscovered my passion for football. While my peers were seeking stable jobs ina barrister. With my second year came the new enormous organisations, I spent my final year researching the market for footballcareer aspiration of entering the City solicitor coaching. Before I graduated, I had securedprofession. A work placement and training contract my first football coaching clients.interview in a City law firm helped me realise that I Additionally, before I even started coaching those clients, I won the sales and marketingwanted to explore other opportunities, before contract for the massive Magaluf studentconsidering a career in law. party experience, ‘Spring Break UK’. One key to starting your own business is to make yourself profitable as early as possible.
THE EXPERIENCE 11For someone innovating services, that meant selling every skill I realised that this was a test of my skills to direct sales andhad. I am now the Managing Director and sole owner of my marketing for ‘Spring Break UK’.company, GIS Innovations and its main brand, ‘Smiley Soccer’. The starting point for most wannabe entrepreneurs is to find outMy roles range from administrative officer, cynical board what business activity they want to run and clearly that requiresdirector, fun football coach, stressed events organiser to hard- research. Wannabe entrepreneurs should look at their currentnosed lawyer. Please note, this list is not exhaustive! skills and research the markets accordingly. Whether you have a business idea or not, there are two fantastic organisations thatTo keep costs to a minimum, entrepreneurs have to be jacks-of- can help you; Business Link and Flying Start.all-trades and have useful networks. Fortunately for me, Igraduated with a strong aptitude in law and I have developed The transition from undergraduate studies to employmentexcellent contacts in business and football through networking. for an entrepreneur is possibly easier than commencing postgraduate study or becoming an employee. Apart fromTo up-skill yourself, you could take advantage of free the obvious concern about income, which was nothing newworkshops from Business Link and Inland Revenue & Customs for an under-funded student, the entrepreneur’s workloadlike I did. But the best way to gain relevant useful transferable is whatever the entrepreneur makes it. As long as you areskills is to get some relevant work experience. Theory is great, able to create a lifestyle for yourself that is financiallybut practical experience hones your ability to apply the theory. shrewd and you can handle the pressure of earning yourMy customer service skills (gained from my tour guiding work crust, then you can get on the starting grid in theat Buckingham Palace), my coaching skills (gained from my entrepreneur race to riches.voluntary work) and my administrative skills (gained from myjob as a medical receptionist) have been instrumental to my The beauty of setting up your own organisation is that you makesuccess in running my own business. the rules. You decide how to dress, you decide when to work, and you decide how silly to be. Best of all for me, I haveThankfully, I managed to secure five weeks of legal work liberated my creativity.placements for the end of my second year at university. That samesummer, I gained four weeks of football coaching experience. To find out more about Business Link and Flying Start, visit theirTowards the end of my third year I realised that I was going to respective websites, www.businesslink.gov.uk andbecome an entrepreneur and decided to apply to become at Sub- www.flyingstart-ncge.com.warden at the University. This meant that I had minimal bills toworry about and got cheap accommodation in a good location.A subsequent benefit of being around the University was that, “ To up-skill yourself, you could take advantage of free workshops from Business Link and Inlandonce people found out that I was setting up a business in footballcoaching, I was immediately drafted in to cover coaching for the Revenue & Customs like I did. But the best way toUniversity of Leicester Women’s Football Team. Additionally, a gain relevant useful transferable skills is to getcontact at my London football team offered me some full-timepromotions work in August around Central London, and I later some relevant work experience. ”
12 UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER · STUDENT LEARNING CENTREName: Lukwesa Burak · Degree: MSc Geographical Information SystemsEmployer: Sky NewsThe Graduate Experience, Part One work at Sky News as a News Presenter. Although I I need to arrive at work at least threeI work on a variety of the news slots, my primary role hours before going on air. A trip to the make-up room is quickly followed by ais as the World News Anchor. Theres no such thing as sit-down with my producers. We discuss the news programme, stories, interviewsa typical day, but the shape of my working day and general structure of the show. A lot(which is usually at night) is as follows: of fact-checking and research is also needed on my part before I sit down and familiarise myself with the scripts Ill be reading off the auto-cue. This preparation is vital. For example, it is so very easy to miss a difficult pronunciation, which could be
THE EXPERIENCE 13rather embarrassing. Then it is over to the studio, in the hands broadcasting world. Contact with media students allowedof your colleagues in the gallery, and you are off... me to put myself forward to work as a Presenter on some of their TV projects.10, 9, 8...adrenalin pumping...3,2,1,cue... I made use of all available training opportunities and learnt allOnce on air, the real ‘stress’ starts. You have numerous people I could from the highly skilled people I worked with. I alwaystalking in your ear, the news wires (feeds from various news ask for mentors where possible. I also worked voluntarily for aagencies) to keep an eye on in case there is breaking news, all cable channel called MATV as the Sports and News Presenter,whilst reading from the auto-cue. Should your autocue which was valuable experience.disappear before your eyes (which it does all too often) youstill have to keep going. I even did work experience that was not directly relevant to my career including a stint as a part-time carer for aMy role requires strong communication skills, simply because rheumatoid arthritis sufferer. Whilst studying abroad inthe job is all about communication and interaction with Switzerland at the University of Neuchatel, I worked as another people, whether they are journalists, studio guests, English teacher at a language school and as an assistant in aeye-witnesses, VIPs, and most importantly, the viewers. An local supermarket. There was also the Newsletter which Iability to stay calm under pressure, when all around are not, edited during my stay.is also essential. For any Leicester student wanting to excel in their chosenTo get into broadcasting, you often have to start at the career, whether it be broadcasting, financial services, lawbottom. I started as a Broadcast Assistant with the Met Office etc, I would strongly suggest you work hard, take everyat the BBC Weather Centre in London. The competition for opportunity that comes your way and get plenty of workthis role was incredibly high. From there I moved into the experience, paid or unpaid. But have fun along the way.regions as a Weather Presenter. I then progressed into the Persistence and hard work really does pay off, especially innews reading role and became the Lunchtime News Anchor at broadcasting!BBC East Midlands Today. From there I took up my current roleat Sky News.My Masters degree at the University of Leicester wasinstrumental to my career, but the work experience I gainedalong the way was the major catalyst. Upon leaving “ I made use of all available training opportunities and learnt all I could from the highly skilledUniversity, I privately funded myself on numerous courses to people I worked with. I always ask for mentorsgain some of the required competencies of the where possible. ”
14 UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER · STUDENT LEARNING CENTREName: Caroline Pickering · Degree: BA (Hons) European Studies with FrenchEmployer: House of Commons, Westminster, for MP Jeremy WrightThe Graduate Experience, Part Two am currently a senior researcher for a Conservative One day I can be researching aI Member of Parliament (MP) in the House of Commons. planning application for a mobile phone mast in the constituency,My office is situated in the Palace of Westminster, another day I might be preparing newsletters or meeting lobby groupsadjacent to the Commons Chamber, so it is no trying to influence the legislation thatexaggeration to say that I am at the centre of the action. my MP is working on.My job is incredibly varied and although it is a cliché, no Another of my tasks is to make sure that my MP is in the media, both locally andtwo days are the same. where possible nationally, so that his constituents know what he is doing and that he is representing them to the best of his ability.
THE EXPERIENCE 15On a daily basis, I have to address a multitude of constituents’letters on a variety of subjects such as animal rightscampaigns, increased funding for cardiac rehabilitation services “ When I graduated, my love of European politics took me to Brussels. I spent one week in a youthin local hospitals, climate change and the release of political hostel in the centre of Brussels, churning out jobprisoners in various parts of the world. applications and distributing CVs wherever IThe role requires a prodigious amount of time managementskills and the ability to work under intense pressure as tight went. People were immensely helpful anddeadlines are common. It is important to be able to multi- impressed that I had been proactive to searchtask, because there are always competing priorities. It is alsoimportant to have diplomacy and strong interpersonal skills for the job I wanted. Within two weeks, I hadas I am often at the forefront of the MP’s office; hence, I four interviews and within six weeks I startedhave to communicate with members of the public andaddress their concerns. Skills such as these have beendeveloped from my experience working abroad during my work in Brussels. ”academic studies. Conservative Party in London. I worked at CampaignMy degree at the University of Leicester certainly helped me Headquarters for one year, in the run up to the Generalestablish a career in public policy. During my studies, I spent Election. I co-ordinated their conferences and worked on thesome time abroad teaching English to French students whilst General Election campaign. It was through this, that I obtainedfollowing my own academic studies and improving my my current position.language skills. If I had the opportunity again, in addition to I never underestimate the experiences that I have gainedthe above, I would have applied to do a summer internship and the privileged position I find myself in. Gaining workplacement in a Member of European Parliament’s (MEP) office experience during academic studies and being pro-activein Brussels or Strasbourg. are vitally important for a career in public policy andWhen I graduated, my love of European politics took me to politics. For graduates wishing to work in Westminster, IBrussels. I spent one week in a youth hostel in the centre of would recommend that they look at http://www.w4mp.org/Brussels, churning out job applications and distributing CVs which lists work placements and jobs that are availablewherever I went. People were immensely helpful and with MPs, think tanks and political parties. For graduatesimpressed that I had been proactive to search for the job I wanting to work in the European institutions, I wouldwanted. Within two weeks, I had four interviews and within recommend www.europa.eu.int where you will findsix weeks I started work in Brussels. information about traineeships.For the first three years, I worked as a lobbyist for local However, never underestimate the personal touch. Pick upgovernment. Following the European elections, I was recruited the phone and make an appointment to see your MPas a parliamentary assistant to a British Conservative MEP in or MEP. Alternatively, join your political party locally.the European Parliament. I made a lot of contacts and after It is an indication of your commitment and anseveral years in Brussels, I was asked to work for the ideal way to meet like-minded people.