Work experience. You’ve got to have it. You need it. You know it. But what is it exactly, and how can you get some of that good stuff onto your CV? The MediaNation team breaks it down.
Part of the difficulty in defining work experience is to do with the fact that the phrase means so many different things. If you’re a student doing a media-related degree, work experience is usually one of three things:
- A compulsory module as part of your degree programme where you may or may not get help in finding a placement from your institution.
- An extended period of time on a formal industry placement with an employer, sometimes a whole ‘sandwich’ year.
- ‘DIY’ work experience where students don’t have any formal requirement to undertake it as part of their degree programme, but are “expected” to do some anyway.
In our experience most media-related degree programmes fall into the last of the above categories.
Many DIY students seem to think that they need an actual physical placement. But we wonder increasingly if that is true, or even representative of the way many in the industries work these days or will be working in the future.
For example, lots of freelance journalists hardly ever see the inside of a company’s offices. They do the work and ping it off via email. Online publications offer online work experience, and there are countless opportunities to publish work out there for every conceivable special interest going.
Ask yourself if you were an editor of a magazine would you be more likely to give a job to the person with the long list of previously published work – the track record – or to the person who spent a week in an office stuffing envelopes, answering the phone and looking bored? It’s the depth and quality of the experience that’s important to employers, and to you.
In some ways successful DIYers look more appealing to employers than those who had to go do some work experience for credit. Those who have done-it-themselves show passion, commitment, imagination. They manufactured opportunity. That’s admirable.
Some universities are fantastic at supporting their students in their search for experience and opportunities. But seems from where we are sitting and what we’re often told by MN’s readers and Twitter peeps is that many are really letting their students down. Not because they’re not providing information about opportunities, but because they are not really telling their students what constitutes good evidence of experience to a potential future employer.
Our advice to those DIYers out there is to see this as your distinct advantage. You have freedom to be the architect of your own future here. Creative people interpret briefs all the time so try and see your CV and work experience as a brief you have to meet in a creative, unique and individual way. After all, you’d expect those wanting to make a name for themselves in the creative industries to be creative.
Fortune favours the brave!