As students, we’ve all been guilty taking any job you can get you can get your hands on in a desperate attempt to avoid submerging into your overdraft or to try and fill your CV up with some credible experience. Chatting with my housemates the other day about the various jobs we’ve taken on hoping for some income or valuable work experience, we found ourselves comparing our worst work horror stories. One worked in a takeaway where the conditions of the kitchen and cooking habits would be enough to put you off Chinese food for life; one worked with a property company but found the work so painfully boring that they could be found fighting to keep their eyes open at the desk; and one took summer work experience as a receptionist but was given such vague instructions and training that the feat of frustration from customers who’s questions couldn’t be answered was inherently inevitable. As the conversation progressed through stories of nasty colleagues, endless scanning and even one accusation of stealing, we began to realise all the things we’d gained from enduring these experiences.
Speaking to various employers at the Engineering, Science and Technology Fair last week about their career preparation tips for students, one graduate working for a design engineering company noted not to underestimate the value of any work experience. They told me that even if you did a few hours of work experience in a particular field, it’s worth putting it on your CV. Any kind of professional experience you do builds skills and allows you to gain an understanding of what it’s like to work in a professional setting. Applying this advice to the jobs I’ve had and hated, made me realise that I did gain a wealth of skills that will come in handy in the workplace. For instance, whilst I may have hated enduring hours of transcribing interviews and attempting to write interview questions for Katie Price about her new book (there was no way I was going to actually read it) when working with a celebrity gossip magazine, from that work experience I learnt how to work in a pressurised environment, independently research and complete tasks and type at an extremely fast pace. The fact that this experience may lead to gaining my dream job one day starts to make it seem like it was all worth it. It also highlights the fact that whilst you might not be working in the career field you’d see yourself in forever, any work experience or life experience allows you to develop employable skills. With this in mind, it may be worthwhile to start noting down the different things you’ve done and the skills you’ve gained from them. It will make the task of writing a CV a whole lot easier when it comes to it!
Whilst I’ve developed a range of different skills in various jobs, the most important lessons I’ve learnt are that some jobs are definitely not for me. It took spilling a full tray of drinks over the designer shoes of some distressed looking high-end customers in a champagne bar for me to recognise that I may not have a bright future in service and catering. However, these are incredibly important realisations to have whilst there is still the gift of time to explore as many career options as you’d like. Unfortunately, going through a few jobs that you don’t like so much is necessary to discover what you have passions for and could see yourself doing in the long term. This advice applies whatever stage you’re at when it comes to exploring career prospects. If you’re set on a plan and believe you know exactly what you want to do, make sure you’ve had first-hand experience so you’re aware of the day-to-day you can expect in your future. Alternatively, if you have no idea what you want to do, there’s no better way to figure it out than giving things a go to help narrow it down. The representatives from the Civil Services at the Autumn Careers Fair provided some valuable advice that consolidates this. They explained that you should take every experience offered to you because you never know where it could lead. They stressed the importance of keeping your options open and exploring a range of career prospects before deciding on one to gain some more focused experience in. Some jobs you may love and some jobs you may hate, but you’ll never know what you would have thought unless you seize opportunities.
Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learnt from being in a job I hated is how much of an impact hating your job can have. It’s essential to remember that you’ll be devoting much of your time to a career so it should be something that you are genuinely interested in and want to be doing. This is why it’s so important that when thinking about long-term career prospects, you consider your passions and how you could apply them, the things you want to achieve, the environment you want to work in and the way you work best, as well as how you see yourself progressing and whether there is the opportunity to do this. Therefore, you should make the best use of the resources and opportunities easily accessible to you through Careers Network to do your research and explore different options to make sure you find a job you love.
Josie Hart, 2nd Year Geography BA