Making the most of Careers Fairs

Last week saw the Autumn Careers fair, running from 14th – 15th October, with the Science and Technology fair following shortly after on the 21st. We welcomed 55 employers each day of the Autumn Fair, and had over 3,200 students attending overall. Students were keen to meet employers with a final flurry coming through the doors at 3.20pm on the second day! The Science, Engineering and Technology Fair welcomed another 55 employers and over 1,200 students (see videos on right). It’s safe to say that these fairs are very popular, and that’s because they’re very useful! As the representatives from Aimia noted,

“There are a lot of good people here, some of whom we’ve met today”, so these fairs can be used to make an impression on an employer!

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Writing West Midlands: #WritersToolkit2014

Writing West Midlands’ Writers’ Toolkit 2014 began with the award winning novelist, Catherine O’Flynn graciously describing a publicity event in which she was forced to support the weight of an over-sized book that another, more established writer, was crushing her with. Although it’s difficult to imagine that the acclaimed author experienced an awkward event like this in her earlier career, her humorous anecdote addressed a fear that many new, and young writers experience; how are you supposed to make your mark when so many great writers have come before you?

The day was organised into four sessions, allowing attendees to gain insight and knowledge into a world that professional writers had already managed to forage. I opted to take Writing for Television and Screen, Working with Publishers, How to Write across Multiple Genres and Forms, and Outlets for Fiction. The first session of the day, Writing for Television and Screen, was panelled by Andrea Gibb and Stuart Lane. As an avid fan of the Job Lot, an ITV sitcom, I was in awe to be sitting only a few table lengths away from one of the writers, Stuart Lane. Andrea and Stuart were both extremely giving and open with their experience, and the overall feeling of the session was that the writers had identified a gap in the industry with their writing; Andrea felt as if there was little age range in the representation of women on the screen, and Stuart was interested in portraying television that spoke about the difficulties that young people experience in everyday life. The session highlighted the importance of writing the stories that you think need to be told.

The rest of the sessions were just as informative and revealing. Working with Publishers, panelled by O’Flynn and publisher, Rukhsana Yasmin, helped humanise the idea of publishers that writers tend to hold firm in their minds. Gone is the scary image of a red pen wielding dictator, lighting unread manuscripts for warmth, and instead publishers are portrayed as people whose purpose it is to find and help writers reach their full potential. How to Write across Multiple Genres and Forms, and Outlets for Fiction shared similar themes, highlighting how important it is for writers to get their work published and seen, whether through self-publishing, writing contests, or magazine articles. All writing is good exposure, even if it’s not your preferred form.

“The art of writing is putting your arse on a chair,” said Sathnam Sanghera in his closing speech of the day. The award winning writer of The Boy in the Topknot: A Memoir of Love, Secrets and Lies in Wolverhampton and Marriage Material summed up the general tone of Writers’ Toolkit 2014; anyone can be a writer but you actually have to put in the hours, and work to make it happen. Throughout the day I learnt that writing as a career isn’t just an unattainable dream I had been holding onto since my childhood, but a possible and tangible reality. There are plenty of routes into writing, and attending literary events, and networking are crucial tools on the path to becoming a successful writer. But hard work and dedication are the skills that will take you far.

Top tips:

  • Start writing, keep writing, and work at it every day. It’s one thing to say you want to be a writer, but to do it you need to sit down and take the time to work on your craft.
  • Put yourself out there. Opportunities won’t just appear on your door step. Get out there and meet people, attend poetry readings, go to literary events, immerse yourself in the world you want to be a part of.
  • Say yes to every opportunity. It might not be exactly what you’re interested in, but it could lead to something more.

by Jessica Lovett

My experience at Careers Club

CM2_4072Last month, I wanted to start looking for summer work that combined my passion for teaching with my language skills but I was unsure how to go about it. I saw an advert for a Careers Club session which encourages students to put their heads together to explore effective ways of approaching potential employers. Each session is facilitated by a member of the CAL Careers Team which helps to maintain focus and direction.

During the 15 minute session, the Careers Advisor asked the group to draw upon previous examples of work experience, particularly focusing on the various routes into different employment sectors. We discussed the advantages of taking time to acknowledge what it is you want from the company and to always be specific when requesting work experience. Using the examples below, the first is much more likely to receive a response than the second:

  1. ‘I am interested in the current changes to Family Law that your company are initiating and would like to spend a week shadowing one of the Legal Advisers working on the project. I am available between 6th June and 29th June 2015 and can provide my own transport and accommodation.’
  2. ‘I would like some work experience in Family Law in June.’

We also spent time discussing the benefits of calling companies in advance of applying for work experience and speaking directly to the person responsible for recruitment or outreach programmes as this shows initiative and commercial awareness.

After attending this Careers Club session, I researched some International Summer Schools and looked at various positions that coincided with my summer availability. I found a perfect position (English Teacher/Activity Leader), however I was disappointed to learn that the CELTA teaching qualification was a requirement. I decided to call the company and explain that I had three years of experience, working in different Summer Schools during which and I had undertaken welfare, teaching and activity leading roles and all of which I had thoroughly enjoyed. So, although I didn’t have the necessary qualifications, I felt my experience and enthusiasm for working with young, international learners would be sufficient for the role. I was fortunate enough to speak with the Head of Recruitment who was so impressed with my previous experience that he offered me an interview. A week later after a successful skype interview, I was given the job and I look forward to starting in July!

Thank you Careers Club for giving me the confidence to reach out and obtain a job that I otherwise would have dismissed!


By Rosemarie Waspe