As we say goodbye to Jocelyn Weale, gradireland’s editorial intern, she reflects on what she has learned from her placement.
In publishing – as in many other competitive sectors – getting that foot in the door feels a bit like finding a golden ticket. Collecting relevant experience is the only way to build up a career. Having recently returned from a year out in Berlin teaching English to hyperactive young children, I was unsure of what to expect from my first formal editorial experience. The classroom and the office are worlds apart, and that alone was going to take some getting used to.
As it turns out, during my time here at gradireland I’ve had the opportunity not just to learn and develop industry skills, but also a fantastic chance to observe the whirring cogs of a publishing house on a daily basis. Looking back on my first day, there was a heck of a lot to take in; I was surrounded by professionals with years of publishing experience, and it really drove home the fact that I was at the bottom of the ladder with a long way to go. But over the past few weeks I’ve come to realise that that isn’t quite true. By undertaking an internship you are still making progress.
My experience has been about a lot more than mastering industry jargon: I have gained an understanding of the role each person performs in a publishing team, and better still seen how group dynamics play out in the professional environment. Each day I’ve learned something new: whether that be how to mark up copy for designers, how to commission articles, or how a website works behind the scenes. The key is to be willing to learn and not be afraid to ask questions or even take the initiative to make suggestions. After all, everyone has to start somewhere.
Internships also provide the opportunity to network: I’ve found it extremely useful to listen to colleagues’ stories of how they got ahead in publishing, and I’ll definitely be putting their tips into practice when applying for jobs. Times are difficult economically speaking, but it doesn’t mean the opportunities aren’t out there. I aim to be proactive in gathering any relevant experience and translate everything I’ve learned at gradireland into my CV and applications. After two months I’m by no means a high-flying editor, but thanks to my time spent in editorial the next step is a little less hazy.
If you’re starting your final year, it’s not too soon to begin job-hunting. And help could be on your doorstep: university careers services have strong links with employers and one of the ways that they bring recruiters and students together is at graduate recruitment fairs. Many institutions hold their own fair on campus; others work in partnership with us on the gradireland Graduate Careers Fair, which takes place this year in the RDS, Dublin on 12 October.
So what’s the best way to maximise your attendance at a graduate careers fair?
Prepare in advance
Make sure you have researched the exhibitors who are attending (for example, you can check the list on www.graduatecareersfair.com) and decide beforehand which ones you would like to talk to. Think of questions that might not be answered already in brochures or on their websites.
Bring your CV
Many employers are happy to receive CVs at careers fairs. At the gradireland Graduate Careers Fair we will be running a specialist CV Clinic, hosted by third-level careers advisers, at which you can have your CV reviewed. However, a word of caution – the CV Clinic has a limited number of time slots and gets booked up very quickly, so get there early to book your appointment. And don’t expect the advisers to write one for you. They are there to review and advise: you’ll have to do the hard work first yourself!
Learn from the experts
Many exhibitors bring recent graduates now working in their business to their stands, so ask them what life is really like in that company. And if the fair includes specialist careers seminars, make sure you attend one or more to benefit from the expert advice on offer.
Look for jobs for all disciplines
It is important to remember that many of the bigger companies recruit graduates from all disciplines. So don’t pigeon-hole potential employers – IT companies need marketing, finance and language graduates; accountancy firms recruit from all disciplines, so you don’t have to be an accountancy graduate. Many companies at graduate careers fairs will recruit from a number of disciplines, so don’t walk on by their stands. Get in there and ask them if they are on the look-out for graduates from your discipline: you might be pleasantly surprised!
If you’re unsure about which graduate role might best suit you – don’t panic. Very few people land the job of their dreams at the very beginning of their career. As you are likely to change jobs several times over the course of your professional lifetime, is it really a big deal if your first position isn’t The One? Rather than obsessing over specific roles, a much more useful strategy would be to make sure that the company to which you’re applying is the sort of place you can develop a career, and that you would be happy working there.
‘It doesn’t necessarily matter which role you start out in’, a young business analyst at a financial services company in Dublin told me recently. ‘I got my foot in the door at my company because I recognised the opportunities they offered.’
Delighted with his current position, he began his professional life in quite a different role. After graduating he didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do, but he knew precisely which organisation he wanted to work for: ‘I actually started out as an HR intern. This was quite different to my educational background and leanings but I felt that it would be a good strategic move.’ And it paid off: ‘Spending time in HR gave me invaluable insights into the company from the inside. After three months as an intern I interviewed for my current – permanent – role, and got the job.’
Ask yourself: Does the culture and values of any prospective employer chime with yours? Do they offer clear room for career progression? What training do they provide? Talk to recent graduates who currently work at the companies you are interested in to gauge the inside track.
It’s that time of year again. The start of term is fast approaching, and students heading into their final year have a busy time ahead of them. As college life begins to draw to a close, with essay deadlines, final exams, and the odd party crammed in for good measure, it can be very easy to lose sight of what lies beyond. It may still feel a long way off right now, but it’s vital to be proactive in your job hunt activities even before you finish college. Here are a few pointers to bear in mind to ensure you don’t miss the graduate job boat:
- Check in with your careers service. As soon as you can. Whether you already have a clear idea of what you want to do, or no idea whatsoever (and many don’t), the information and help available from your institution is invaluable for setting out your plans during the next few months. This goes for graduates too; in most cases your institution careers service is still at hand, even after you’ve graduated.
- Apply early! Be aware of graduate scheme deadlines: many deadlines crop up before the Christmas period, so be careful not to miss out if you’re looking to go into sectors such as accountancy and finance, law or teaching. Applying early may also help to avoid too many nasty clashes with application deadlines and important revision time.
- Work experience. Make sure you arrange some, particularly if you haven’t got round to this yet. Placements, internships and part-time jobs spruce up your CV, and experience is crucial for entry into many sectors. You won’t find many employers looking for candidates who can’t demonstrate skills outside of the academic field.
- Speculative applications. There’s no harm in these, either; get a feel for what you’re heading into when you leave the college bubble. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be offered an interview!
- More study? If you can visualise yourself undertaking further study after college then talking to tutors and lecturers during this final year will really help you gain a valuable insight. Do your research on available bursaries, scholarships and funding opportunities; many of these also have deadlines for applications, so make sure you apply in good time.
- Time out. If you plan to take a break after college, it’s a good idea to start planning early so that you can make the best of your time and gather some stand-out experiences when you return to face the job market.
Some recent statistics on company start-ups in Ireland so far this year reveal some fascinating facts, and reinforce the entrepreneurial nature of the current generation of Irish students and graduates.
Between 1 January and 26 August 2011, 8,402 companies have been newly incorporated in Ireland. Of these, 1,610 directors are under 21 years of age. The top five sectors for start-ups are:
- Management consultancy (593)
- Medical practice (367)
- Restaurants (334)
- Software consultancy (296)
- Computer-related activities (280).
These companies are in each and every sector, each and every town and county – there have been 37 new start-ups in Leitrim! So the message is clear. If you have a vision, a dream, a strategy, lots of dedication, and access to good information and advice then you are not alone. There is a community of like-minded ambitious young people all over Ireland starting up their own businesses and taking control of their own destiny. Don’t be afraid to join them.
There are many sources for information out there to help when starting up on your own. Here are just a few:
- For more information on entrepreneurship check out your bank’s business start-up web pages, which are good for advice.
- Dublin City Enterprise Board is a good source of information with plenty of advice on grants and financial supports available.
- Check out your local area partnerships, and for premises, local Enterprise Centres, which are excellent for networking opportunities and supports you’ll get from being in a like-minded environment. Added to that, the facilities of a working office are already there like photocopiers, fax machines, reception desk, meeting rooms, toilets, canteen – all things you take for granted before you go out on your own.
- Another useful site is Small Business Can, a community for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
- DCA Accountants have a blog with information aimed at SMEs.