Work Experience – Is It Worth It? By LSM Student Gemma Benefer

For those looking for jobs today, it’s a harsh world. You need experience but to even get the experience you need other experience and to get that experience you need a job. Not making much sense am I? But it is an endless loop.

Gemma Benefer_LSM_Jan2014To get work experience, you often need to do it for free. It can kind of suck, especially when other people you know are getting paid for having a “real job”, but you have to focus on what it would hopefully do in the long run. My work experience has already paid off and it kinda links to what I said before. There was an opportunity to work on the breakfast show at BBC Radio Lincolnshire during my second year at Uni. By this point, I was already volunteering at Siren FM. I applied, not really thinking I’d get it, but during my interview I was told that I wouldn’t have even gotten an interview if I hadn’t had any other work experience. So it just goes to show that to even get experience you still need other experience to get there.

It’s tough to get experience though, I’ll admit. A lot of the experience I have done is through sheer luck. I worked at Hollyoaks for a week because one of the Director’s was a family friend (and I honestly can’t thank him enough!) from there, I got the bug. I applied as a volunteer at Siren FM, then from there I contacted radio presenters at BBC Radio Humberside to observe their show Westenders which then got me a full week experience placement at the station, and I also got experience at BBC Radio Lincolnshire which then got me noticed by Shooting Star PR who offered me some work experience there. I’ve also worked for commercial radio station Viking FM for a week mainly due to my contacts and for my sheer determination. So it pays to get the experience both for contacts and for the experience itself.

So what are my top tips? Well, I can only advise but so far it’s not worked out too badly for me.

1. Be persistent. The amount of times I didn’t hear back from someone after I emailed to ask for advice is too many to count. So I email again, or even better, ring or go in to see them. It’s more personal and shows more courage (and they’re more likely to say yes!).

2. Be unique. I was told a hilarious story of how someone got work experience. They applied and after persisting for a couple of weeks didn’t hear anything back, so gave up. A year later, they sent their job application a birthday card which caused a few laughs in the office, getting them noticed which resulted in them getting the work experience! It was also fortunate that a place had come up, but ultimately it depends on …

3. Be noticed. It’s one thing sending off an email but how can you be different to get noticed? One trick, which has worked for me, is being more personal. I begin my emails with “I hope you had a nice Christmas” or “I hope you’re well” type of thing. It shows you’re not just work-related and that you’re actually interested in the people behind it. Well, I know I am – I’m not sure if you agree! But I’m a chatty type of person, and I like to find out more about the people I work with otherwise it’s kind of boring and you don’t have that friendly, work-easy feel in the office. It also shows that you’re human! But above all, think of how you can be noticed – is it because of your wonderful personality, or is it your penmanship, or is it because of your contacts? Use them to your advantage.

4. Biscuits. As funny as it sounds it’s actually quite true. I recently sent off some dissertation surveys to people in the industry that I worked with in the past and I began with “you probably don’t remember me but …” blah blah blah. One reply came back as “Oh yes, I remember, you brought in those biscuits…”. It’s true. Biscuits, or other such goodies, are remembered more so than a little thank you email or card. It also gets you more noticed by those in the office that you’re not necessarily working directly with. You just need to make yourself memorable (preferably in a good way!).

5. Be yourself. As nerve-racking as it is going in to a placement or applying for one, don’t be so formal that it sounds like you have a stick up your bum, excuse the saying! Be yourself. If you read your email back and think, wow, I’d like to meet this person, then that’s good! Be open, be approachable and be eager to do anything asked of you.

6. Use your initiative. The amount of times I’ve heard people I’ve worked for say how dull it is when you get people who just sit there and don’t do anything is too many to count. If they haven’t got any work for you to do, think what can you do for them. Simply making them a cup of tea is better than nothing.

7. Be prepared to do anything. One of the main things you will be asked is to make the cups of tea / coffee. Yes it’s trivial and yes it’s not why you’re there, but it’s a way in and be grateful for the opportunity! Learn to make a good cuppa and you’re halfway there!

8. Make the most of it. You never know when you will get an opportunity again so get the most from it. Talk to people, ask how they got in to the industry, ask them what advice they can give you, ask if there’re any projects you could maybe help out on after your work experience. Absorb everything that happens and keep an ear out for any other opportunities.

I think that just about covers all that I’ve picked up. But in all honesty, it’s hard work. If you’re not willing to go the extra mile, then simply don’t bother. There’s so much competition out there that if you’re not the best you can be then there’s no point in you wasting a place that someone else would be more than happy to get. Persist, be enthusiastic and enjoy it! Above all – Good Luck!

P.S. I’ve just started my my own blog and you can read it here.

1 thought on “Work Experience – Is It Worth It? By LSM Student Gemma Benefer

  1. Impressive work Gemma. This should inspire those who have still to dip their toe into the world of work experience to get on and do it. Contacts certainly help, but while you’re at University, everyone gets the chance to make those contacts through guest speakers, their tutors and each other so it really is the right time.
    Good luck with your final semester!

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