Gaining Work Experience at Uni
Written by: Sarah Belger. Photo by: JEShoots from Pexel.
Anyone else who chose their degree without any thoughts on future career prospects will understand the struggle of finding work experience while studying. How do you know where to start looking if you don’t what your end goal is? What kind of work experience is relevant for a career you’ve not even chosen yet? If this sounds like you, hopefully this article will give some tips to get you going!
Finding experience directly related to a History degree in particular can prove difficult, with university research placements being quite scarce and museums currently operating at a limited capacity. I got lucky when I found my current position as a research volunteer with the Jewish History Association of South Wales advertised on my university’s work experience page but I would highly recommend looking for historical societies and archives in your area!
Start a conversation with them by simply expressing your interest in the work they do and tell them about any overlap it may have with your own studies. By building up a friendly relationship, they’ll be even more keen to add you to their team if you ask how you can get involved. Don’t worry if it’s not necessarily an area you have previous knowledge in or wish to study in the future; working with historical charities and organisations will give you the opportunity to develop you research and analytical skills outside of an academic environment and may provide valuable insight and inspiration for your future career goals.
If finding explicitly degree-related experience proves too difficult, try focusing on looking for positions which relate to the specific skills you’ll develop throughout your degree. Most Bachelor of Arts place a lot of emphasis on writing, usually through academic essays. Student media is a great option to hone in on your writing skills in another field and it is often super easy to get involved! Journalism or media weren’t career options I’d considered at all before university however throughout my first and second year I contributed regularly to my university’s student-led magazine and, now that I’m in my final year, I’m on the editorial team as Copy Editor. Seeing your name in a print magazine the first time one of your articles is published is a truly unique experience and will also give you some real tangible experience to show to future employers. Journalism is a notoriously competitive industry to gain experience in, however student media allows you to do this in a supportive and relaxed environment while also providing the opportunity to make friends with similar interests!
Publishing is another popular choice for arts students and, again, seemingly impossible to find a job without prior experience. It’s worth seeking out any kind of hobby or role which will prove your love for books as this is one of the main things employers in the publishing industry will want to see. I’ve been volunteering at my local Oxfam Book Shop and can’t recommend it enough! Working or volunteering in any shop which sells books would do the job; whether that’s a big name booksellers or any charity shop with a book shelf you can offer to be in charge of! You’ll improve your customer service skills, learn more about the book-selling process as well as spend time surrounded by seas of books and people who love them just as much as you.
Don’t stress yourself out over having an overflowing CV by the time you graduate, but try as well to not let the anxiety over not having a fixed career path deter you from seeking new opportunities while at university. If anything, it just gives you the excuse to try out as many new things as possible which is what your time as a student is really about!