Tea making - first step on the career ladder?

28 January 2011

I'm glad I'm no longer a new graduate. In the months before finals every minute was spent revising, applying for jobs, and trying to enjoy my last few months of student life, but the impending dread of what to do upon graduation was never far away.

With news this week that one in five graduates struggle to find work within six months, I can see why people are angry about increasing fees. You spend three, or four in my case, years at university and rack up a mountain of debt only to finish and not be able to get a job.

I've undergone about nine different stints of work experience since graduating at a variety of places and while some were valuable learning experiences where I was given the same responsibilities as other members of staff, others were not.

The thing about it that annoys me is employers know how valuable it looks on a CV and some will just get people in for cheap labour, so you could spend a week or two filing and making cups of tea and no one will even notice you're there.

However, if you make yourself known and perform well you could be asked back for longer periods or even a job. It's fiercely competitive though and most big companies have people in every week, so you've got to go a long way to stand out.

Many companies expect you to be able to sign up to unpaid internships for two or three months in the hope of getting a job, and for most people this is pretty impossible. After graduating you're crippled by debt and without wealthy parents to help you out, or a lottery win, these jobs will continue to be snapped up by the elite who can afford them.

I found you get more actual experience with smaller companies who will appreciate you a lot more and remember your name. It can be mind-numbingly dull making tea for two weeks but as a journalist, these placements were vital to getting a job.

Most jobs require a degree and work experience is a win-win option. I would advise people to start applying for placements as early as possible, even if it's just weekends, a week every summer through your degree or online. You'll get some good contacts and make your face known, and if all else fails your tea making skills will definitely improve.