Why should I consider work experience?

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Pulo Makaula, an undergraduate student of journalism at the University of Sussex, is coming to the end of a two-week work placement at Magenta. Below he explains why he’s already planning for the future.

“To get ahead in life, you have to want it, you have to work for it and — if you really want it — you’ll do it for free.” These were the words emphasised by radio and TV personality Charlamagne Tha God to a room full of hopeful and eager university students. Now, I wasn’t in that room but thanks to technology I heard the message all the same. I knew that I loved studying journalism, but did I love it enough to work in the industry for free?

To work in the media industry, whether it’s in journalism or PR, you have to showcase your skills to people outside the protected bubble of university and what better way to do that than apply for an internship. Gone are the days where a degree sets you apart from the rest. These are times when your experience and hard work come into centre stage.

Being an intern is more than coffee runs and lunchtime order taking (if you go to the right place that is). It’s an opportunity for you to receive guidance and constructive criticism. I knew as soon as I started my second year at university that I needed industry experience before I graduated. Several months later and here I am at Magenta Associates, and surely enough I’m not on the coffee runs. The first few days were spent getting up to speed with the industry and client jargon. I view the role of an intern as an extra pair of eyes and hands that isn’t there throughout the year, which means getting involved in activities such as proofreading and editing. These tasks save the team those precious minutes and provide me the opportunity to learn how professional standard work should be constructed.

As a journalism student, I have the privilege of choosing between a list of potential career paths. The challenge is whether I can make that choice without actually testing them out. To put it simply, you wouldn’t spend £60,000 on a car without giving it a test drive and this is the mentality that you need to have when you’re at university. Why spend thousands to end up in a career you may change in a few years’ time. That’s the beauty of interning: you can reflect on it at the end and decide whether it’s the career path for you. If you didn’t like it, then say your thanks and move on to the next opportunity.

Juggling that unpaid internship with your university and part time job is no easy task but if you really want it you’re going to have to work for it. Being an intern will show future employers that you’re serious about your career and you want to succeed in your chosen field.

After my stint at Magenta I’ll be exploring the different avenues relevant to my studies to see where my best fit would be. I have plans to find a summer placement where I could spend several months in a company rather than the two weeks I have during the current term period.

As Charlamagne Tha God said, you have to want it, you have to work for it and, most importantly, remember to enjoy the experience as it’s the first step towards your dream job.

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