Around this time last year, I had an epiphany. Naturally, I want to be employed after completing a degree I’ve put years of hard work into. However, I realised that with just a Bachelor of Arts under my belt, my chances of finding a job would be pretty slim. I knew I had to go out and get some experience to set myself apart from others applying for the same jobs I would be going for. Now in the fourth year of my degree, I have an ‘adult’ job that I love while I’m still studying part time. I’m working for a company where I literally write about food all day. Life is pretty awesome at the moment.
Studying an Arts degree is great. It’s pretty flexible, you learn a lot of interesting things and get to argue with other people and call it ‘learning’. What’s not so great is your prospect of finding a job after completing it. Sure, you can recite the theories of Karl Marx and write a brilliant H1 level essay about the public sphere. But let’s be honest, your future employer won’t give two shits about that.
That’s why it’s important to start getting experience now.
Almost anything can be considered ‘experience’ if you sell it as such. Before I ever started applying for internships, I had a podcast dedicated to things I hated and a blog where I recapped episodes of The Voice Australia for fun. In my early years at uni, I also managed to gain experience co-hosting a show on Radio Fodder and contributed to the now deceased MaCSS blog Escritor. While these were mainly just things I did as hobbies, these were opportunities for me to hone employable skills like writing, editing, social media management, audio/video editing, creating content, and so on. I was then able to put these on my résumé.
This definitely came in handy when I first started applying for internships after I had my mid-degree crisis. I sent out a bunch of applications to pretty much any company that was looking for an intern. I wasn’t picky; I knew that this would only be a temporary thing in order for me to get professional experience. For two or three weeks, I didn’t actually hear back from anyone. When I finally did get a job interview, it wasn’t even from a company I had applied for. I had actually originally applied for an internship at an online art company (even though I literally don’t know anything about art lol). The marketing co-ordinator there had actually passed my application onto the email marketing company that I would find out shared the same office space. Just keep sending out applications; you never know what will happen.
So I basically rocked up to the interview having done a radio show, an amateur podcast and an admittedly shitty blog about The Voice and somehow got the gig. Like, I’m still surprised to this day because my experience wasn’t really too relevant. I guess I’m good at selling myself?
Soon after, I started my three month internship doing some basic marketing, writing, editing, video editing and social media management. At the end of my contract, they actually offered to keep me on as a content writer for them, which I gladly accepted. Writing about ecommerce and email marketing wasn’t necessarily the most exciting thing in the world, but I was happy to be getting more experience and make some money while I was studying. The flexibility of working as a freelance writer meant that I had more time for uni work and to also get additional experience at uni; I started submitting posts to Fodder blog, writing a column for Farrago Magazine, and I’m also running Wasteland Online.
However, I eventually slowly lost passion for my role. Writing lengthy blog posts about abandoned cart emails wasn’t exactly something I loved doing. While I definitely appreciated the opportunity I was getting, I came to realise that this just wasn’t for me. I naturally started looking elsewhere—not necessarily to the same extent that I was before, but sending out applications to places that looked interesting. A friend had actually sent me an Instagram post for an internship at The Urban List. I wasn’t going to apply because I already had a job, but ended up applying anyway. Unfortunately, I was rejected.
But a day or two after receiving that rejection email, I opened my inbox to find that, to my surprise, someone had contacted me with a job opportunity.
As a bit of context, I’ve worked for a company for the past few years as a casual at their Lunar New Year events. At this year’s Lunar New Year festival at Crown, a lady I had known since I started doing this casual job struck up a conversation with me. She asked me what I’m doing—what I’m studying, whether I was working or not, and so on. I mentioned that I was working as a content writer, and she told me that there might an opportunity for me to write for their company. Not expecting anything of this offer, I simply said that that would be great. Lo and behold, she’s actually a manager pretty high up within the company; she then sent my contact information to the marketing co-ordinator, who offered me the position of marketing assistant. And I didn’t even have to try!
Now my job is literally all about food—writing about it, taking pictures of it, and eating lots of it. What more could you want from one of your first real ‘adult’ jobs? Plus, this job is another notch added to my belt for when I apply for positions in the future. While I think there was a fair bit of luck involved in landing this job, I’ve also come to recognise that getting a bunch of experience early on definitely helped out a lot. I wouldn’t be where I am without building up a body of work over the last few years.
Moral of the story? Get in plenty of experience while you’re still studying. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an internship (a lot of people’s situations don’t necessarily allow for a low paying position); it can be having a show on Radio Fodder, making a blog about your favourite TV show, or writing for Wasteland Online. Having experience to put on your résumé will definitely help you get your foot in the door and set you apart from others in your cohort.