Name: Areti Antonakopoulou
Degree and university: University of Warwick, BSc Management
What did you do on your work experience? I did my work experience placement for 3 months during the summer of 2007 at Abracadabra UK Ltd. The company mainly wholesales gifts to the retail industry, and also has a wholesale and retail website. I was responsible for maintaining and improving the websites, as well as for the IT systems of the company. I was also part of the company’s marketing team, which included preparing PR material for the company and promotional material for its products, as well as representing the company at trade shows and doing some design work on potential products as well.
I did my placement during the summer after my second year and before my final year. I subsequently worked for the company during my final year as well.
How did you find out about this particular placement? I initially applied for a marketing internship as I wanted to get real life business experience. I learned about Graduate Advantage through my University’s Careers Service and applied. After a couple of weeks I received an invitation to attend an interview at the company.
Would you recommend work placements to other students? Definitely. Although my degree has allowed me to gain some knowledge in business, it is not until you experience a business environment that you can know what actually works in practice and what doesn’t. It also shows future employers you have enthusiasm and passion for the specific area you want to work in.
What did you like the most about what you did and were there any downsides? Having worked in a SME, I was able to get involved in almost every aspect of the company’s day-to-day activities. I gained experience as to how theory can be different from practice, and working closely with the Managing Director of the company as well as all the other staff of the company has improved my understanding of business, and helped me contribute to the company’s success, something I am very proud of.
It was not easy at the beginning as I had a lot to learn, and being only 19 at the time I started my placement, and being given such responsibility was challenging and made me question my own abilities.
What skills do you think you learned while there? I was able to experience firsthand how organisations and wholesalers/retailers interact and work together. I was also able to improve my design and website development skills and execute marketing and PR tasks that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. I was also able to meet some incredible and inspiring people and work with some of the most charismatic and helpful people I have ever met. All employees of the company helped me adjust and learn and were very supportive every step on the way, and made me feel trusted, and more confident in my abilities.
What advice would you give graduates wishing to do work experience?
Do work experience in an area you are really interested in, and don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know something or to make a mistake. If you are passionate enough, what you don’t know, you can learn. And if you don’t make any mistakes, you won’t have learned anything from the work experience. Making mistakes means that you learn something and you improve, and that’s what work experience is about too. Don’t forget to have fun. Work experience is about that, too!