NAME: Helen Dale
DEGREE/EMPLOYMENT: Graduated from the University of Surrey in 2005. She now works in Brighton for health and hygiene company Kimberly Clark on its EU supply chain graduate programme.
Helen spent 10 weeks working with Ci Business Services Limited, which is a contract–cleaning company based in London. She found the placement through Shell Step (see panel). The focus of her project was to increase traffic to the website and to rebrand the company. By the end of her project, sales enquiries had increased and the number of visitors to the site had risen by 26%.
What was your motivation?
I’d always been keen to go into a graduate job and knew that having work experience was the best way to ensure that my applications would stand out from the crowd.
I’d originally considered doing a sandwich course but the degree that I chose didn’t have that option. I found out about Step at my careers service after a lecturer recommended the programme.
What did the application process involve?
I filled in an application and selected the area I wanted to be in. When I was asked in for the interview I realised it was quite competitive. The interview was quite informal but I made sure I dressed smartly and talked about other work experience and positions of responsibility that I’d had, such as working as a bar manager.
What did you do?
It was meant to be a marketing placement but it evolved to focus on internet advertising, as I did a lot of work on the website and oversaw a redesign to make it more user friendly and to ensure it was picked up by search engines. As there were only 15 people in the company, I just got on with it. Half the time I was teaching myself out of a book. I had to be a self starter but I still brought in an extra £30,000 worth of new business.
How did you sell the experience on your CV?
Overall, the experience benefited me tremendously. It really helped being able to quantify the benefits my work had brought the company. I could write about what I’d done on my CV and being able to draw on the experience also made it much easier to answer questions during interviews.
Did you enjoy it?
Yes! It was a long commute and I had to be up at 6am each morning but I was very motivated and kept going.
What did you learn?
Having never worked in an office before, I found it particularly daunting at first. But it gave me a great idea of the office environment and how it works.
Realising that I had something to offer from my degree.
Walking into an office where I didn’t know what to expect.
Advice to readers:
I don’t know if I’d have got my current job without the placement. It helped my job prospects immeasurably.
I don’t think that many of my peers were as savvy as I was when it came to work experience but it’s definitely worth doing.