I’ll state my message loud and clear from the get go. Never ever underestimate the concept of working for free. Sometimes defer gratification.
Hear me out…
I was a grad from a decent yet not so prestigious university. I came out with a 2:1 so thought everything would be calm when it came to landing that graduate role. I was expecting to walk straight into the big career. I deserved it. It was owed to me. I have a Degree! That is the whole point of going to uni right? Slaving away for that final result and a career. A year passed since graduation and I was still selling phones in retail. No knock on doing that, I was fortunate, I had a job I met some of the best people ever in those roles some of my closest people still do, but I never saw it as a career. Careers are very different from a job.
I desired a big job in communications and I’ll admit I was just as ignorant as others. Didn’t bother with work experience, just kept my little phone job cause it paid the bills and helped out the family (and allowed me to buy beats headphones) expecting that a 2:1 degree guarantees a job. When it got to graduation, I hit indeed like a crazed mad man (indeed geeks, that Web traffic spike in June 2014 was me applying for everything) but unfortunately got no responses. Not even an interview… September came, went and took pretty much all the grad schemes with it. Even my then employers didn’t take the chance. I think their rejection hit me the hardest considering I had given them 4 years service and often chose them and consequently money over time that should really have been spent on coursework. I kinda expected a little loyalty.. but not even a secondment was offered. This rejection along with other issues led to me looking for opportunities elsewhere only to find that moving elsewhere meant I had to again build up that loyalty. I started questioning my ability. Even questioning whether a degree was the right move, especially when you see apprenticeship opportunities for those without. When I asked for feedback from interviews, I’d get the standard “there were others more suitable for the role”
My chance came when I applied for an internship at a national supermarket chain and successfully gained an interview. It was only my 2nd ever communications interview and I spent days preparing, even taking days off work. The thing is, I still didn’t get the role… but was offered a lifeline. They saw that I lacked experience even though I couldn’t see it. Experience that I thought uni would earn you and offered a two week unpaid work placement. I was still unsure at this point. Could I really afford it? I mean yeah, I’d been working 4 years but beats are hella expensive and I was on my 3rd pair at that point. I’m playing. But in honesty, I decided that I would take the leap, the company was right, the team’s passion and personality was evident from the interview stage and I wanted communications. I left my job, and went for it. What’s life without risks? I was somewhere I didn’t see a career, wasn’t happy and I felt at that point that it was more important than money. I felt I was worth more.
It was easily one of the best decisions of my life, now don’t get me wrong, I’m still not in communications full time… but I learned a hell of a lot, more so than you can learn in any lecture theatre. Just working on some of their projects and becoming part of that team was a god send. I didn’t think I’d enjoy a role that much. After the 1st day I found myself eager to get in and see what the day brings. It allowed me to build my portfolio and add experience to my CV. I’m not even sure I can name names but i’m extremely grateful.
Those two weeks, 10 days, 75 or so hours, has probably got me more interviews and opportunities than I got prior. Simply cause I gained some experience and added it to linked in. So my warning to anybody is that as long as its financially possible, never be afraid to put some free work in. That free work can take you a long way. Possibly more money (if you think that way) and a career you desire and enjoy. It doesn’t have to be extensive, I did just two weeks yet have more interviews for communications roles than I’ve ever had before. You don’t have to quit a job either, just take some paid leave or something. My point is that ignorance was pretty much my biggest barrier to not being successful yet. If you have this barrier, remove it. The best way is to think of it as deferring gratification, you wont get paid now, i can’t guarantee you’ll ever get paid, but that experience will probably lead to getting paid later or you realising that path isn’t for you.
Until next time.