Can work experience determine your future career?

01 December 2015 | Careers Advice | Guest Author

Graduate Megan Winter-Barker, sheds light on how work experience at Cornerstone publishing has determined her future career as an editor

Where do you go once your education has finished? As a recent graduate, this is a question that I and many of my friends have struggled with. Suddenly your years as a student have ended and you have your whole life ahead of you, to choose what you want to do and decide the best way to get there. There’s so much out there, where do you start?!

I am lucky enough to know what I want to do. This has set me of along a path, but still it is very difficult to know which roads I should be taking in order to achieve my goal of becoming an editor. However, there is one thing that I think is vital, whatever career path you are considering choosing, and that is…

You may have spent years studying, achieved top marks for everything, but nowadays this just doesn’t seem to be enough. Employers are looking for experience, that little something extra on your CV that makes you stand out from everyone else. Competition for most jobs is stiff, the quality of applicants high, and most likely your employer will want someone who they know can fulfill the role. If you have experience in areas that are key to a specific job, you will stand out as someone who would be competent and have a better understanding of the job you are applying for.

Taking the time to apply for and do work experience placements, also shows commitment. You have given up your time, often unpaid, to further your knowledge of a job or industry. It shows you are motivated, inquisitive and engaged in the current world of that particular industry. Employers will want to see ways in which you have been involved with anything that relates to the job you are applying for.

Work experience is not all about the employer, it is also about YOU. It is a chance for you to decide if this really is the career for you. A chance to take a sneak peek into your possible future! If you’re unsure about your career path, work experience placements are the perfect way to test out your thoughts and find the job that is right for you. It is always worth applying for and taking a chance on those placements you are unsure of. Best scenario, you might discover your new career, worst case, you will definitely know what you don’t want to do…and that’s always a start!

A work experience placement is also an incredible opportunity to LEARN. If you do get a placement, embrace it while you’re there. You might be chief photocopier for a week, but just being in a new environment will teach you a lot. So don’t feel downhearted if you are not given the most exciting jobs.

So far, I have had one, brilliant, work experience placement that confirmed to me my ambition to become an editor. I spent two weeks with Cornerstone publishing, an imprint of Penguin Random House and whilst it was a little terrifying to begin with, it was also great fun and extremely insightful.

I learnt a lot about the company, the progression of roles from editorial assistant to chief editor, and also the different ways in which people had started their careers in the publishing industry. It was interesting to learn that people had entered the business from all different areas, some off the back of internships and others through in-house hiring. There is never one ‘right’ way to get your dream job.

The main thing is just to keep an open mind. Whilst I did do a lot of regular office jobs, I also got to try my hand at some of the tasks assigned to an editorial assistant. I also managed to have a meeting with one of the senior editors of the company. When you’re at a placement, try to get out of it as much as you can. If you can meet with senior members of staff, take the opportunity they will have valuable advice to pass on to you.

At the end of the two weeks I was just starting to feel at home and was sorry to have to leave, but the experience was an invaluable one. It has confirmed to me where my passions and abilities lie and has kept me motivated to keep applying for my dream job as an editor. As well as everything I learnt, I also came away with a mountain of free books…definitely a great experience all round!

I would urge anyone to get applying for placements as soon as you can. When you do come to apply for a job, the more work experience you have, the better you feel about what career you want to go into.



Do you know anyone that could help you out? Someone whose career you are interested in, or who could get you a placement? It’s all about getting your foot in the door! Don’t be afraid to ask and to keep asking!

Chin up

If and when you get rejections, or often don’t hear back at all, keep at it! Keep knocking on doors one will open sooner or later!

And if you do get a placement, when you’re there…

Ask questions

This is your time to find out anything you’ve been wondering about the job or the industry. If you’re not sure about something, ASK. If you’re interested in something that’s going on, ASK. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get involved, even if it means stepping outside your comfort zone. You will look engaged and interested in the job, which could get you good references for your next placement or job opportunity.

Watch, listen and learn

Take in your surroundings. What is the day to day life like? What does the job entail? Do you think you would like it there? Does it seem like something you could see yourself doing? You will learn a lot more than you think you have just by being there.

Show willingness

On a work experience placement, you are unfortunately, bottom of the pile. This most likely means you will end up with some of the less pleasant or engaging jobs, but you must still do them willingly and with a smile! You are there to help in whatever way you can and if you can do all of this gracefully and with a smile on your face, you will make a great impression.

There is hope, you just have to get out into the outside world and prove you have what it takes to get your dream career. Remember that a work placement could be an experience of a lifetime.

By Megan Winter-Barker for Moving On Magazine

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