Notes from the University of Life

It is an unwritten rule that a degree is no longer sufficient if you want to be successful in securing a graduate job. With this in mind, I have, throughout my academic career at Leeds University embarked upon as many internships and work placements as I can get my hands on. Although it seems commonplace among undergraduates to complain about this recent trend, I welcome it. Yes, you can get lumbered with some pretty banal jobs, but work experience demonstrates your commitment to a specific industry, which employers can able to pick up on just by glancing at your CV. It’s all very well being able to make up some spiel in an interview about how PR, or law or journalism is your ‘dream career’, but where’s the evidence? Without a solid list of work experience placements, these whimsical statements will ring hollow.

And I’ve enjoyed all the work placements I’ve done  – , the past week at Magenta being no different. Having spent the majority of my life up in education, immersing myself in the world of work during my four month summer holiday is actually something of a relief. Astonishingly, I’ve also enjoyed the 9 to 5 lifestyle. Peculiar indeed for a student  with an allergy to early mornings, and a preference for late nights fuelled by cheap booze. But now, as I’m about to embark upon my fourth year at university at the ripe old age of 22, I would much rather polish off a few glasses of rosé rather than a sickly sweet, neon-blue alcho-pop any day.

And I’m actually beginning to ENJOY early mornings. You know, that time of the day when the sun rises, you have breakfast and maybe even drink the odd cup of coffee.  It’s not really a time-frame that features in the life of your average student. At university, it feels like something of an achievement if one arrives at the library before 11am. It’s just not the done thing.  But there’s something remarkably serene about early mornings, particularly in London, that I’ve come to enjoy.

Another thing that I’ve learned to appreciate about being part of the working world are the fixed hours. As a student, you can while away whole evenings and weekends when deadlines are looming hunched over your computer, tearing your hair out over an essay that’s not coming together. I can recall countless times when I’ve sat staring at my screen for hours on end with no hope of inspiration in sight. And that’s just it, there’s no cut-off point with studying, you can always do more. I welcome the day when I reclaim my evenings and weekends. Granted, I’ve had it easy so far, you rarely have a vast amount of responsibility on a placement or internship and no doubt when I (hopefully) land myself a  full-time job, the 9 to 5 will become a 7 to 7.

Another thing I’ve enjoyed about working at Magenta, as well as in other office environments I have worked in previously, is the level of interaction with other people. This may sound strange, but as an inherently social being I genuinely enjoy working with other people, something you often don’t do much of at university thanks to the so-called ‘student-led’ approach adopted by so many higher education institutions across the country. Whereas, working in an office as part of a team you can build and develop ideas together, and there will always be someone to call on for a second opinion. I can therefore say whole-heartedly when I get asked the inevitable, ‘do you work well as part of a team’ question at graduate interviews, I can respond in the affirmative.

Don’t get me wrong I’ve loved every minute of student life at Leeds, I’ve made some amazing friends and learnt so much, but I can’t wait to get out into the world of work and I’m more convinced than ever that work experience plays a crucial role in this transition.


Cathy Hayward