I am currently on my year-long placement with Danone Ireland and I am lucky enough to enjoy it. However, it can be so easy to land yourself a job that you really don’t like. But this is good too. Here’s why…
I am writing this now because I was reminded of the stress of applying for placement jobs when helping a good friend with her CV in preparation for job applications. It made me question that when you start applying for your third-year internship, what do you really know? I mean you’ve only really completed one year of university and are still taking a wide variety of completely new modules and topics. How can you possibly know what role you want to undertake for a year? That’s the thing, you don’t. I study Communication, Advertising and Marketing at Ulster University which should really be called Communication, Advertising, Marketing, PR, digital media and graphic design, because there’s so much more to the degree than the title portrays. And this isn’t just my degree, every undergrad degree is the same and offers various career path options. Unless of course you’re studying a vocational subject like nursing, medicine or teaching- then you usually know what you’re going into… I hope!
To get to my point, with a degree like mine, I reckon it will take a couple of jobs before I properly find my niche in something I really love and would settle with.
When I was applying for internships last year, I stressed about it so much, I wanted something as quickly as possible, simply so that I could enjoy my year without that added weight on my shoulders. I was so envious of my friends when they’d arrive in class with the news of their job and all I had was either an attempt at a CV, a handful of confidence knocking rejections or the guilt of non-applied for jobs. There’s always that person that has a job in the bag by Day 1- I was not that person. I knew I wanted to go to Dublin. That was all. So that’s all I applied for really. And yes, it may sound naïve to apply for the place before the job, but why not? I am still a student and for me, a change of location was all part of the experience. And I knew that wherever I ended up I was going to learn something anyway so that’s where my focus was.
I went through the motions of applications, online interviews, face-to-face interviews, assessment days, cover letter and CV editing and of course, rejections. But the way I looked at it was, yes, this is for a real-life job, but only as a taster for the future…. Realistically, no company is going to fully depend on a student or expect them to change the world. We are there to learn and develop. Life is full of people that won’t get you or appreciate you or agree with you, so of course rejections are inevitable. I learned so much from the application process alone, the most important thing being not to take everything so personally because that gets you absolutely nowhere! My dream job was a Marketing and Publicity role with Warner Bros. Ireland and I was shortlisted to the top 9 candidates meaning I had to attend an assessment day. I was beyond nervous for this but when I was further shortlisted to the top four, I started believing in myself for once, that maybe I could be good enough. Anyway, long story short I received a phone call in the middle of a good old Holylands’ barbecue to say I didn’t get the job. The enjoyable street party was unfortunately short-lived because I cried that much I went home. I had had enough, bearing in mind this was mid-late April, I felt like time was running out. I honestly couldn’t understand why I wasn’t good enough and thought this was just the end of the world. It was one of those situations where you hear news that completely blow any other worry, excitement or feeling completely out of the park until they don’t matter anymore in the slightest. I hated life. After a couple of hours of life contemplation (I am so dramatic), I recognised that I couldn’t actually have done anything more in that interview, so it obviously wasn’t meant to be!
One of the questions I kept asking myself last year was, ‘how am I supposed to know what I want to do?’ and what I would tell myself 365 days later is that you don’t. Careers are like one big chain of trial and error. My job at Danone is mostly communications and corporate affairs. This isn’t what I envisaged for myself 365 days ago but here we are. I would tell myself not to worry if I get a job I don’t like, because then I will know what I can rule out for the future. I am walking/ running down a career path where I believe change is inevitable and absolutely necessary in order to learn and develop. I would tell myself that placement is only one of the small and first pieces of the ‘Hannah’s Life Jigsaw’. It isn’t the be all and end all, there’s still plenty more to be put into place.
Last year, I put so much pressure on myself to get this ‘dream placement’ and yes, it’s good to have a goal or an idea, but I would tell myself not to fixate on it. There will be aspects of every job you won’t like and aspects you do. But theseopinions give you the chance to fine tune the end goal you want for yourself. I am in a comms role and enjoying it. But placement has allowed me to develop my plan that I want to get a masters and a job in other aspects of my degree aside from communications, because you never really know until you try.
Less stress is best.
Hannah Gilsenan is a third year BSc Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found at: Twitter – @han_gil98 and LinkedIn – Hannah Gilsenan