Your first job – work experience and applications
Increasingly, it is received wisdom that you will need work experience prior to applying for your first job, and that, particularly in the arts, this will probably have been unpaid. The number of graduates has been rising sharply over the past few years, with employment competition becoming ever tougher, but do you really need to offer yourself as a slave just to get a foot in the door, and how valuable will such experience be considered by others?
If you wish to work for nothing, make sure that it is on your terms and for your benefit, perhaps to try out a particular company, or to see if you like a specific area of work. Do not stay too long in this sort of position, a couple of months at most, learn as much as you can, ensure that the situation is to your benefit, not others.
The problem with working for nothing is that the value of any commodity, including your experience, is judged by cost; if you are prepared to work for nothing it is likely that is precisely the value placed upon your experience when you apply for your first paid job. At the very least, try to make sure that you are reimbursed all travel costs, lunch allowance and so on, calculate how much money you need for expenses and ask for at least this much.
If two applicants have similar experience, but one has been paid then this will be more highly valued than that gained through unpaid work. Basically, you are more valuable if you were paid than if not.
Before attending any meeting make sure that you find out about the firm before you go, dress the part, above all, remember that if they want to meet you, then they already believe that you can do the job, remember that the meeting is for you to display how you can be of value to them. Next time, we will take a look at that first CV.
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