By Sam Saunders
Now, I know it seems a long time ago, but Happy New Year! I hope that all of Gair Rhydd’s readers had a happy Christmas, a relaxing break and that any exams and assignments you had went as well as possible. Now that’s out of the way, I’ll talk a little bit about what I want to do with my column for the rest of the issues this year. Just before and over Christmas, I realised that I could enjoy writing these columns a lot more with a slightly different remit, one that is focused on stories and personal experience, rather than a specific advice angle. Also, it’s always been important for me to produce something that piques the curiosity of our readers and that you all find enlightening, so I hope that this will allow me to do that.
Along this theme, I’d like to talk about worthwhile ways of spending your summer, such as internships, part-time jobs and volunteering projects, because the former two have been incredibly valuable to me, and because a lot of the application deadlines are in the coming weeks. I’ll admit that I wasn’t so proactive after my first year at Cardiff, in fact, I lived off the last part of my student loan over that summer (along with free food from my parents), basically sitting around on my arse, playing video games and living what I thought was my best life. Of course, this all came to an end in September, upon which I realised that it hadn’t been a terribly brilliant idea after all. I’d essentially wasted three months of my life, despite the numerous good times I’d had, and I reflected afterwards that I should have kept my mind occupied.
Therefore, the next summer I got a part-time job in a country pub around fifteen minutes from where I lived. As many students will already know, the benefits of such a role are numerous: some money to go on holiday, a way of making new friends and keeping yourself occupied, as well as an opportunity to develop skills such as customer service or how to pour the perfect pint. Part-time jobs are also very handy for examples in strength-based interviews for master’s programmes or graduate jobs, as you’re likely to have worked in a team or experienced some form of challenge in these roles. Examples I could use from my job both came on the same day; the pub hosted a wedding, which was a challenge as we essentially had all the people we would have had on a busy lunch or dinner shift (typically two or three hours in length) for a whole day’s trading. I also had to work with more people than usual to cope with the amount of people, in other words, as part of a team. Finally, customer-facing jobs will help develop your interpersonal skills (essentially being friendly, outgoing and easy to talk to) which will always be useful, no matter the career you choose to pursue.
The following year, I decided that it would be a good idea to get a taste of the professional world by doing an internship, which would also allow me to decide whether a corporate career would be something which I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. There are a huge range of internships available, both paid and unpaid (angry reacts only), so there’s no limit to what you could choose to do, whether you want to try accountancy or journalism, for example. This is both good and bad, as the vast array of choices means you will certainly be able to find something that you find interesting, but it can be daunting to know where to start. I’d recommend two methods. Firstly, websites, such as TargetJobs, that list the different internships available and group them by industry are really useful in narrowing down your options, and potentially opening your eyes to some possibilities you might not have considered. Secondly, there are job fairs that take place every year; the next one is on the 8th of February in the Great Hall in the SU that is specifically focused on Internships, Work Experience and Volunteering opportunities. I can’t think of many better places to start.
My internship, at Admiral here in Cardiff, was incredibly useful and informative to me. It allowed me to earn more money than I could have in a part-time job over the summer as well as giving me invaluable experience in a professional environment. Most importantly, it made me realise that I would like to work in this area in my future career and that I could thrive in a financial services company. It also opened my eyes to the vast array of potential career paths within a large company, as I had no idea what internal audit or compliance were until I worked at Admiral. Of course, this won’t be the case for everyone, and, on the contrary, internships are a really good way of trying something out for short period of time, in which you can find out if a certain company or career would be for you. For example, the pressures of producing stories for the daily edition of a newspaper might be something that you thrive on, or an aspect that you dislike, meaning that more of a flexible role, at an online news website, for example, could be for you.
Finally, we have volunteering opportunities, many of which are available through Cardiff University’s Global Opportunities programme, which currently offers volunteering projects in countries such as Vietnam, Fiji and Thailand. Whilst I’ve not experienced one of these, I can say that living abroad was an incredible impactful experience for me, it blew my mind to see a completely different culture in India, and feeling part of a country and city in France last year really was unforgettable. Like the other options that I’ve mentioned, volunteering is a great way to spend your summer, and provide you with something to talk about in interviews, as well as offering you the chance to develop skills that you couldn’t in an office, a pub or a lecture theatre. For more information about this, visit the Global Opportunities page on the Cardiff Intranet.
As always, thank you for reading this, I hope that my personal experiences will encourage some of you to think about how you can spend your summer, and I hope that you have excellent experiences as a result! Have a great week guys.