Was my summer of placements worth it?

Was my summer of placements worth it?
In summer 2014, I spent 10 weeks commuting from Birmingham to Manchester to develop my portfolio. It was challenging, emotional, nerve-wracking, exhilarating and (at times) painfully boring. But was it worthwhile? I finished university with a CV boasting my retail and catering skills, but only the occasional bit of voluntary writing. I’d been working part-time as a copywriter for my university’s marketing team – something I’d enjoyed but something that wasn’t getting me into places for interviews to take the next step. I was stuck. My portfolio was bare and my CV wasn’t up to scratch. I made it my mission to gain experience and picked Manchester; a new city, closer to home but with plenty going on. With a new found purpose, I sent speculative emails to some agency creative directors and (very, very) luckily, one got back to me and said I could come in for a chat if I brought some work. On the day, the conversation concluded with “how about starting Monday?” I felt as if I’d gone from no potential to having promise. From that Monday, I went on to spend a month with the company, followed by a week at a digital agency, a week at a PR company and two weeks at a digital and branding agency. Pretty much each opportunity led to the next. One girl from the first agency set me up at her former agency; I then went and worked for someone I met at agency two, and so on. At the first agency I went to, colleagues were surprised that I hadn’t got further placements lined up already. One of their former interns did a solid year of placements so at the end he could say he had a year’s experience. He’d just acquired himself an elusive Junior Copywriter position, but there was no way I could afford to do unpaid placements for a year. typing, laptop, hand, girl, white nail polish For the first few weeks, I slept on my brother’s floor to save money. Then I rented a cheap room in a crazy house I found on Airbnb – a learning experience in itself… being a lodger, the tram network, the crazy cycle lanes (intersecting the tram lines!), and suburbs to (and not to) live in if I moved. For the next three placements, I commuted the 85 miles each way. I got A LOT of reading done on those train journeys. It was the perfect time for indulging in reading to help my writing. These journeys were more often than not paid for out of my own pocket. If you find a paid placement in advertising, you’ll have stumbled on a diamond. It’s a rubbish situation, but you often have to work with what you’re given. In the same vein, placements really are what you make of them. If you think you’re not getting anything from it – ask for more to do. Ask people how they got where they are. Ask as many questions as you can. train, railway lines, railway, journey, sunset, fields, clouds, landscape Spending time across different agencies gave me the chance to explore different working environments, from small teams to huge teams; all female teams and all male. I got the chance to try out everything from pitching racy concepts to clients to writing press releases for children’s armbands. Early on, I realised I needed to embrace social media. I reluctantly made myself a Twitter page, and it turned out to be a great thing. I learnt about new jobs, opportunities, and I found out about events through which I met some fantastic people who gave me a lot of great advice. One of the most important bits: “if you want to write and tell stories, you need to put your story out there.” I developed my online portfolio and I started writing every single week. I challenged myself with new topics, I learnt about branding, marketing, eCommerce, and opened up many new areas of interest. About a month before I was offered my position, I was thinking this is never going to come off! I’m never going to make it! But I kept going. I drank a few more beers with creatives; I wrote a load more lines and I saw what kind of agency I’d want to go for. I learnt a lot, grew a lot, and was incredibly proud to say that after 10 weeks’ hard work; I secured myself a Junior Copywriter position at one of the city’s biggest agencies. My placements were the reason I got my job. I proved I wanted to enter the industry. I broadened my knowledge, bolstered my book and met some great, likeminded people. If you have the chance to undertake work experience – go for it. I feel I would’ve really missed out if I took the first opportunity that came to me. Placements give you the chance to try out a job before you commit full-time, and multiple placements give you an edge – you’ve experienced different agencies and ways of working. wizbii