Work Experience – Mentor – University of Sheffield

Contributor: Charlotte

What?  Mentor for the University of Sheffield

Why did you choose this place? I had worked with younger children and wanted experience working with teenagers.

How did you find the application process? The application process was typical of many jobs. There was an application form and then an interview, the interview was fairly informal involving working in a group which definitely helped my nerves!  Before starting my second year of mentoring I was invited to be a lead mentor responsible for the group of mentors in my assigned school.

What do you do here? I work with young people on both a 1:1 basis and in the classroom to act as a role model and mentor.  I help to raise their achievements and aspirations by targeting subject areas students are having trouble with or by helping them to research careers they’re interested in.  ‘Widening participation’  is another aspect of my role,  whereby groups who are typically underrepresented in Higher Education such as low income or single parent families are encouraged to reach their potential and attend University.

As a mentor I have worked in two very different secondary schools. First was one with a ‘satisfactory’ judgement from OFSTED whilst the second was deemed to be ‘good’.  Seeing such different teaching environments really opened my eyes to how the school which you attend as a child affects your future.

The good things: I have often found the role rewarding when you can provide answers to questions the pupils have struggled to find themselves. Whether these are questions about careers, university, or just tips for handing homework in on time- you can see the impact you’re having on a young person.

Being a linguist, my first school was particularly interesting. Many pupils were new to the country and had a limited understanding of English which proved to be a major barrier to their learning. It showed how knowledge of TESOL could prove useful to those wanting to enter teaching in the UK and not just those wanting to teach abroad.

The bad things: If the children aren’t having a good day or if it’s snowing(!) it can be difficult keeping them on task, I’ve definitely had to learn to be more patient. Also, entering the schools for the first time was daunting but the teachers were all very welcoming so my initial anxieties were quickly forgotten.
Anything else we should know: Despite not wanting to be a teacher when I graduate, the experience has made me want to work in Education or more generally in the public sector. Seeing how you can help improve people’s lives despite only seeing them once a week definitely made me eager to know what you could do with more time! I believe my linguistics degree will put me in good stead for such roles, it has taught me to be more organised and a better communicator. Additionally, what I thought was just an interest in people’s language when beginning my degree; I now see is a wider interest in people’s lives. So I’m thankful to both my Linguistics degree and experiences like mentoring which have helped me to discover the route I want to take after graduation.


Applying for courses – UWE BA English Language and Linguistics, UCL MSc Speech and Language Sciences

Contributor: Amie

What? I studied english language and linguistics at UWE and I am starting a masters in speech therapy at UCL next year.

Why did you choose this place? I chose UWE as it was the best university that provided this combination. The linguistics dept at that time was very strong with great staff. As for UCL, it is one of the best universities in the world. Although I’m dreading moving out of Bristol I am really excited to study there. I was very impressed with the facilities and staff there when I went for my interview. The student support in the SLT dept at UCL has also already been exemplary.

How did you find the application process? The application process for my undergrad was simple, and stress free. The masters was a lot harder, a lot more work, and expensive, which I did not expect. I was lucky and had a lot of support but I think it would be very difficult for someone who doesn’t have support from a person with experience in SLT.

What do you do here? When I graduated I worked in the English department of a secondary school, at TESOL summer schools, and then as an assistant speech therapist in a brain injury rehab unit. I now work as a learning support assistant in a special needs school with adolescents with profound and multiple disabilities.

The good things: intellectually challenging, linguistics can lead to many careers, SLT marries linguistics, medical science and public service perfectly

The bad things: linguistics can  lead to many careers!! slt is very competitive with a lack of universities offering the course, application process to SLT masters.

Anything else we should know: get work experience in anything that you feel could be relevant to your future career. This is the most important thing, more than the uni you go to, your degree mark (within reason), more than anything.

Internship – Editorial Intern – Gollancz, Orion Pubishing

Contributor: Ceri

Where? Gollancz, Orion Publishing

What? Editorial Intern

Why did you choose this place? This is the job I want in the long run, and I’m a huge sci-fi/fantasy fan when it comes to literature. But this one was through a connection as well – a friend of a friend had just had his own book published by Gollancz, and was in the process of finalising the print of the second (while writing the third). He snuck me into a party full of influential people and I got to chat to the head editor, and from there I was able to set up a two-week internship.

How did you find the application process? Making contacts was actually pretty nerve-wracking; even though I had an ‘in’ with my author friend, I had to make my own impressions on the right people to seem keen, knowledgeable and, above all, suitable. In many ways filling out an application form might have been easier, but I think the benefits of having my face in their minds when my name appeared in their inboxes were huge, and giving them the chance to make their own character judgments seemed to be advantageous as well.

What did you do here? Work was slower at this internship – as it wasn’t as long, and as I was only filling spaces at desks during other people’s holidays, there wasn’t the chance to develop any long-term responsibilities or learn anything too complex. There were different office tasks than at Firefly – binding, copying up blurbs from old book covers, proofreading cover designs before they went into print – but perhaps the most interesting was reading unsolicited submissions from authors who hadn’t come through agents. It was a simple job but I was essentially the judge of which authors went through for further consideration and which were put aside. While the work was sometimes sparse, many of the editors made time to talk me through the processes they went through in their jobs, which was immensely educational and interesting (as well as being beneficial for future interviews!).

The good things: The empty time between tasks encouraged me to make my own work, and I ended up writing reports on each of the submissions I read to pass onto the editors, detailing my decision based on content, style, linguistic ability and so on. The editors seemed pleased with my work, and I was happy to have the chance to be a bit creative and helpful. I also ended my internship with at least four free books – it does not hurt to mention to an editor who your favourite authors are, especially if said authors were published by them.

The bad things: I ended up taking an hour-and-a-half commute to this unpaid internship for two weeks, which wasn’t cheap – I probably wouldn’t have been able to carry on for much longer than I did. There were also long periods when I had very little to do – although I was only asked to read through the first few chapters of submissions, I finished one of the manuscripts completely in between tasks. This was partially my own fault for being too shy to ask for things to do too often, afraid of going beyond seeming keen and becoming a pest.

Anything else we should know? Showing willingness to learn meant I did, because I heard far more via word of mouth about the publishing processes than I ever have from reading about it. I personally think it’s a shame that these days it’s near impossible to get a job without connections and contacts, but learning how best to make them is a worthy skill, as well as how to utilise the ones you already have.

Internship – PR Intern – Firefly Communications, London

Contributor: Ceri

Where? Firefly Communications, London

What? PR internship

Why did you choose this place? It was a family connection – a relative of mine is the CEO. Luckily I also have relatives living in the city who had a spare room, which meant I could afford to be nearby without the costs of a long commute.

How did you find the application process? It was more a case of keeping an eye out for possibilities; the company weren’t specifically looking for newcomers and I wasn’t looking to go into PR, or for an unpaid position, but utilising what I had easy access to was very beneficial in the long run.

What did you do there? I was an all-rounder – everything from data entry and making tea to calling clients and installing printers. But I was asked to ghost-write an experience blog for one of our clients’ service, and after that I was able to draft blogs for the clients themselves, and proofread ones written by my colleagues. Later on I was appointed co-ordinator for the newsletter and was responsible for writing summaries of the blogs. It was mostly writing to a brief but as I was given more responsibility I was able to be more creative with what I was given.

The good things: The general office experience was good preparation for anything I end up doing, and it was the first nine-to-five job I’d ever had, which really gave me a sense of what the ‘real’ working world was like. Because the job role was so diverse it also gave me access to a huge amount of transferable skills I never would have considered seeking out myself.

The bad things: At the back of my mind I knew that PR wasn’t what I wanted to do, and at times I was frustrated that I was putting so much time and effort into something I just wasn’t passionate about. The living arrangements were also stressful at times – I was incredibly lucky being able to live rent-free in the city, but it was restrictive, and there was no other way I could have afforded living costs while working unpaid in such an expensive area.

Anything else we should know: Never pass up an opportunity to do something you didn’t plan to do, because it might end up being exactly what you always wanted. And even if it doesn’t – as it didn’t for me – you’ll know, and you’ll get to work with some amazing people and see what it’s like for them to be passionate about their career. It’ll make you all the more keen to find your own place in an industry. It also means you get a hugely diverse skill set and experience on your CV, and you never know where you’ll be able to make use of knowing how to link a non-network A3 printer to twelve computers.

Volunteering – South Somerset First School – Teaching Assistant

Contributor: Claire

Where? First School in South Somerset

What? Working in classes ranging from Foundation year up to year 4.

Why did you choose this place? Interested in Education but didn’t really want to be a teacher.
How long for? 2 days a week, for two months.

How did you find the application process? Easy, it was my First School, I knew some of the teachers there, and my mum had worked there. I just asked if I could come and do some experience and they said yes!

What do you do here? I worked in each class, predominantly the year three and four class, in a teaching assistant role. The teacher would place me with groups, or an individual and I would aid them with their work. Additionally there was the occasional photocopying and running around, but generally was working with the children. I also took on a stewarding role during sports day too.

The good things: Personally I love working with children, which was great. They also knew I was heading towards speech and language so they showed me some resources they used when recommending students, placed me which students who had difficulties, and even let me sit in on a speech and language appointment.

The bad things: Sometimes it was a bit drastic working with the year threes and fours, and then moving to foundation year.  I also wish I had worked with foundation a little more, as I spent maybe one day in total with them. Knew I didn’t want to be a teacher.

Anything else we should know? It really made me want to be a teaching assistant! Or maybe a SEN, but then I would have to go through the teacher education process.