Guest blog: The Radical Sabbatical – Trying 25 Careers In A Year

Emma Rosen Ibiza 2 copyright Marie EdwardsIn September 2016, I quit my grad scheme and ‘job for life’ with the Civil Service to try 25 careers through short-term work experience and internships, in a year – before my 25th birthday. I realised that, aged 24, I still had absolutely no idea what I really wanted to do.

It was a gamble, possibly the biggest gamble of my career. Except, to me it didn’t feel like a risk at all, it felt like the most natural career step I could take.

Let me back up and give some context. Whilst at university I studied History and International Relation, and did several internships in journalism, politics and with the civil service. The natural next step during my last year was to apply for grad schemes, and I was incredibly fortunate to be accepted to the Civil Service’s scheme – the Fast Stream. It never once occurred to me that this traditional and ambitious path might not be for me at this stage of my life. 

But within a few weeks of starting my first placement, I began to realise that perhaps this wasn’t for me as I had started to feel unfulfilled and increasingly unhappy, despite on paper ‘having it all.’

I resolved to do something about it and see if there was another way. 

So, after a year, I decided to start a blog about my search for career happiness. I wrote a list of jobs I’d always dreamed of trying, and got to 25 surprisingly quickly. I handed my notice in on my 24th birthday, and 25before25 was born.

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Student story: My Summer Internship at Legance

maria bMy name is Maria Luisa and I am going into my third year in Politics and Business Management at Queen Mary. This summer I had the chance to spend two months interning at Legance, an independent Italian law firm with offices in Rome, Milan and London. I was lucky enough to be based in the office in Rome which is also my home city!

At first, I was a bit intimidated about working in a fast paced environment and in the corporate world but, after the first week, I managed to adapt easily thanks to the supportive environment that I found. Since day one, I have been assigned very stimulating tasks and have been involved in a great variety of activities of the firm which is the thing that I liked the most about my internship. In particular, I primarily dealt with doing research, helping write reports and interviews, translating documents from Italian into English, working with the Corporate Social Responsibility Sector, attending meetings and reporting back to the office.

If I have to describe my internship in 3 words I will definitely choose: challenging, as I had to come across to new topics that for me were unknown, engaging because since the beginning I felt very welcomed by all my colleagues and constructive, as I enriched my knowledge and improved my skills.

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Student story: I’ve sorted my summer

SharikaHi, I’m Sharika and I am a second-year English student. Alongside my studies, I work as a Student Ambassador for the Widening Participation team at Queen Mary. The aim of Widening Participation is to encourage students from disadvantaged social backgrounds to consider pursing higher education. Not only is this an incredibly rewarding job which gives me the opportunity to make a positive impact on the local community, but being a Widening Participation Ambassador has also allowed me to gain a plethora of transferable skills through working in a diverse range of environments.

This summer, for instance, I am involved with a number of exciting projects. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I worked at the Experience University Week: Creating a Language. In this summer school, a group of Year 10 students learned all about linguistics, and then they constructed their own languages. Through this event, I gained experience working with young people, and at the same time, I was able to learn about linguistics myself! Next week I will be giving a speech to 60 Year 7-9 students at a celebration event (every one of the students has read more than 25 books in the past eight months!). I will be talking to them about reading, English degrees, and about my university experience. Later this month, another Student Ambassador and myself will be delivering a joint-lecture to Sixth Form students. Both of these opportunities will hone my public speaking skills. Moreover, I am currently in the middle of preparing for both of these events and already it has taught me a great deal about how to adapt my communication style to effectively interact with people from different age groups. Furthermore, in July, at the Verbatim Summer School, I will be working with young care experienced students thinking about coming to university.

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Internships dos and don’ts

So you’ve got the internship – now what?

First of all well done on securing your internship!

Once you’ve finished celebrating, it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to make the most of this opportunity and avoid making mistakes that could affect your chances of being hired again.

Here’s a quick list of dos and don’ts to help you stay focused:


  • Contact your new line manager before starting – Let them know that you’re looking forward to working with them and find out what you need to prepare and bring with you on your first day. Also ask about dress code – although it’s always best to dress smartly on your first day to create a good impression.
  • Plan your journey – Sounds obvious but too many people end up at the wrong office or turn up late because they didn’t leave the house early enough. Take their address, phone number and ideally a printout of a map (in case your phone decides it wants to be uncooperative 10 minutes before you’re supposed to be there). Try to leave half an hour earlier than you think you will need.
  • Greet everyone – From CEO to receptionist – formally and daily. Courtesy and respect go a long way in business.
  • Ask questions – Ignorance isn’t stupidity. Employers like inquisitive employees as it demonstrates interest and instills them with confidence about how you approach things.
  • Stay positive and proactive – Get involved in tasks, offer to help colleagues, suggest things you could be doing with your line manager. Take an active part in team meetings and share ideas where appropriate. You will be remembered positively and, at the very least, get a glowing reference!
  • Get involved in social activities – Go for lunch with colleagues, invite people out for a drink, sign up for corporate sports teams etc. Will this cut into your time with your friends? Yes, of course. Do it anyway. These days employers hire based on attitude as much as skill sets. They want someone who wants to be there.

student 3


  • Bring your weekend/holiday attitude with you on a Monday or be too keen to rush out of the door on a Friday – It won’t help you get ahead. Employers want committed and passionate employees.
  • Be late – ESPECIALLY after a night out, either one with colleagues or one with friends that your colleagues know about.
  • Think you aren’t presenting just because you aren’t speaking – Do NOT take out your phone or other mobile device in meetings. Show interest in the speaker. Take notes. That’s it.
  • Gossip/over-share – People who participate in gossip and/or are quick to share stories about last Saturday night aren’t ready for a leadership position. People may laugh, but they notice. Don’t do it.
  • Be negative about your employer – Avoid talking negatively about your boss, employer or colleagues in person or on social media. It will get back to them and it may get you sacked.
  • Dress down on Fridays – if your boss doesn’t. Play by the rules of the team you’re in.

Consistency is key – you don’t want to start strong only to fade away, nor do you want to be scrambling to undo a bad first impression.

Keep the three Ps in mind – Stay positive, proactive and professional and you will be totally fine!

My internship at General Electric

My name is Erica Giuliano and I am a first year engineering student at Queen Mary University of London. I am currently doing an internship in the American company General Electric (GE). Throughout the year Queen Mary organised numerous sessions and talks to help students to pursue a work experience during the summer of our first year. They explained to us the importance of doing an internship both academically and generally the great advantages it can give you as a person. Therefore, I contacted the Engineering Manager in GE and was able to find this internship.

Presently, I am working in the engineering department in GE, in a team called Operability which deals with gas turbines. It is very interesting because I have studied gas turbines this past year in university, but what I am doing here is showing me the practical application and real life examples of what I was learning a couple of months ago from my books. Not only is this all very fascinating but the internship is giving me the possibility to visualise and define the final purpose of my studies, which is a great everyday motivation.

Furthermore, my boss, the entire staff and also my team were very nice to me here. I felt very welcomed and taken seriously as I was immediately assigned tasks that were definitely above my knowledge of Excel or general familiarity with gas turbines. I am currently sitting in the office analysing documents that I had no idea how to read a couple of weeks ago! Almost everyone in the department has helped me in their own way when I had difficulties with my tasks and I have learned many things from a different point of view than a book can give you.

I have gained significant knowledge and insights that I would not have learned in university. My advice to other students is: I know there are a thousand things to do during the year and that there time is very little to go looking on the internet or to go asking someone about an internship. However, it is worth sacrificing the time and effort to find an internship because the benefits you can reap really will help you with your future.


Why Getting An Internship With A Start-Up Was The Best Thing I Ever Did

QMUL School of Physics & Astronomy is a partner of the South East Physics network (SEPnet) which organises a summer placements scheme for 2nd and 3rd year Physics students. This year, six QMUL Physics students have been successful in securing a SEPnet placement and are sharing their experiences with us. Joy Talbot, a 2nd year QMUL Physics student, tell us why she loved her time interning at a start-up.

As soon as I got to university, I hear the word ‘internship’ constantly thrown around. But the horror stories didn’t exactly fill me with excitement: long days making coffee, running errands, printing things off that would be meaningless to me before posting them out to people I’d never heard of. Every company advertises themselves as offering their interns real opportunity to grow, but I always wondered how they could promise this as an organisation of thousands (the only places people get internships right?) where, frankly, the idea of having to beat hundreds of applicants for that single job alone was something that seemed impossible.JoyTalbot_NEUR

Having said that, it was a game I wanted to enter and I knew that if I was serious about getting a good graduate job then it was the right place to start. When the SEPnet summer internships were advertised, I glanced through them wondering which I was eligible to apply for. Having (half-heartedly) applied for many internships the previous summer, I decided that I would choose one carefully and research everything about it I possibly could so that I was utterly prepared when applying.

My chosen internship at Neur seemed to counter all my preconceptions and offered something different as a financial technology start up proposing first-hand experience in a small team. Following my new plan, I researched the company before concentrating on the skills listed as requirements of the position, which included coding and a strong knowledge of machine learning, statistical analysis and natural language processing. QMUL Careers & Enterprise Centre gave me support along the way, ranging from checking both my CV and cover letter before I applied right through to helping with interview technique and an actual mock interview. The preparation paid off and I got the job! Without doubt, the help given to me by the Careers Centre made a massive difference, so definitely go and see what they can do for you.

Not your average internship

Neur is currently based at Google Campus, a coworking space dedicated to start-up success run by TechHub. After eight weeks there, I have realised that I’ve never seen people so enthusiastic about what they are working on – the place literally buzzes with ideas and occasionally you hear little cheers from teams as they find out they got funding or the latest part of their technology has started to work. A start-up will only be as good as the effort that its team puts into it, meaning the energy and life in that one space is remarkable. People type like their life depends on it, whether they’re coding the latest part of their product or writing emails to potentially life changing investors. It’s frantic, but in most cases organised with military precision combined with a lot of thinking on your feet and a little bit of luck. It’s unbelievably exciting! Each new day brings a new challenge, both as an individual and as a team, but as you begin to see your product come to life in front of you the hard work quickly pays off.

As an intern, you’re not really an intern. Working for a start-up means you’re part of the team and share as much responsibility as everybody else with complete creative control over your project. You’re given your own tasks to do and constantly make valuable contributions to the success of the company. I was always asked for my opinion, not because it was nice to ask the intern what they thought, but because the team actually respected my ideas enough to want to listen and often implemented them. At Neur, there were 6 of us. My first ever professional job and I was a sixth of the entire company!

An invaluable experience

Working in such a small team meant that I really got to know everyone and saw what their role included, how they worked and their individual impact on the company. As opposed to a corporate engine where ideas and queries take weeks or even sometimes months to get the green light, here I was turning to the CEO working at the desk next to me to ask if I could explain the system I’d just researched and designed myself. I asked him endless questions, which he was more than happy to help with and as a result I learnt more in eight weeks at Neur than I think I could have learnt in a year at a large organisation.

Most importantly, the work is actually fun. If you work late it’s because you’ve chosen to, you know the team are relying on you and you actually want to help the company. You begin to belong – it’s your start up! I was lucky enough to be invited to weekly events and represent Neur along with the rest of my team, where people asked in depth questions about what I did and what the company does and as a result, I learnt to think on my feet and know Neur inside out. The networking element of working for a start-up will give you more connections than you know what to do with. Luckily, I found my perfect start up and hope to return to them as a graduate, but had I not then I would know plenty of people that I could approach for further internships and potential jobs as a result of completing this placement.

It’ll be slightly overwhelming to begin with, constantly challenging and absolutely nonstop, but working for a start-up is the most effective way of getting real hands-on experience at applying your degree in ways that you’d never imagined. Go and get an internship at a start up! It’ll be the best thing you ever do.