September 2014. The start of my final year as a French and Linguistics student at QMUL. After spending the first three years of my degree blissfully ignoring the fact that I’d eventually have to graduate and get a job, panic set in – I had no post-graduation career plans. Although I’d known for a while that the charity sector was where I wanted my career to lead, I hadn’t given it much thought beyond that.
And so after three years at QMUL, I finally made contact with the Careers Centre. A word of advice – make the most of the Careers Centre, they are there to help! They are amazing and if it wasn’t for them I probably wouldn’t have a job right now. The first step was to update my CV which I had been neglecting for years. After drafting my standard CV, the Careers Centre checked through it to make sure it was up to scratch. Invaluable help. If you’re anything like me and find writing CVs painful, every time you do something that would look good on your CV, update it.
To help boost my CV, the Careers Centre recommended I take part in QProjects – a work experience scheme giving QMUL students and graduates the opportunity to work with a charitable organization. You can find out about new QProjects placements by signing up to receive email alerts. Do it now, it takes seconds.
My first thought was how will I have time to work and study? Final year is going to be stressful enough…can I really find the time to work at the same time? But that’s one of the great things about QProjects – the hours are flexible and placements are designed to fit in with your uni timetable. Perfect.
At first, I was worried I wouldn’t find anything to apply for. But a few weeks later I received an email about a QProjects placement with the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust (HMDT) – the charity that supports and promotes Holocaust Memorial Day (HMD) in the UK.
Holocaust Memorial Day (27 January) is a day for everyone to remember the millions murdered in the Holocaust under Nazi Persecution and in Genocides in Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia and Darfur. On HMD we also honour the survivors of these atrocities and challenge hatred and discrimination in society today. This placement seemed like a good fit for me. Since studying the German Occupation of France in A Level French, I’d had a keen interest in learning more about the Holocaust. I had seen the televised HMD event on the BBC earlier in the year, which was organised by HMDT, and I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to work with the team that had put on such a moving and successful commemorative event.
Aside from this interest, what really appealed to me about the placement was that the successful candidate would be working in all three teams at HMDT – Communications, Operations and Outreach – allowing the candidate to maximise experience and give them the potential to get as much as possible out of the placement.
After successfully being shortlisted for interview I was really impressed with the support provided by the Careers Centre at QMUL. I was offered a practice interview, and was sent lots of documents about how to prepare for job interviews, for which I was very grateful, having not had a formal interview before. Shortly after my interview, I received constructive and valuable interview feedback from Lindsey at QProjects who was sat on the interview panel along with two staff members from HMDT.
It’s impossible to tell how interviews go. But I was thrilled when I got the call to say I’d been offered the placement which would be shared with a fellow QMUL final year student. QProjects placements are designed to prepare students for the working world. It is excellent practice for writing job applications, tailoring your CV (very important!) and preparing for interviews – invaluable experience.
Right from the start of the placement at HMDT I was impressed with how organised it was. I was invited to an induction day in April (2 months before the placement was due to begin) where I was shown a work plan. It was inspiring and varied with lots of opportunities to develop a wide range of skills – perfect for someone who wasn’t sure what kind of job they wanted to do. Working at HMDT reinforced my desire to work in the charity sector and helped me gain experience in an office environment and develop a number of useful skills.
The staff at HMDT were very welcoming and it didn’t take long before I felt like one of the team. I was given a wide variety of tasks ranging from writing social media content to researching and writing educational resources, which are being used as part of the HMD 2016 campaign – a fantastic opportunity.
About a month into the placement, HMDT started recruiting for a Team Assistant to provide admin support to the staff team. I had enjoyed my time as volunteer at QProjects and over such a short period of time I had a gained and developed a variety of skills, some of which featured on the person specification for the Team Assistant role…handy eh?! I didn’t want to leave HMDT, I really believed in their work and the HMD 2016 campaign. There was nothing to lose. So I just applied.
Eventually, my application was shortlisted and after walking out of the interview thinking I had completely messed it up, I was delighted when I received a call a few days later offering me the job. I’ve now been working full time at HMDT for over 3 months and I’ve enjoyed every aspect of it. My main responsibilities include answering the phone, managing the enquiries email inbox, and for the next few months preparing for HMD 2016. Some may question how it can take a whole year to prepare for this one day of commemoration but the work that goes into it from the whole staff team is unbelievable. I’m so glad to be part of the team that is supporting and promoting HMD.
The theme for HMD 2016 is Don’t Stand By and with the issue of how to respond to those fleeing persecution at the forefront of our minds, it is inspiring to learn more about and remember those who didn’t stand by and took action to help those in need. Don’t Stand By encourages us to consider our individual responsibilities not to be bystanders to hate crime and prejudice, nor to international threats of genocide.
I am really very grateful for the help, support and opportunity I got from QProjects and I encourage all QMUL students to take part and become a Project Leader. If your experience is anything like mine was, you won’t regret it.