Money makes the world go around

My work’s week experience at Octopus Investments commenced on the 10th July 2017, I gained this work experience through the university via a friend’s mum. This work experience was incredibly helpful because it was my first ever work experience with the additional benefit that it was a sector I was hugely interested in as it related to my chosen degree: Financial Economics.

During my short time spent at the firm I couldn’t believe how much I learned mainly due to the organisation prior to my arrival, who had arranged for me to work in a different department every day. My first day was spent with the Client Relation team. The morning was spent shadowing a member of the team listening into calls, where I learnt the most about Octopus itself and the products it sold, with the client relation team having the most knowledge within the company on this aspect. The afternoon was spent with another member of the Client Relation team sifting through and processing feedback whilst improving my computer skills, as I was taught me to process and categorise all this.

My second morning was spent in Octopus’ property sales support team where they briefly outlined what their job entailed, then allowed me to work independently cancelling loan files. In the afternoon, I moved to the sales team and shadowed a member of the team who spoke to financial brokers and pushed to complete loans. On the Wednesday morning, I was with Octopus investment sales support team learning the ins and outs of their job and then creating illustrations (how much return they should expect if they invest X number of pounds with that product) for clients. In the afternoon, I was with a member of the sales team and listened in on his phone calls to potential and current investors. On the Thursday I spent all day with the AIM (Alternative Investment Market) fund team, it was probably the most interesting day of the week because I gained a understanding of how they run their £1.3 billion fund. I sat in on their weekly meeting discussing potential and future investments and then did research on a few of these potential investments, and gave my opinion. I received feedback and the positives of my research was discussed at length, and where to focus more to improve it. On the final day I was in the Labs team (their IT team) who are currently designing and implementing online product platforms which was interesting to see how they were helping the different departments I had been working with the all week.

Overall the work experience was fantastic and I would recommend doing some because it gives great insight into how large companies operate and gives you an opportunity to explore certain fields before actually committing to a full time job in that sector, whilst developing key office skills that will help me in the future after university and it skills which will help me through my studies.

– Ryan Beecheno

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

The University of Kent Work Experience Bursary was a valuable tool for me as it allowed me to attend my work experience at two different sites across London, based in Dagenham and Liverpool Street. The placement itself was extremely useful as it gave me a valuable first hand insight into the structure and working culture of a corporate business. Before the placement I had very little, if any, experience in this kind of working environment and due to the fact that I am usually required to work over the summer due to personal circumstance. This bursary provided me with the financial support to complete the full 2 week term of the placement and an additional training day on Wednesday 12th of July as well as giving me the opportunity to pursue another placement at the end of the summer.

Attending the placement gave me an invaluable insight into the working world, allowing me to network with various different staff members at all different levels of the company. These conversations improved both my confidence and knowledge of the firm as well as enabling to gain an understanding of the various pathways that exist into corporate business and all the different professions it has to offer. Most importantly, the placement provided me with the opportunity to develop strong relationships with those who are able to offer me graduate placements. I was able to demonstrate my strong work ethic and commitment to potentially pursuing a career with the firm after university. Maintaining the connections with these individuals is something that would have simply been impossible without the bursary, as I would not have been able to afford to attend in person. Ultimately, the bursary enabled me to begin trailblazing my own pathway to a graduate career in corporate business.

In my first week I spent a significant amount of time within the finance department mainly shadowing the CFO as well as the head of department. In this time I moved between the numerous sub departments of finance, where I ultimately found myself working closely with the financial accounting and control team, assisting them in the creation of the monthly financial reports. Working within this team was a particular highlight of my week due to the fact that my reason for undertaking the placement was learn about this area and gain an understanding of the day-to-day work schedule. However, my personal career goals how now slightly changed since this and I am now looking at other career paths, but I am keeping it open to possibility because I acknowledge that this experience might be specific to this firm and the culture and diversity of work may be different elsewhere.

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Pick up a copy any time you choose

Over the Easter break I undertook a four week placement with my local paper and news website back in Devon. Although being close to home, I still had to travel by train each day to the head office in the city of Exeter. Even with the short journey time the prices of rail tickets soon added up and without the University’s Bursary there is no way I would have been able to commit to such an extended period of time.

The placement itself – with devonlive.com – the new “digital first” online approach of numerous Devon papers including The Express and Echo and The Herald Express was incredible and completely invaluable to me in regards to my future career plans. Wanting to go into journalism a placement of this kind showed me the practical basics of how to find a story, research it and put the copy together. I also got to interview members of the public on local issues such as bus prices increasing and on charity events (skydives, bake sales, sunflower growing competitions) that they were planning. This improved my confidence and communication skills as I no longer hesitate to ask difficult questions or push for more information. I also got the chance to write for different sections of the publication ranging across news, property and events. For example, I compiled a list of places to find cheap prom dress and even bargain Easter eggs! This was amazing as I got to combine my love for fashion, chocolate and writing – the dream!

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And dream of sheep

On a cold day in February, I had the fantastic opportunity to come across Romney Marsh Wools, a small but at the same time flourishing family business in Kent, founded in 2008. The family farm has re-introduced the many uses for their Romney wool by bringing to the public luxurious products such as hats, scarves, throws, lanolin-based toiletries and natural creams to name but a few. My strong interest in social media and communication as well as a family past in the knitwear industry blended perfectly for the position of Social Media Marketer and encouraged me to apply for it through the University of Kent’s CV Competition.

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I was called for an interview and at my arrival, Kristina Boulden, one of the company’s owners with Paul Boulden, welcomed me warmly to the farm. As I entered the office, I noticed the countless number of prizes and posts covering the office walls, which surrounded the small desk, where all the intensive marketing activity takes place. The rest happens in the remaining thousand acres in which the sheep farming occurs. Two weeks later, I received the delightful news that I had been accepted for the position.

On my first day of work, I had the opportunity to meet Emma, the Digital Marketing Manager, who together with Kristina introduced me to the many facets of the business and opened my eyes to the fascinating history of Romney wool in the South-Eastern Region. During the two weeks, I had to carry out a variety of tasks including posting on social media, creating a newsletter, updating the products on their website as well as coming up with new ideas for promotions to increase the number of followers on the various social media platforms. For my work project, I had also to conduct some market research which involved contacting various retailers in the UK and asking them about their customers shopping habits, buying behaviour and demographics to be used for the marketing campaign. In addition, I had to use Mailchimp to create a promotional newsletter on Aragon Yarns, a supplier of the business and add their vast range of products on the company’s website. It was very challenging and at the same time incredibly rewarding because I could contribute with my ideas directly to the reality of the business. In one of the tasks, I even had to write a blog post on sheep farming, something which I had never done before and this greatly contributed to broaden my knowledge on the many different activities on a farm.

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Being on a small family business, you can really feel part of each stage of the process from the production to the very final product and integrate all of them in your marketing campaign. There is so much you can do every single day on a farm and being knowledgeable is not enough: you need passion for the job. The hard work of Kristina, Paul, Emma and all other farmers is a testimony to this, which rendered my experience at the farm even more inspiring.

In the two weeks at Romney Marsh Wools, I have learnt so much not only about a job but also about a lifestyle. My thanks go to Kristina, Paul and Emma and the University of Kent Employability Service for making this experience possible.

– Valeria Trabattoni is a 1st year Psychology student at the University of Kent

Without any training, it’s pouring, it’s raining

The University of Kent Work Experience Bursary has been extremely valuable to me. I am trying to obtain a training contract and found my ideal firm. The next step was to attend their vacation scheme, and this meant giving up the opportunity to work after my exams until July. This would have left me in a difficult position had I not had access to the bursary. The bursary ultimately gave me the opportunity to spend 5 days working at the law firm, which enabled me to develop relationships with the members of staff there, including those who are able to give me a training contract. I was given the opportunity to demonstrate the skills and potential that I have, instead of having to rely on what I can portray in a written application. The vacation scheme gave me the opportunity to experience four different departments at the firm, which not only provided me with skills tailored to each area of law, but also taught me to learn how to adapt to working in different teams throughout the week.

The most important skill that I gained from the placement was how to handle the responsibility that you are given as someone on work experience at a firm, and how to carry out tasks to my best ability in order to be rewarded with more. By the end of the placement, I had developed strong relationships with the senior members of staff which meant that I could go directly to them for more challenging work.

Our final day of the placement was spent doing a group task. We were given a variety of tasks which allowed the firm to see how well we could work together, culminating in a presentation of our ideas. The experience was more valuable than I could have ever realised at the time. I have previously suffered with nerves when speaking publically, or even to a small group of people. Instead, my confidence had grown so much over the course of the week that I was given the best feedback out of everyone in the group, and was deemed a leader. It was a brilliant learning curve for me.

I’d like to thank those behind the Bursary scheme for enabling me to undertake this opportunity. I am waiting to hear back about my training contract application, and would never have been in this position without the scheme.

– Summer Prior is studying Law at the University of Kent

I might be standing in a crowded dockyard faraway

As part of my work experience at the Historic Dockyard Trust, Chatham, I helped to digitise their ongoing library audit. This involved copying up paper audit reports onto the computer which required a great deal of sustained concentration and attention to detail, meaning I have enhanced both of these skills. Being part of this library audit has helped me to gain a greater comprehension of cataloguing and accessioning.

Furthermore I helped to monitor humidity levels and temperature across the site. Using this technology I have learnt about the importance of regular monitoring as well as the need to update and check equipment. I have also helped to properly catalogue a large number of maps, plans and blueprints which has helped me to understand the necessity of proper cataloguing within a museum environment. This has also given me first-hand experience handling old documents.

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Come sail your ships around me

I spent 5 days working at the Historic Dockyard Chatham, as a volunteer alongside the Archives and Collections team. The Historic Dockyard is a former naval dockyard, which now operates as an independent museum. The site contains many listed buildings, and must balance typical museum work such as exhibitions and events while generating funds through renting office space to local businesses and operating a functioning ropery.

My main role was to help them carry out an extensive library audit by digitising record forms which other volunteers has produced. Many of the forms were incomplete, or contained superfluous information, and I needed to not only type them up but also edit them. This required great attention to detail, and some research was necessary to fill in the blanks and make the appropriate edits.

I also handled a selection of archival items, such as cannonballs, swords, and ropes. This was a wonderful opportunity to get hands on experience with primary sources, and to learn about the work that goes into preserving these items. An examination of the museum’s different exhibitions and galleries followed this. As a former teaching assistant, I thought it was very interesting to see what they chose to present to the public, and which contextual information they had chosen to accompany it. This gave me a useful insight into the link between the research and preservation work that is carried out behind the scenes, and the museum’s public face.

Furthermore, examining the three warships currently preserved on-site at the Dockyard was a unique opportunity to learn more about daily life aboard a sailing vessel, something which provides important context to my ongoing studies in Maritime history.

This work experience has given me a useful insight into the nature of archival work, and work in the heritage sector. Seeing how the Historic Dockyard operates, and the different ways it raises funds, has massively improved my understanding of the challenges facing such organisations, and of the nature of work in the Heritage sector.

– Stewart Murphy is a recent University of Kent History graduate.