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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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.

It’s Only the Beginning

“The one thing all famous authors, world-class athletes, actors, singers, business tycoons and celebrated achievers in any field have in common is that they began their journey when they were none of these personalities – and yet they began.”

My 10 week summer internship at the Development Office, University of Kent has been a real experience, which I will treasure for many years to come. During my internship, I was part of the Fundraising and Prospect Research Department; working as Fundraising Research Intern. Working at the Development Office was not a normal 9-5 shift. In fact, I got to be involved in real projects – ranging from fundraising campaigns to filming videos and working at the congregation.

I started off my internship looking into the Telephone Campaign where I was involved in preparing recruitment and training materials, as well as preparing the annual report for the Autumn 2015 Telephone Campaign. Being an undergraduate in a scientific field, the report was perfect for me where I could utilize the statistical and analytical skills that I had learned from my studies. This year, the Telephone Campaign, which is one of the biggest fundraising campaigns carried out by the university, was successful in raising over £90,000. The funding is used to facilitate projects such as Kent Opportunity Fund, Hardship Bursary, Postgraduate Scheme and Student Projects in order to promote student experience by facilitating students. In order to promote the Telephone Campaign, I represented the Development Office at the Freshers Fayre stall by designing flyers and distributing them to the students. Alongside the campaign, I had the opportunity to get an insight into the footstep project, a fantastic avenue for the alumni to connect with the university by providing donations to support various projects run by the University and in return, have their personal message engraved in a brick.

One of my shining moments was designing website content for the Student Sport Scheme, a new student project that focuses on enhancing the student experience in the sports sector. Being a student myself, I appreciate the sheer importance of sports in the wellbeing of a student.  My role allowed me to design and compose the website content for this scheme. This involved researching previous alumni, such as Olympic Gold Medallist Susannah Townsend, who received financial support from the university to succeed in their chosen sports whilst studying. It was an invaluable experience to have the privilege to look into their work in sports and how they benefitted from the university. This is evidence of the important role I was provided with, as the content I prepared has now been published on the university website.

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I was also trained in prospect research, including how to carry out various research on Kent alumni, trust organisations and remarkable personalities. I thoroughly relished wealth rating and developing my knowledge of the Raiser’s Edge. It was astounding to learn about the efficiency of the database, which unequivocally helps in carrying out stewardship. Prospect Management and New Leads are also another aspect of the prospect research that I developed my interest in throughout my internship.

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