I was seventeen, blissfully ignorant and enjoying my last year at high school. I worked in retail on Saturdays to fund my social life and the only reason I was still at school was to socialise, and skip free periods to lie in the Hawkes Bay sun. I had next to no interest in any of my classes, let alone an idea of what I wanted to do for my future career.
I applied for university because that’s what everyone else was doing (sad, but true), and flitted between the idea of moving to Wanaka to work in a bar or studying law at Otago – both very contrasting career paths. Mum got me an additional job in a local bar as a Glassy, which quickly changed my opinion on my future as a Barmaid (looking back now, obviously a calculated move on her behalf). So, with my bags packed and my innocence at an all-time high, I headed off to the University of Otago to embark on the next stage of my life.
After a huge blow-out in Laws101 (finishing the paper with 38%), I changed my specialisation to Communications and Marketing. Around the same time, I had the hard word from Dad about getting a job again, so I began working in retail about 15 hours a week. I credit much of my time management and prioritisation skills to juggling my part-time role while also studying full time. Through friends of friends, I then completed a voluntary internship doing Marketing and Communications for one summer. The internship was invaluable to kicking off my career as it gave me office experience and some practical exposure to what I was studying. My Millennial self wasn’t too pleased at having to get up early and work for free, but you “gotta do what you gotta do, right?”
About a month before I finished university, I registered at two recruitment agencies, learned how to write a decent cover letter and got an entry level job, absolutely unrelated to my degree, at a great New Zealand company. I did this with the mindset of getting into a renowned company and working my way up. After six months in the role and through constantly nagging the Marketing team, I managed to secure a position as the Marketing Assistant. I am living proof that persistence really does pay off in the end. Although I didn’t enjoy marketing and ended up changing paths once again, it was a great company to work for and I have no regrets about my time there.
Long story short, I fell into recruitment somewhere along the way, and now absolutely love what I do. Whilst it isn’t directly related to my degree, I’m happy with where my career has led me so far. These days, having a degree isn’t the be all and end all – I am a firm believer in maintaining a good work ethic and being prepared to put in the hard yards before you can get your ‘dream job’.
My advice for how to get your first job with no experience?
Get a part time job as early as possible. If, post university, you find yourself in a role that doesn’t tick all the boxes, talk to colleagues in your organisation about what they do and how you can help out in your spare time. This will go a long way towards building on the practical knowledge you gained in your degree and will help you get a foot in the door when a vacancy in your desired team arises. If you aren’t sure where you want to be yet, don’t panic – these things take time! With a good work ethic and the drive to work your way up, you are sure to reap the rewards in the long run.
If you'd like more advice on getting your first job after university or at any other stage of your career, I’m always happy to help, get in touch here.