Even before I applied to study Politics at Newcastle I went out and got some work experience with my local (then prospective) MP back at home in London. It’s easy to approach your MP through the House of Commons. I just wrote a letter.
Even though this work was unpaid, it helped with my CV, and so now I do a couple of days campaigning for my MP each holiday, to keep up the contact. Who knows how helpful it might be when I graduate – even though I have no plans to become a politician . . .
It was interesting – gripping – to observe how political campaigns work on the ground in practice. There were loads of other great young volunteers and I enjoyed the sense of being in a community striving towards a shared goal.
I have also done work experience at a literary agency, and at a magazine company. I enjoyed the former much more, as I ended up reading ‘the slush pile’ – which means the unsolicited manuscripts mailed in to agencies in remorseless quantities every day. I was very much hoping to discover the new J. K. Rowling, and achieve fame, glory and dosh.
But I didn’t.
Though I learned a lot about office life, and about how the whole universe wants to become a writer. My mum’s a writer, and she says, ‘God knows why’. At the magazine company, I lifted piles of magazines from one room to another for many hours; again, I learnt a lot about office life, and although it wasn’t for me, it didn’t seem as ghastly as people make out. That said, it was a small magazine, with a jolly team.
On each of these placements I got £150 a week to cover travel costs and lunch.