When I was growing up there was no question that I wanted to study at University. For me, it was important because I loved to learn. But when I was studying for my A-Levels, it occurred to me for the first time that it was important that I hit my grades - not just to prove to myself that I could do it, but to secure my future. Like thousands of others, I felt the pressure to excel because I realised that, if I didn't, I might never land that all-important first job - something generations before me never had to consider in quite the same way.
With so many thousands of graduates my age leaving university, the job market is super saturated. I knew I had to do my best to make myself stand out from the crowd and that's why I decided that the best thing for me would be to do a placement year. I studied Maths, Physics and Economics at college and knew that I wanted to do something hands on and practical. I was accepted on to a Product Design Engineering course at Loughborough University and chose to take an industry year as part of my course so that I could use everything I had learnt in context.
Yesterday's article by Lucy Sherriff shows exactly why it's so important for students to graduate with industry experience - employees expect it. My advice to any fresher starting University this week is to think seriously about building a placement year into their degree programme. For me, I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the placement year programme at PepsiCo and have just completed a year working in the Operations department.
I'm really glad that I did a placement year, because, unlike my friends at University who are really worried that they won't get a job - I know that I've got some good skills and experience on my CV. And, maybe even more importantly, I've now got the confidence to sell myself as an employee because I've got genuine experience to draw from.
So if anyone asked my advice today about work experience, I would say without a doubt that completing a placement year is the best way to get employable skills. And that's important - because ultimately it's skills that employers are looking for.