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Elizabeth O’Leary

Elizabeth O'Leary alumni image

Name: Elizabeth O’Leary
Year of graduation: 2015
Company: SDD GES
Job Title: Junior Exhibition Designer


Whilst in my second year of Uni, I applied for work experience for the summer – as I had a sales assistant job at the time that I didn’t want to lose for my return and thought I might as well as I’ve got my Uni digs till the start of August.

I did half work experience at an exhibition firm in Lincoln which was just on the outside of the city. It was paid but I couldn’t drive at the time and the only means of me getting there was taking the train to Saxibly and biking four miles through the countryside there and back and getting the train again. Lugging a bike over the Lincoln train bridge and onto the train wasn’t fun at all. But worth it. I learnt how to use a 3D software which we weren’t taught at Uni. I took matters into my own and hands because if I was going to have a good portfolio and good work in my final year I needed to learn the software. That helped a lot – which I then passed on to the other students too.

I also attended a Kickstart program which helped massively in terms of getting my CV to a high standard and the right format. The sessions were catered to creative students and I wanted to stand out. My interests have also been very high when it comes to design and creativity. And I’ve always been highly motivated from day one.

I wanted to graduate with a first and I did everything possible to obtain it. I worked in the evenings and made sure I went back to the studio, stayed till 5am and walked back home then back in the afternoon – the ground work was very important as the volumes of work was ridiculous I had to manage my time in order to achieve what I did.

Because my course is very small and full of contacts from outside of Uni it made getting a job at the end not easy, but less challenging than other courses. A guy from my current firm (who is now my line manager and friend) came to take interviews from candidates – they said that there was only one job going. My friend and I (who I still work with today) both ended up getting the job. They gave good feedback and I started before I even graduated. So having a job lined up already was really special.

Employment Experience

Here we would like to hear things like what you do in your current role – for an example, what an average day is like. If you are comfortable discussing, it is also a great place to share what your employer offers you in terms of support, benefits and salary

I work in the studio, and office – My boss will give me emails or brief on the sort of project for the day that will either run into the week etc. I have a line manager who over sees what I do and checks everything over. I work with some fantastic people with amazing design abilities who create some pretty high in stuff. Which is great as they give me tips and advice all the time – increasing my knowledge more and more every day.

I learnt how to use another design software through training provided by the company and colleagues which I needed to learn and has but me in a better place in terms of design software knowledge then I was at Uni.

I have also been on many site trips/visits in Europe to oversee projects and some of the designs I’ve created in the studio which is really rewarding and a great way to understand how they construct and develop the final stages.

We also go on a lot of design nights out and for drinks which I also think is important – when working with the same people every day, they become family and you really appreciate the work you do and the job you’re in. this also allows you to know a bit bigger opportunities that might come arise to myself in the future.

We had a design audit recently, we were met other designs from our company. Our company has offices in Germany, Coventry, The Middle East and USA, it’s not always you meet and a lot of it is sending emails back and forth. These meetings are very useful in terms of who you are working with and what projects are up and coming for the future.

The money is very good, and I’ve been fortunate enough to go on loads of holidays as well as site trips, passed my driving test, buy a car and move into a house share in the center of Sheffield where I’ve met some great people who I’m now moving out with and getting an apartment.

Using University of Lincoln's Career Services

Services Used: Kickstart program

I really enjoyed going to this, it was so helpful and the sessions were very important for my career. Deciding what I wanted to do and how to apply for it. The little things like sending a professional email and renaming documents and sending to employers was very crucial as I have learnt with a friend of mine applying at my work recently and his badly worded email didn’t get him the job.

The program showed key features of what to do and what not to do when applying for jobs, and most importantly how to stand out from the crowd, how to make your CV and portfolio like no other. I found it so beneficial and I would 100% recommend that to everyone and anyone!

A lot of my friends at Uni asked my advice on their CV, knowing I had been to these sessions, and I’ve actually in fact head hunted my friend through a recruitment guy to get her the job she has now – so it is all worth it!

Best Career Advice

Get jobs and work experience in the fields you want and care about. This made such a difference and really enhanced my portfolio!

I believe the experience I had – paid and unpaid showed commitment, maturity and work ethic. The added work you do on the side for instance: working in shops, supermarkets etc also adds to your knowledge, people skills and experience. I had some friends through Uni that had never had a normal job let alone work experience, and that really was a setback to them applying to the design jobs they wanted after graduating, even if their work was really good!

Furthermore, the work experience you gain, you also make contacts and impressions that will future your career. I still keep in touch with some people I was only on work experience with for 2 weeks. And I also had other people who I worked with asking me for news at other connections id made due to my LinkedIn in history. So it’s good to be put on the radar, and puts your name out there.

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