Name: Melike Berker
Year of graduation: 2013
Company: British Council
Job Title: External Relations Coordinator
At university I strove to do as much as possible, I did extra French classes, became the History Society President and organized trips abroad. These were the most confidence building things I did, as well as being a University Ambassador and History Rep. I also made sure I was as social as possible and met as many people that I could- including lecturers- university staff.
When I finished my degree in 2013, I was at a loss- I didn’t know where to go and how to progress. I started off by doing some work experience placements in the April of 2013, just before I left Lincoln. I worked at two PR companies and the Lincolnshire Echo. These were so valuable and led me to write freelance for websites and publications which gave me exposure and the ability to make a website- an online CV/portfolio. When I moved back with my parents, I did anything and everything from working in admin, in a restaurant and various temporary jobs. This was when I went with an agency in Nottingham. They got me a permanent job at Specsavers in admin and customer service which really boosted my confidence and gave me skills that you would never imagine possible from a simple admin job. I learnt how to deal with people on the phone, how to organize events/meetings and how to lead on projects. I then took a career break and travelled for 2 months. When I came back to the UK, I applied for jobs in London- it took me a few months of applying and temporary work to secure my first role at the British Council.
I began in the exams department which wasn’t my aim, but exposed me to the organization and meant that I was best placed to apply for my job in the arts- as an external relations coordinator. This has exposed me to so many contacts and I feel that I am now establishing myself in the Arts/politics and international relations world.
I work in external relations, this includes managing stakeholders, building a stakeholder management plan and working on events that can boost our place within the Cultural Relations world.
A typical day involves writing briefs, reports, organizing events, talking to internal colleagues, gathering information and organizing logistical aspects of events/meetings.
In terms of benefits- the British Council organize travel abroad, I hope to eventually be able to go and witness some of the work we do in other countries- promoting the UK, helping in third world countries and promoting Cultural Relations.
Because it is an NGO, the British Council does not have to compete with private sector salaries, this means that the starting salary isn’t amazing, but it is livable. I am gaining experience- so I don’t mind too much. The amount of contacts I am gaining is amazing.
To begin with my experience within exams was not a positive one, I had to work overtime and take over the role of my manager. A key piece of advice would be, on matter how hard things may get, you can always use your situation in a positive way. The way I had to step in and manage things in my previous job, helped me get my current job which is, at the moment ideal.
Best Career Advice
Apply for everything, it’s a numbers game. If you are looking to work in London, the best thing you can do, is apply for things at an entry level, even if you start off as an admin assistant, it puts you in a good place to move up in a company. Furthermore, it is like getting on the property ladder, once you are on the employment ladder, there is no going back.
I would also say that experience is a lot more valuable than further education- this is subjective, but I find that my friends who went on to do masters straight after university, are still looking for work- whilst those who went straight into work, are now beginning their careers in a well-placed role.
Don’t aim too high, always apply for the lower roles, and adapt your CV to each application. Temporary agencies are great too, so always apply through them. My local temporary agency was perfect for making a bit of money, saving and gaining valuable logistical and admin experience.