On internships, work experience and building a career after uni
Hi, I’m Sami Jassam, a 2014 graduate from Northumbria University. I’m originally from Leeds and I studied BA(Hons) Politics for what I can honestly say were the best 3 years of my life to date. I’m starting my GDL (law conversion) this September .
Why did you study Politics at Northumbria?
I chose to study Politics because of the exciting nature of the subject; world affairs are constantly developing, as is the study of politics as an academic field. I found the modules on the course at Northumbria to be both interesting and contemporary, and there are many to choose from; anything from the European Union, Post-Communist studies, and Diplomacy, to Terrorism, Homeland Insecurities post-9/11 and the Politics of Oil and Global Warming.
When did you decide on a career in law? How does it relate to your degree in Politics?
I decided on a career in Law almost as soon as I decided on a career in Politics if that makes any sense! I found that the two subjects in particular very much so go hand-in-hand. I am aspiring for a career in public law, notably the Government Legal Service, in that you are as much responsible for working around current legislation as you are for formulating new policy and sending it to be debated and voted on in the Commons. More often than not, legal practice is the frontline operation for the current affairs that we read about in the papers.
You have a lot of work experience on your CV – internships, officer training corps – how did you arrange (and finance) these?
I’ve completed a few internships at the UAE embassy in Sweden, with Guy Opperman MP from the Conservatives, and with the Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP from Labour. I cannot stress enough how useful experience is for future job applications, especially in an ever more competitive world. You can never get enough experience, (even with two rivalling political parties) and as a Politics student, it is fairly easy to spin that your political views are liable to change on a regular basis!
I have also spent three years at the at the British Army’s Northumbrian University Officer Training Corps. Obtaining this experience takes little more than a bit of organisation and proactivity on the part of the individual. The benefits of this experience far outweigh any costs you may or may not endure; in terms of financing these ventures, some employers will reimburse you for your travel and accommodation, others will not. In any case, the NUOTC paid me quite handsomely for all the training I received, so you can at the very least break even on anything you have to pay out your own pocket.
What did you learn from your work experiences that helped you with your studies and your future career?
I learned first and foremost that the study of Politics is very different to the practice of it; knowing the theory only helps you so much with the practice. A lot of the time, I learnt that what I was thought in theory was completely neglected in practice! More importantly, I learnt values of professionalism, etiquette, and crucial interpersonal skills, amongst many others; employees often look for these as a general necessity regardless of whether they have employed you or not, so it’s a good idea to take the opportunity to get these right during your university years, get used to the work environment, and its pressures, before actually embarking out into the world of work to do it for real.
Do you have any lessons that you want to pass on to fellow students?
Timing! Organisation! You’ll hear a lot about that from your lecturers and seminar tutors, but maybe it’s easier to digest coming from a fellow student. The fact is, there is a reason why it is always mentioned, but what they fail to mention to you is that it actually works out better for you. Aside from coming out with a strong degree under your belt, you will have more time to enjoy yourself in Newcastle too. It only takes a consistent few hours a day out of your time to get in, get it done, get out, and enjoy yourselves in the evening with a clear conscience. No doubt most of you applying to study at Northumbria already know about Newcastle’s vibrant nightlife and their infamous ‘trebles’. It actually makes sense to keep on top of your seminar work, do the reading, and start your dissertation early. Put it this way; when you wake up in the morning after a night out with your friends in the ‘toon’, you’ll have one less headache to worry about!