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Short-Term Work in the U.K.

Short-Term Jobs in the U.K.

A little extra time spent in choosing a short-term job can make your experience abroad all the more worthwhile. The casual nature of service industry jobs make them perfect for some students, but other short-term job opportunities may provide a more valuable education abroad (and cover more of the travel expenses).

After a month of temporary office work in London on BUNAC's Work in Britain program (note: now only available as an internship), I applied for an editorial assistant’s position at Haymarket Publishing Ltd. For the first few months I conducted Internet and magazine research for a conference and travel directory. My job was to study conference and travel brochures from all the major towns and 39 English counties, as well as some travel destinations outside of the U.K. While the rest of the editorial staff pitied me doing this bottom-of-the-totem-pole research job, I couldn't think of a better introduction to England or a more efficient way to figure out which places to visit on the weekends—and get paid for it!

There was also a considerable amount of research to be done on London. I quickly identified all the museums, castles, and manors to visit on my own time, and learned about interesting tours like those given at the BBC studios. Theaters and clubs that also use their space for conferences had to be listed in the directory as well. So while at work, I also planned my weekend trips and where to go out that night. Additionally, I made more money than the average service worker, and I saved countless pounds by checking email on my lunch hour instead of at an Internet café. No retail job could have given me this opportunity.

I looked forward to receiving a geography lesson every day. BUNAC says that their work in Britain program is a good way to internationalize your resume. For me, it was a good way to internationalize my mind.

In my case, Americans’ short-term work status was a plus in getting the job. BUNAC participants were cheaper to hire than contracted permanent residents. Senior editor Michelle Richardson said, "The BUNAC program offers us the opportunity to hire well-educated staff who are happy to work for short periods of time on our projects. Americans have a different approach to the work environment to the British—which generally means that they have a less critical and more 'can do' attitude."

The impression that college students and recent graduates must take retail or food service work in Britain is simply not true. Our time abroad should be used for immersing ourselves in a different culture and gaining work experience. For many recent college graduates, the job we choose will be our first full-time job experience. BUNAC says that 50 percent of participants have jobs within three days. But my advice is to take a little longer and wait for a job you think is right for you. Be flexible, but be smart too. Think about which companies would prefer to hire short-term staff and use that flexibility to your advantage.

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