Case Study – Duro: Building my experience with Paperound and landing my graduate job

Duro, University of Bristol graduate, and recently announced Finance Graduate at Liberty Global tells us his thoughts on navigating work experience as a student and crossing the void into a graduate job.

How have you gone about getting experience during university?

Naturally, Paperound has been a key source of professional experience during my university time. Since I began around 2 years ago, I have been able to work on a wide range of projects with a variety of businesses, some of which offered me internships and full-time positions afterwards. Alongside this, I applied for internships, work experience and part-time jobs through the standard applications processes. This often required multiple rounds of screening, assessments and interviews but I was fortunate enough to get some assistance through the university and through my network.

I also got involved in university life, taking part in sports and societies, which I thoroughly recommend as they helped my social life just as much as my CV. Finally, I also attended professional talks and events to try and gauge which industries (and companies) would best align with my skillset. 

What did you think of the ‘The Paperound Experience’ itself?

I worked with a wide range of businesses, from different sectors and on different types of tasks.

The fact that Paperound customers are often startups means that you get more direct exposure to all of the business. Not only does this mean that the work is more impactful, but you can see how the cogs fit together. I was also grateful for the fact that, in most cases, I was working directly with the business owner, because it is not something that I would have experienced in more traditional forms of student work.

I had one client who needed help with designing a marketing strategy and needed key insights on how social media could propel the company’s growth. The documents that I produced were then presented in the investor meeting they had just a few weeks after our project, and now months later they’ve opened their first shop and are doing great.

To be directly involved in those critical phases of business inception and growth has been a really rich and rewarding experience that I would certainly recommend to others.

How did you get the most out of your clients on Paperound?

By getting to know the clients directly and recording the work that I had done, I was actually able to ask a couple to be a reference for me when I applied to grad jobs.

I also used them to endorse me on LinkedIn – just being able to show “Hey, here’s another business owner that loved working with me” provides tons of validation. All of a sudden I’m not ‘new’ and ‘risky’, I’m a reliable professional and I have validated examples of professional experiences.

How did Paperound help when it came to graduate job opportunities?
For the first time ever, I have more experiences than I can actually fit on a cv, so when it came to job interviews, or any opportunities, I was able to  choose what experiences I wanted to showcase for that particular conversation.

And it made the conversation so much better, because I was talking about real problems I had solved.

I guess the other aspect would be this idea of ‘learning how people work’ and ‘professionalising myself’. We don’t really think about this often but there’s culture, etiquettes and norms that are commonplace between professionals that you’re not necessarily aware of during university.

On Paperound, I learnt quickly how to navigate that. Simply by talking to a range of different business owners I saw how opportunities moved forward from initial ideas, to meetings, to scoping out what needs to be done. It felt good to be professionalising myself.

Even little things like having a Calendly link to arrange meetings, utilising Paperound’s email templates to articulate myself in opening messages, knowing to arrange a ‘discovery meeting’ to kick off a project, just useful stuff that has helped me become a more rounded professional and be taken seriously as someone that can provide a valuable service. I remember remarking to my friends that it often felt like I was ‘being paid to learn’.

What tips would give to other students looking to build their experience?

I think my overall message is to get involved and to do so as early as possible. Whether it be through university societies, part time work or Paperound, starting to build experiences early is key. By starting, you will have a lot longer to learn the skills that will help you thrive later and, more importantly, you will open doors for yourself; whether that be through building a network or for full-time offers and internships.

What would you say to businesses thinking about utilising students for their digital projects?

I would commend them as I think it is a great idea. There are loads of students looking for professional, paid, part-time work and numerous businesses looking to outsource work and gain access to graduate talent. 

I believe that it is a model in which all parties benefit and I hope that it becomes more prevalent in the future.

Duro’s Paperound profile will be open until September 2022.
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