Growing a Sustainable Career

Abbie Banner graduated from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, with BSc Zoology in 2018. She is currently GBP Campus Sustainability Project Coordinator (Cornwall). Go Green Week is happening on the Streatham Campus 18th – 22nd March. 

Abbie Banner, Exeter Alumn and current Campus Sustainability Project Coordinator (Cornwall)

My role is based in the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the Penryn Campus, and I work with all four institutions on the campus: the University of Exeter, Falmouth University, Falmouth Exeter Plus (shared campus service providers) and the Students’ Union (FXU).

I ensure that each of the organisations can support and contribute to making sustainability the norm on campus – this means something different most days. From data handling for creating a ‘sustainability dashboard’ for the campuses, to researching best practice for handling commercial food waste. Along with assisting with restructuring of our campuses’ sustainability governance, to ensuring practices are in line with the University’s biodiversity policy.

“..being immersed in life by the sea in Cornwall, based on a small, green campus away from the city life I was used to, strengthened my desire to be involved in sustainability within my career.”

The summer before beginning University I switched to a plant-based diet. It was my research through this change that opened my eyes to the damage that humans cause to the environment. My personality type is ‘advocate’ which means that I need to feel I’m making a difference to the world, including through my career, so sustainability is the perfect platform for this. Also, being immersed in life by the sea in Cornwall, based on a small, green campus away from the city life I was used to, strengthened my desire to be involved in sustainability within my career.

I honestly had almost zero extracurricular commitments for the first couple of years at University. It wasn’t until I gained some confidence at the end of my Second Year, when I became more involved and started to gain some relevant experience.

There are so many ways to be involved in sustainability on campus as a student. I dived into the deep end and ran for Environment and Ethics Officer in the Leadership Team of FXU. I was lucky enough to win this student-elected role, which was voluntary and part-time alongside my degree. I also participated in Grand Challenges: Food for Thought as well as the Green Consultants programme.

As Environment and Ethics Officer, I presented two ‘motions’ at FXU’s AGM. Both motions voted to pass, which included to ban all plastic straws on campus, and to halve the number of single-use plastic water bottles on campus.

Through the Green Consultants programme I had the opportunity to work with Fifteen Cornwall, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant at Watergate Bay with a “positive for the planet” ethos. My team completed a waste audit, analysing 3 years of bills to output infographics and suggested implementations. This felt like my first experience of “real life” work, and a year later I am on the other side Green Consultants acting as the client for several on-campus projects.

One piece of advice I would give to anyone wanting to be more sustainable:
Make more conscious decisions.
We lead habitual lives in which it’s easy to make subconscious unethical and unsustainable choices in our daily lives. I hold my hands up and admit that I am not perfect and believe each to their own personal journey towards a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

Here are some practical conscious decisions you can make as a consumer:

  • Find a zero-waste/ plastic-free shop near you for food like oats, pasta, rice, oil and sugar
  • Take your money out of fossil fuels and switch to a renewable energy supplier such as Ecotricity or Bulb
  • Choose vegetarian and vegan options more often to reduce your carbon and water footprint
  • Go to vintage, charity shops and clothes swaps for some cool second-hand clothing pieces
  • Recycle the pesky non-recyclables such as crisp packets, pens and toothpaste tubes at a local Terracycle point

“I believe there is only going to continue to be a rise in the number of jobs within this sector, with more organisations jumping on the green band-wagon.”

I believe there is only going to continue to be a rise in the number of jobs within this sector, with more organisations jumping on the green band-wagon. When my role comes to an end this summer I am eager to go back to the roots of the environmental movement for some time, looking at eco-living, minimalism and incorporating slow-living principles into my lifestyle.

Most importantly for me I am looking forwards to spending time with family and friends as well as some travelling before deciding on my next steps.

Starting a Career in International Politics

Jack Berringer graduated from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, with BA Politics in 2014. He’s currently a Parliamentary Assistant at the European Parliament, Brussels. 

Jack Berringer – Exeter graduate and current Parliamentary Assistant at the European Parliament, Brussels.

Since graduation I have been working in the European Parliament, first as an intern before being promoted to an assistant. I initially worked for an MEP from the East Midlands region focusing on regional development policy, which interested me after studying on the Penryn campus and seeing how the funding had such a positive impact on the local area. My MEP was then elected to the House of Commons in the 2017 General Election and I moved to another MEP, this time representing the South West, working on environmental policy. It’s a fascinating policy area as it’s so broad and you’re constantly learning new things and seeing the ways in which technology is being used to combat the effects of climate change. Also in the past year I’ve started studying part-time at KU Leuven for a Master’s degree in Economics and will complete my studies there in June 2019.

“For anybody wishing to pursue a career in politics abroad I would simply recommend that you throw your name into the hat and go for it… You have absolutely nothing to lose from sending in an application and, if you are lucky enough to be offered an interview or job, just take it one step at a time.”

For me working in EU affairs was a natural progression having studied politics and written my dissertation on the EU accession process. I had also always harboured the ambition of working abroad, so as soon as I saw the opportunity to move to Brussels I jumped at the chance. The thing I find most enjoyable about my job is being in a truly cosmopolitan work environment. On an average day I will speak to people from perhaps 10 different countries and it’s always interesting to talk about what’s happening in our respective countries and the effects that these events are having. For me it’s also very cool to be able to say that you work on creating EU legislation.

My favourite thing about studying at Exeter was the people I found myself surrounded by, both students and lecturers alike. Being on the Penryn campus and having a smaller group of students added to the experience. I think we bonded massively as a group and the fact that lecturers were able to perhaps give us a bit more face time individually, if required, was also a major benefit.

Looking at the league tables I knew that Exeter was one of the 10 best universities at which to study Politics when I was applying, and that was naturally something I considered. When visited the campus I was really impressed by how modern the teaching facilities and accommodation was and this just reinforced my feeling that I wanted to study there if I got the necessary grades.

“It may sound obvious but write your thesis on an area you would like to work in. It means you may get the opportunity to meet people in the industry and make contacts prior to graduation…”

For anybody wishing to pursue a career in politics abroad I would simply recommend that you throw your name into the hat and go for it, no matter how nervous you might be about the idea of leaving family/friends behind. You have absolutely nothing to lose from sending in an application and, if you are lucky enough to be offered an interview or job, just take it one step at a time. Living in a country forces you out of your comfort zone, no matter how extroverted you are, and when you add to that the fact that you can learn other languages which improves your employability and experience other cultures I really cannot see a downside.

In the future I hope to continue working in the environmental side of business, hopefully using the Master’s degree I am studying for, and move to another country before coming back to the UK.

It may sound obvious but write your thesis on an area you would like to work in. It means you may get the opportunity to meet people in the industry and make contacts prior to graduation and, even if your dissertation does not require meeting with people from industry, it will show your interest to potential employers when looking for a job further down the line.

Made in Exeter

Benjamin Dale graduated with a BA in French and Spanish in 2015 and currently works as a Researcher for Made in Chelsea at Monkey Kingdom

Benjamin Dale, Exeter alumn and current Researcher for Made in Chelsea.

Once I graduated from the University of Exeter, I initially started work in the advertising industry. I was keen to work in a creative environment and realised though I may not be the person to come up with the ideas, I may well enjoy being a part of the process to refine and bring these to life. I started at an independent agency named Mother, before moving to a network agency Leo Burnett.

I concluded that in fact it was the production-side of advertising where I felt most engrossed. One of my biggest passions, among music and film, is television. I therefore decided I would try my hand in the world of TV production, marrying my interest and the element of advertising I had enjoyed the most.

“The industry is all about reputation, and therefore working as a team player, always being inquisitive and being a reliable pair of hands is crucial.”

It is commonplace knowledge in the TV industry that no matter your age or previous career experience, you start at the bottom of the ladder as a production runner. This is likewise something which everyone recommends; it provides the opportunity to see how the full production and crew teams operate as entities and gives one the insight into several varying aspects of the industry. It almost acts as a training ground, though admittedly much of the job role can be spent making cups of tea! Just a reality of the industry and the role of being a runner that I had to not only accept, but do so willingly without complaint. It is a position in which it is less about your level of responsibility that matters, but rather your level to take on jobs no matter how big or small and make the best impression possible. And do it all with grace and a smile on your face, looking for where you can add value in other areas beyond simply the job description. The industry is all about reputation, and therefore working as a team player, always being inquisitive and being a reliable pair of hands is crucial. I started as a runner on Gogglebox in February 2018 for a full series of the show. I then worked as a casting researcher for the show over the summer months before taking on the role as researcher on the latest series which ended in December. Currently I am working at a company named Monkey Kingdom for the show Made in Chelsea.

Though a university degree is not essential for gaining experience in the industry, I am thankful for having studied languages. The skills gained have been invaluable to me in both industries I have worked in; from clear communication and presentation skills through to applying my knowledge of the culture and languages themselves in adaptations of advertising campaigns or TV production shoots abroad. I have found myself surprised even in recent months of where my ability to speak a language has massively benefited a team.

“…I am thankful for having studied languages. The skills gained have been invaluable to me in both industries I have worked in; from clear communication and presentation skills through to applying my knowledge of the culture and languages themselves in adaptations of advertising campaigns or TV production shoots abroad.”

In terms of skills necessary to succeed in the industry, I would say an ability to think on your feet – a skill definitely taught in languages – is important. On a regular basis something can go awry on location for a shoot, from cast arriving late and causing delays to a filming schedule, through to equipment not functioning as it should. A good producer will always think quickly and succinctly of a way to make up the time and communicate this to their manager above, or work around malfunctions. Likewise, being inquisitive in other people and showing an interest in their lives is fundamental to success in reality television. Contributors, or cast, of a show will not always readily open up in ways you hope, and therefore it will be a good producer who sets them at ease, briefs them correctly for the filming ahead and draws out nuggets of information which can help inform content of the show.

Each day is incredibly varied in television; I would say it is rare to ever have exactly the same day twice. This is due to the nature of the industry and how each week (or day) you will be working towards the filming of something different to the last. I enjoy this immensely as never typically find myself staring at the clock towards midday wishing the working day would be over! The industry is freelance-based too, meaning once one series is finished filming, you then move onto typically something different. It can feel daunting to not have total stability in a normal company structure with a permanent contract job, however being someone who welcomes change, this brings excitement; again, meaning you never really feel a sense of repetition in what work can bring.

As I have hopefully outlined above, this is an exciting industry offering much variety. One day I hope to move from being a researcher to become a lead series producer, still working in my biggest passion area TV.

It’s Never Too Late… helps final-year Humanities students get that extra level of support during their final year of studies and aims to empower them to feel ready to tackle life after university with help from successful Exeter alumni, and showcasing opportunities including those from the Career Zone. If you have any questions about the campaign please do email

Unknown – Being a student with a hidden disability

Hannah O’Dowd, Final Year student studying BA English and Drama with Study Abroad.

Hannah O’Dowd is Final Year student on the Streatham Campus, studying BA English and Drama with Study Abroad. She talked to us about her experience of being a student with an invisible disability caused by a traumatic brain injury.

When I began university I was excited to continue my studies having completed my IB. I had no experience of cognitive deficits until on my Study Abroad year, when I sustained a traumatic brain injury. My brain could no longer process things the way it used to, and I’ve had to learn how my brain now works.

Before my injury I used to take pride in my independence, confidence, and seemingly endless amounts of energy. These are things which were snatched from me. I now question everything I say and do. I am far more analytical and I question other people’s actions and words, when before I wouldn’t have. I used to try and fit in more things in a day than was ever going to be possible before my injury; now I can only consider trying to do a fraction of the things I used to do. It is very difficult to explain to people why I have to do the things the way I do, this is because my brain injury is an invisible disability.

“I used to try and fit in more things in a day than was ever going to be possible before my injury; now I can only consider trying to do a fraction of the things I used to do. It is very difficult to explain to people why I have to do the things the way I do, this is because my brain injury is an invisible disability.”

One symptom of a brain injury which affects me is decreased verbal fluency. I have word finding difficulties (particularly when I am fatigued). The time taken for me to get frustrated (with myself or others) has also dramatically decreased since the injury. ‘Dropping an issue’ or ‘moving on’/’forgetting about it’ is a response which cannot be done with ease for someone with a brain injury. It’s often embarrassing to experience an angry response to something which I then later reflect to be unfitting for the situation. I have so much self-doubt about the placement of my anger and as a result I often seek confirmation from others to check that my feeling is founded. I used to be a dramatic person, but I was never an ‘angry person’. It’s difficult, but this reaction is because my brain no longer has the ability to process the information fully and quickly; I might misread something and react, and others won’t understand why I have that reaction.

Harsh sounds and lights can be very distressing to someone with a brain injury. But simultaneously trying to read something in dim light will exaggerate fatigue as it works the brain harder. Managing this is difficult and is a challenge every day.

Another common result of a brain injury is for someone not to be able to recognise what is or isn’t socially appropriate. For me, I frequently have ‘no filter’. So the things you think but don’t say, someone with a brain injury might say it. My brain no longer compartmentalises information the way it used to. As a result, I might disclose information which is not obviously relevant to the conversation being had. This can put me (and anyone with a brain injury) in a very vulnerable position; it is something I must monitor as best I can. This filtration that I now must consciously do, is a contributory factor to my fatigue. My energy levels have depleted massively. This is another change which I unfortunately have to get used to. Not only does the brain injury mean that I am far more tired, it also means that I experience pain on a regular basis. I might look like the same person but because of this invisible injury everything is very different. Every brain injury is very different, but all symptoms are exaggerated by fatigue.

“I am very fortunate to have a graduate role lined up for when I finish my undergraduate degree… I am comfortable knowing Accenture have supported me in my return to work over my summer internship and am confident they will continue to do so after I have graduated.”

I am very fortunate to have a graduate role lined up for when I finish my undergraduate degree. Before my injury, I worked for Accenture during my gap year and was meant to undertake a summer internship with the company in the penultimate summer of my degree. Due to my injury, I was unable to undertake the internship in 2016, but the Accenture invited me back to take part in the scheme when I was recovered enough. They were fully aware of my traumatic brain injury; with this in mind they placed me with a client located most conveniently to minimise my fatigue and avoiding the need for me to have extra travel.

When I began my project, I informed my line manager of my brain injury. I did this so that if I struggled with certain scenarios (for example: divided attention exaggerated by fatigue) he would be able to understand why I might find some things more difficult than others. He was very professional and understanding. I also was given the option to work remotely if I needed to and the company has policies in place to ensure I was able to attend necessary medical appointments around my work timetable. Remote working is something the company was very supportive of, for many employees and for varying reasons. At the end of this 8 week internship I was pleased to have been offered a graduate position with the firm. I am comfortable knowing Accenture have supported me in my return to work over my summer internship and am confident they will continue to do so after I have graduated.

While I was in hospital I wrote a blog (initially as part of my speech therapy) and have written a few posts since being back at University. This was something I found to be a good outlet for what I was experiencing. It was a way of me coming to terms with what had happened, and a way of explaining the situation to others.

As I complete my degree I am also creating a show titled ‘Unknown’  about my time in hospital and living with my injuries. I will be taking this show to Edinburgh Fringe in August 2019. I hope it will help the audience to understand the difficulties faced by trauma survivors.

Enter… Pathways!

Sarah Hunt – Exeter student, Pathways participant, writer of Sk8er Boi.

Sarah Hunt is a Liberal Arts student based on the Streatham Campus. 

Jumping straight into the job market can seem pretty scary, right?

Before last year, I had this vague idea that marketing might be my career of choice, but I couldn’t say for sure. I had a few bits of work experience, but I wasn’t studying for a marketing degree, so most of the theory went straight over my head. Not only was I worried that I wouldn’t have a strong grad scheme application, but I was also concerned that, in a workplace, I’d be doing a whole lot more sinking than swimming. Basically, I needed some metaphorical armbands, and I needed them quick.

Enter… Pathways!

Summer is the opportunity to break free from university, to go out and live our best lives. That’s why a three-month summer internship can seem daunting; you go straight from exams into an even more testing environment.

Pathways is different. You don’t have to give up your whole summer, and in return for spending two weeks in a structured scheme, you get peace of mind that you’ve gained a fabulous lilo of information and experience to keep you afloat during application season and in jobs. It means you can chill when you’re bobbing around the pool just two weeks later.

“Pathways is different… in return for spending two weeks in a structured scheme, you get peace of mind that you’ve gained a fabulous lilo of information and experience to keep you afloat during application season.”

So, what is Pathways?

Pathways is a careers scheme run by the University of Exeter. It’s designed to take in those who are interested in a career in a certain discipline, and boost their knowledge, training and inspiration.

Week one is an intense learning week. You participate in talks from professionals, training sessions, Q&As and a project that’s presented in front of industry professionals. It covers loads of ground in your discipline – for instance, in Pathways to Marketing, we covered sports marketing, PR, agencies, digital, data, business-to-business and heritage, to name just a few. All in one week. There was no hanging around, let me tell you that.

Week two is totally different. You are sent off into the wide world to try out what you’ve learned at a business related to your area of interest within your discipline. Here, you do a one-week internship, getting to know the ropes, meet the people and prove to yourself that you’ve got what it takes for a career in this industry. It’s the perfect taster; short, intense and varied, because those supervising you are always keen to get you as involved as possible. For me, I went to HoneyBe Creative – a small marketing company in Exeter, where I increased the number of employees by half! I learned loads in just one week, and was able to ask my questions and improve my performance while I was there.

What did I get out of it?

SO MUCH, is the short answer.

The longer answer is that, because it comes from the Uni, Pathways is structured to give you the best start you could possibly get in your career of choice. Whereas other internships might expect me to basically already be a pro, I needed only passion to get onto the Pathways scheme, and came out of it with increased knowledge, confidence to apply to grad schemes, and a load more passion that resulted from the fab experiences I’d had.

But y’all want concrete facts, don’t you? OK. Here’s what I’ve gained from it:

  • I now know terminology that will get me through applications.
  • I can discuss important marketing debates that affect companies, like GDPR.
  • I know how to approach a marketing project and what makes it run smoothly.
  • I can pinpoint the specialist area of marketing I want to go into.
  • I know exactly how to improve my copywriting, thanks to my internship.
  • I’ve boosted my confidence in a workplace environment.
  • I’ve got two new things to put on my CV (the scheme, plus the internship).
  • I have new friends who I can ask for advice as we head towards the same career goals.

And that’s all from one intense, two-week course.

“Pathways is realistic, informative and gives you the breadth of information that even a whole summer stuck in one office couldn’t give you.”

I’d recommend Pathways, 100%. But who should do it?

I used to love those personality finder games in kids’ magazines. The ones that were like ‘Which 2000s pop diva are you?’ Avril Lavigne, but that’s not my point.

My point is that there isn’t one type of person who needs to do Pathways. There’s more than one route to get there (just like getting to Avril Lavigne). So, Pathways is for you if:

  • You’re someone who has a vague idea of what career path you want to take. Why? Pathways will give you the knowledge that you need to make a more informed decision.
  • You’re looking for an internship that’s going to be intense, supportive and really teach you things. Why? Pathways guarantees you an internship and guides the internship providers to making your week there beneficial to your career progression. So, basically, no more tea-making.
  • You want to boost your CV to prep you for grad scheme applications. Why? Pathways gives you two solid items to put on your CV, and a huge number of experiences to draw on for those pesky ‘Talk about a time when…’ interview questions.

Those are just three examples, but Pathways is open to anyone at Exeter (and Penryn), and I truly believe that it can benefit anyone and everyone towards making good career choices in the future.

Basically, I think you should apply. And they didn’t even ask me to say that.

There’s a wide variety of Pathway disciplines and talks from people who are specialists in those areas. If you’re not into marketing, there’s everything from politics to culture and heritage, and loads more.

Pathways is realistic, informative and gives you the breadth of information that even a whole summer stuck in one office couldn’t give you. For me, the most important part was that it gave me confidence to know that this is the right career path for me. For others, it may be the experience that helps them turn around and go in a different direction. Ultimately, Pathways is out to help you achieve the best for your future. It definitely did for me.

 

The details…

Applications open until 24 February 2019 Shortlisted students will then be invited to an assessment centre where the final selection of candidates to go forward to the training internship stage will be decided.  Assessment Centres will take place towards the end of March before the end of term.

Employer led training will be from 17-20 June 2019

Paid internship from 24-28 June 2019

Pathways are available in a number of flavours this year… ‘Arts, Culture and Heritage’, ‘Charity and Development’, ‘Digital Innovation’, ‘International Trade’, ‘Marketing’, ‘Politics and Government’, and ‘Sport and Health’.

Passion, Ability and Confidence – a Career in Law

Andrea Hounto graduated from the University of Exeter, Tremough Campus, with BA (Hons) History and Politics in 2016. She’s currently a Stagiaire at the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg. 

Andrea Hounto, Exeter (Tremough Campus) Graduate and current Stagiaire at the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg

After graduating from Exeter, I went on to do the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL, also known as the law conversion course). I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the law school (BPP), which covered the majority of my course fee. I then obtained a place on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and decided to do an integrated Master of Laws (LL.M). Upon successful completion of the BPTC, I’ll be getting called to Bar of England and Wales. I’m currently undertaking a six-month internship at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, as the lucky recipient of the Hon. Sir Peter Bristow Scholarship. I was given this opportunity by my Inn of Court, who is funding me to be here. It is an amazing opportunity to develop both my legal experience and use my French language skills.

When I return to the UK, I’ll be seeking to obtain pupillage in a London-based chambers, which is the final step to qualifying as a barrister. Ultimately, I am planning to become a human rights barrister and then qualify as a judge.

“I chose this career because I’m passionate about speaking up for those who are unable to speak for themselves; for the rights of all who are destitute. I want to be an advocate for the vulnerable and marginalised, those who are often overlooked by our legal system.”

I chose this career because I’m passionate about speaking up for those who are unable to speak for themselves; for the rights of all who are destitute. I want to be an advocate for the vulnerable and marginalised, those who are often overlooked by our legal system. What I enjoy most about my work is knowing that I am using my skills to impact lives in a positive way and bring hope to those who may have lost it.

My degree put me in good stead for career at the Bar in that it developed my critical and lateral-thinking skills. I particularly enjoyed writing my third-year dissertation titled: ‘Is Margaret Thatcher the Ultimate Feminist Heroine?’, which explored the significance of Margaret Thatcher’s election as prime minister. Due to the largely polarized opinions of Thatcher, I was required to extract objective facts from tendentious material; a skill which will be invaluable at the Bar. Academics aside, being president of the African and Caribbean Society during my second year significantly boosted my confidence with regards to public speaking. Similarly, being BME Officer on the Liberation Committee in my third year gave me insight into what it means to advocate on behalf of a group of people and represent their interests.

“..being president of the African and Caribbean Society significantly boosted my confidence with regards to public speaking. Similarly, being BME Officer on the Liberation Committee gave me insight into what it means to advocate on behalf of a group of people and represent their interests.”

I would advise all current students who wish to pursue a career in law, regardless of whether they want to be a barrister or a solicitor, to start their research early. Try to find out what the difference between a barrister and a solicitor is as early as possible, and then work towards building your experience in that field. Don’t worry too much about specialisms, just try to get whatever legal experience you can get your hands on. The more experience you have, the easier it will be for you to ascertain which areas of law you like and which areas you don’t like. I would also recommend applying for as many scholarships as possible to fund your legal studies (GDL, LPC, BPTC, LL.M etc.). Lastly, I would say: don’t let the statistics scare you. Yes, law is competitive. Yes, you will face rejection and bumps in the road. Yes, getting into a top firm or chambers is extremely difficult. However, as long as you are prepared to work hard to achieve your goals, there is no reason why you can’t do it. Be confident in your abilities!

“Yes, law is competitive. Yes, you will face rejection and bumps in the road. Yes, getting into a top firm or chambers is extremely difficult. However, as long as you are prepared to work hard to achieve your goals, there is no reason why you can’t do it. Be confident in your abilities!”

Volunteering is key at the beginning as you will be very inexperienced. As you build experience, you can look for paralegal roles or legal internships which will benefit you greatly when it comes to applying for pupillage (barristers) or Training Contracts (solicitors).

What’s it really like to be a postgraduate student?

Imogen Knox is studying MA History at the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus. 

Imogen Knox, MA History, Exeter

Fairly early on in my undergraduate degree, it occurred to me that I could make a career out of doing what I love – research! This initially seemed somewhat of a pipe dream, as I was unsure about a lot of the elements of studying at postgraduate level. How would I fund another year? Did I want to go on to become a lecturer? What would my parents think of me spending another year in university and not getting a graduate job? Would I even still want to do further study after completing my third year dissertation?

So for a while these thoughts floated around in my head, and as I moved up through second year and into third year, I decided I ought to give this some serious consideration and properly look into my options after graduating from my BA.

Funding

As I saw it, the main obstacle to a Master’s course would be how I would pay for it. The introduction of the Master’s Loan from Student Finance resolved the matter of paying fees, though I still had to consider rent and other living costs. Before the introduction of postgrad loans, I had considered taking a year out to earn the money to pay for another year of study, but with the promise of a loan of around £10,000, I calculated that I could save up money from my part time job during my third year, work full time over the summer, and then pick up my part time job again during my Master’s, which would give me enough funds. If you are aiming to secure a part time job while studying, think about how much time you can reasonably spend working without sacrificing your studies; I started out this year working 9 hours a week, which I found I had to reduce to 6 hours in order to fit in my course, reading, and other activities to maintain a balanced life.

Something to bear in mind while thinking about your costs is the course fees, which can differ between universities and courses. While a £10,000 loan may sound like a lot, the course fees may deplete most of this, meaning that you will have to look elsewhere for living costs. The location of your course will also impact on living expenses and the cost of rent; most obviously, rent in London will be higher than other areas of the country. Keep this in mind when calculating how much money you will need for your course.

Another avenue to explore is scholarships, which you might receive from your university, or an external funding body. For me, the progression scholarship made staying at Exeter particularly attractive, as I received £1,000 off my fees for continuing to study in Exeter. You might be able to find additional financial help depending on a range of factors such as your background, or your proposed research. Check out the information on finance for the universities you are considering. The following websites are also useful:

https://www.postgraduatesearch.com/funding

https://www.prospects.ac.uk/postgraduate-study/funding-postgraduate-study

Choosing your course

Finding the right course for you has got to be the most crucial element of your research into postgraduate study. I was extremely lucky in that Exeter catered to my research interests, and therefore I decided to stay on for another year. That being said, I reached this decision through researching a variety of courses at multiple universities, including Manchester, York, Durham, KCL, Edinburgh, and Cambridge, before settling on the Exeter course. University webpages will often give quite a lot of detail regarding the sorts of modules they run, their approaches to study, and the methods of assessment they use. If you are unsure about anything, I would definitely recommend getting in touch with the admissions team or relevant department to ask further questions. For example, it was paramount to my decision to study at Exeter that there would be enough modules focussing on the early modern period to fill my credits, something which the departmental team were able to clarify for me.

Of course, there is no need to continue in exactly the same subject area. Simply check out the entry requirements, which will often ask for a 2:1 in any relevant degree, and will consider 2:2s and other courses on a case by case basis.

Once you come to the stage of applying, check out our blog post on how to write a good personal statement, and utilise the Career Zone services in order to get your application checked over: http://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/careerzone/category/postgraduate-study/

Career Prospects

Arguably, I’m following quite a ‘traditional’ career path in terms of academia. However, not everyone doing a Master’s will want to follow this, and you shouldn’t feel like you can only do postgraduate study if you want to go on to teach in higher education or conduct research.

For some career paths, such as becoming a lawyer or teacher, a Master’s is an essential qualification. In other cases, the completion of a Master’s increases your knowledge and specialism in your chosen field. In a society where having a degree has become the norm, taking your study to another level can give you the edge, while also allowing you to study the things that fascinate you to a further degree.

If you’re considering doing postgraduate study, why not book in for an appointment with a Careers Consultant who can discuss your ideas with you.

The opinions of others

I think that I had always known that the typical corporate grad scheme path was not for me. I distinctly remember a phone call with my dad in my second year where I was discussing my options with him, and he bluntly replied, ‘Well, we both know you won’t cope in an office job’. So while I’m extremely lucky to have the support of my parents in my choice to pursue post graduate study, I think the story would have been different without the introduction of post graduate loans, or if I was asking them to support me through further study. Additionally, they know that a Master’s is a necessary stepping stone for me to get where I really want to be – completing a PhD, and conducting historical research at post-doctoral level.

Of course, not everyone doing a Master’s has the same career in mind as myself, as discussed above. I know friends who have gone onto to study MA courses whose parents initially viewed their decision as an attempt to stave off entering the ‘real world’. While your main motivation for doing an additional year should not be to buy time, the introduction of the loan does mean that postgraduate study is far more accessible than before, enabling a wider range of people to further pursue their interests. If a Master’s is something you want to do, go for it!

The workload

That brings us to life on a Master’s course, and the workload that comes with it. If you continue your studies without a real interest in what you’re doing, it probably will be difficult to motivate yourself to get the work done. Though that is not to pretend that just because I love history, I never feel stressed or even overwhelmed by work which I at other times profess my passion for. All I’m saying is, if your motivation for doing a postgrad is that you think it will be easier than getting a job, I would seriously suggest rethinking your position.

The picture will be different in all universities and across different courses, but to give you an idea, I’ll describe my own experience. While I only have 4 contact hours a week, it is the independent study which really fills my time, as well as optional seminars and supplementary courses. Alongside my core modules, I have recently started studying Palaeology to develop my research abilities.

My Master’s course has further developed my skills as an independent researcher. We are very much left to work with our own initiative as post grad students, which does require self-discipline to get everything done.

As I mentioned above, it is really important to maintain balance. Particularly if you are headed to a new part of the country, make an effort to join some societies and get involved in meeting new people. This will really help you settle in, and give you things to do which will prevent overworking yourself. Even though I’ve stayed in the same place and am living with friends from my undergrad, I have joined several sports societies and regularly attend the departmental research seminars, which has broadened my social and academic horizons, meaning that this year comprises much more than my Master’s course alone.

Now is the time to talk about mental health

William More is a current student at Exeter, and completed a placement last year with Enterprise. He shares his experience of being diagnosed with severe OCD, and finally getting the treatment he needed. (This post originally appeared on Enterprise’s careers blog).

William More, current Exeter student on a placement with Enterprise

It is okay not to be okay. This is a message that’s really important everyone knows – perfection is a myth and as a society we need to be easier on ourselves.

For a long time, since around GCSEs time, I have struggled with a mental illness that I could never pin down. I knew that things weren’t right, but I never had an explanation for what I was going through. On the surface things were okay, my grades were certainly fine, but underneath I was getting worse and worse over a matter of years. Whatever this illness was, it, took different forms, with different worries and fears ruining more and more aspects of my life. What once started as severe social anxiety – to the extent I used to throw up – it began to morph into something even more consuming. At university I was able to hide this and focus on other things to get by, so it would come and go. However, desperately wanting to do well on my placement year, away from the support network of home and the relaxed nature of university life, I finally realised that everything really was not okay.

“For a long time… I knew that things weren’t right, but I never had an explanation for what I was going through.”

I have always found exams and revision time very difficult. I can’t switch off, and get burnt out as a result as I am always ‘on’. Slowly the working world began to have the same effect on me and different scenarios would run through my mind all evening. I struggled to relax and was constantly on edge. I would end up having about an hour each day where I could process thoughts ‘naturally’ and didn’t feel gripped by anxiety. This was on top of my issues that had developed through university and eventually everything became overwhelming. Through the year I got more paranoid about situations that my mind had magnified until during my 21st birthday celebrations, I broke down to my girlfriend about a situation that any normal person would be able to comprehend rationally.

It now turns out I suffer from severe OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour is an illness which is commonly misunderstood, often by people who tidy their house, or order objects in a certain way, as they confess they are ‘OCD about that kind of thing’. These jokes trivialise how OCD can hijack someone’s life. OCD can have such a severe impact on someone’s quality of life that the World Health Organisation put OCD in the top ten of most disabling illnesses.

OCD is an anxiety disorder caused by a lack of blood flow to the area of the brain which produces Serotonin, the thought-regulating chemical, and as a result OCD sufferers cannot process their worries rationally and move on from them. A concern with dirt and tidiness is just one of the many ways someone with OCD can be plagued by this illness. Other obsessions can include looking for symmetry, but to the extent that they would worry a family member would be hurt if all the things in the room weren’t symmetrical. That is where the C for Compulsive Behaviour comes in. To get rid of the anxious obsessions that their brain is stuck on, to the extent that they think of the same thing literally hundreds of times a day, OCD sufferers develop habits or compulsions to relieve this anxiety.

Naturally, those who fear contamination and dirt wash their hands, however the OCD makes them do this irrationally until they are red raw. Others may need to check things over and over; those concerned with hurting others, for instance, can have to retrace their route to work to ensure they haven’t run anyone over on the way. Imagine the trauma of this each day.

“There still remains a stigma in today’s society around admitting you are finding things tough, particularly for men who are told to ‘man up’.”

To someone who is struggling to understand this mental illness, the OCD feeling to me is a mix between the worst anxiety you feel when hungover combined with the stress of exam season – literally constantly. I would look forward to the moment of respite when I woke up before the OCD would kick in, and go to bed worn out from fighting my brain all day.

What made the OCD worse was the stigma of my fears and these would even seep into my nightmares. The OCD would tell me all kind of things that I never wanted to come true and naturally I resisted and hated this.

This is just one of the reasons why it takes an average of 11 years for an OCD sufferer to be diagnosed, for them to talk about what they are going through. The irony of OCD is that it is the disease of worriers – the OCD becomes worse as you become more alarmed and upset by it. The more you try and resist a thought, the more you think about it, and hence OCD gets more and more consuming. This is called the ironic process theory, and whilst going through the worst period of this, on several occasions I thought I was going genuinely insane, would be institutionalised and considered ending my life.

There still remains a stigma in today’s society around admitting you are finding things tough, particularly for men who are told to ‘man up’. It is little wonder the male suicide rates are three times higher than women’s in the UK, and 75% of suicides are men. To explain the scale of this problem, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and 84 men take their own life each week. Even if someone appears fine, it does not mean they are, and you only need to look at the sad cases of Avicii and Robin Williams to realise this is true. We need to change that people think they have no choice, and the best way to do this is by talking. It is okay not to be okay.

“…I now feel more confident, happy and just relieved that, more than anything else, what I was going through is normal.”

There is always a silver lining if you look hard enough though. After my 21st, I took some time to recuperate with my family and began to slowly unload the worries that had weighed me down for so long. I saw a therapist, started counselling and began to take enough tablets to knock out a small cow. A couple of months later I now feel more confident, happy and just relieved that, more than anything else, what I was going through is normal.

The key is to talk. Lots of stars have also come out and talked about their struggles in recent times, with Ryan Reynolds, Zayn Malik and Danny Rose all highlighting the issues that they have had with mental health.

Enterprise has a host of blogs about physical and invisible illnesses, and this is just one of the many ways in which it builds a culture of acceptance, and from these examples I knew I could be honest about my diagnosis at work. I summoned up the courage to talk to a selection of close people and found it so empowering. On a personal level, the more I have shared with people, the more I have learnt that everyone has their own hidden ‘bumps and bruises’. I am just thankful that there are people out there who are willing to listen and help, and take people as they are.

If you want to work in a world leading company that puts its emphasis on employee wellbeing, search and apply to Enterprise’s Graduate Management programme.

Make Your Experience Work

Jess Franks graduated from the University of Exeter in 2018 with a BSc in Business Economics WIE. She’s currently working in Client Relationship for BlackRock. Jess talked to us about making her time at Exeter work for her. 

Jess Franks, Client Relationship for BlackRock, and Exeter Graduate

Morgan Stanley stood out at the Careers and Placement Fair because of its culture; opening my eyes to the opportunities in Investment Banking outside of the ‘front office’ trading roles. Having expressed an interest in the Operations division, the team set up a trial insight week for me and another Exeter student. I was fast-tracked, and secured a Placement Scheme prior to coming back to University in my Second Year.

At Morgan Stanley I was awarded ‘Campus Ambassador of the Year’ for my commitment towards promoting the organisation at Exeter. In support of the company’s core value of ‘Giving Back’ I volunteered for a day at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and ran my first half marathon for the charity, raising over £800. This helped me realise that I wanted to be part of an organisation which was both intellectually stimulating, but also gave back to society.

“The Career Zone’s services – ranging from Employer Events, Panel Sessions and the Mentor Scheme has undoubtedly helped guide me to a destination… I’m very thankful to all the team for helping make my career aspirations a reality.”

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my year at Morgan Stanley, I knew I wanted to work in a sector which combined the client-facing experiences I had at PwC with the finance knowledge I’d gained. I took part in the Career Mentor Scheme where my mentor encouraged me to look into Asset Management. I realised that I preferred the ‘buy side’ work which is built on developing long-term client relationships, rather than the ‘sell side’ which is focused more on short-term work.

I successfully applied to BlackRock’s summer internship programme in the Client Relationship Management division – spanning from departments dealing with Central Banks to Charities. I enjoyed being in the Asset Management division where I observed fund managers who were managing portfolios and actively taking investment decisions.

After the internship I was offered a graduate role at BlackRock in the same Client Relationship department – a role I find very exciting. I get to work closely with insurance companies yet also follow what’s going on in the rest of the global economy at a macro scale, and the value of constantly innovating fits with my ethos of continuous improvement and development.

The Career Zone’s services – ranging from Employer Events, Panel Sessions and the Mentor Scheme has undoubtedly helped guide me to a destination I’m thoroughly looking forward to entering. I’m going to be able to contribute to an expanding business, work with impressive clients and give back to society. An induction of two weeks in New York with BlackRock is a dream come true and I’m very thankful to all the team at the Career Zone for helping make my career aspirations a reality.

Create Your Own Career

Natasha Azar graduated from Exeter with an MA in Creative Writing in 2014. She’s currently Senior Manager of University Relations at Osage University Partners. She talked to us about the often surprising benefits of being flexible in your career path.

Natasha Azar, Exeter alumn and Senior Manager of University Relations at Osage University Partners

Osage University Partners is a venture capital firm that invests in university spinouts. Before coming to Osage, I worked as a contractor for Siemens, a position which made me an attractive candidate for my role as a University Relations Manager. At Siemens I was a Communications Specialist under the Communications & Government Affairs group. I supported one of the R&D offices in New Jersey, from a communications and internal marketing perspective.

The best part of my job is that every day is different. I might be at a university or conference, designing marketing materials for an event, editing a podcast episode we just recorded, blogging the highlights of a recent webinar we held, or developing a new program to test on our universities. The startup landscape is always changing, so it’s the nature of the industry as well.

“You shouldn’t feel cornered in your current job… nor restricted by the degree you chose to study. If you come across a job you really want, go after it regardless.  There really is no harm in trying.”

The biggest challenge I face is that my role is so unique and traditionally not found at a venture capital firm.  While there’s no clear career trajectory for someone like me, I think the experience I have has set me up for a plethora of options after this.  I could stay in finance, work for a university, or even keep with a relationship management role in a different sector such as government or politics. The lesson I learned is to be open-minded and assume I could qualify for a position I truly am interested in, even if it means venturing into a new industry.

I moved back to the US after finishing my MA at Exeter in 2014. At first, I was juggling my time between applying for jobs and freelance blogging. I wanted to move out on my own, but it isn’t news to anyone that it’s tough to make a living as a freelance writer. I instead focused my application efforts on positions that would involve some aspect of writing. At first I only applied for full-time permanent positions directly on websites of companies where I wanted to work, but found nobody was biting.  I chose a different tactic and met with a few different creative headhunting agencies.  These recruiters place individuals in contract positions which can be part-time or full-time, short-term or long-term. Contract jobs are much easier to attain with high profile companies as there is little to no risk to the company.  It’s a great way to gain experience at one or several recognizable companies – plus the placement process is usually expedient.  I used this method for 3 contract positions before falling into my current role, which is full-time with benefits.

When I decided to pursue a Master of Art’s in Creative Writing at the University of Exeter, I didn’t believe the degree would be applicable to any career outside of writing – whether it be journalism, screenwriting, or novel writing. But when I was interviewing for the Communications Specialist role at Siemens – a position that would require ample interviewing of scientists and article writing about technologies being developed at our research & development centre – my future boss pointed out my degree specifically during my interview.  After I was hired, she said it gave me leverage over the other candidates as I would be able to provide a ‘unique voice’ and creative angle to the articles I would be required to write.

I found it hard to believe my Creative Writing degree could be useful in writing articles describing science and government contracts, but the experience taught me I had a very close-minded approach when it came to applying for jobs. I would read a job description and assume I wasn’t qualified for it.  By now, I’ve heard many stories from friends who have transitioned into different industries and roles just by catering their resume to the job they’re going after and writing a stellar cover letter.  You shouldn’t feel cornered in your current job market if you want to get out of it, nor restricted by the degree you chose to study. If you come across a job you really want, go after it regardless.  There really is no harm in trying.