The impact of Covid-19 on your job search – an employer’s perspective

The only constant in life is change

Martin Corck is Director of Athletes Inspire, a small-scale business operating in the sports consultancy sector. 

This post offers an employer’s perspective, and gives our valued new potential workforce (you, the student) some insight into what’s happening right now. As a potential Graduate taking your first steps towards a new career, doing nothing is not an option for you!  I urge you to take action, review your professional job search plan, research carefully, and build intelligence and insight so that you can make well-informed decisions.

As we all experience a phased exit from lockdown, we’re entering uncharted territory. As the owner of Athletes Inspire, a small sports consultancy business supporting the Government’s ambition to create a more active nation, I will have to think and plot my way ahead, for a new look world of business. New thoughts, new values, new systems.

From the perspective of a student preparing to enter the world of industry and meaningful employment, it is recognised that this will be a confusing and testing time for you. Well-rehearsed and long planned strategies for job searching will need to be reconsidered, career choices will need reviewing in terms of the viability and coming back on stream of each sector.  Working environments that are being offered to you will require careful reconsideration. You will need to think about whether you need the stimulus of shared team working and an office environment, or whether you are equipped to work from home, saving you commuting cost and potential risk to your health.

“All business will have been impacted by the pandemic, and for many it is a simple matter of survival or closure. For all it has become necessary to re-strategize, reset, and renew our thinking, our policies and our actions.”

All business will have been impacted by the pandemic, and for many it is a simple matter of survival or closure. For all it has become necessary to re-strategize, reset, and renew our thinking, our policies and our actions. The impact on my business has to date been controllable, albeit challenging as we are a remote based organisation, so I spoke to my Brother in Law who is busy heading up the HR function in a global company operating in the highly volatile petro-chemical sector. Interestingly, no matter the size or scale of the business, the challenges and principles moving forward are very similar.

Like all good planning the key to sustainable success for a business is to look forward and to plan back. Intelligent businesses are rehearsing what the new order might look like, how their sector might be impacted, and how long it will take to recover, and are they already well advanced for a return to life in the post Corona era. Office life as we have known it may look different with reduced investment into office space, split on-site teams, phased returns, managed social distancing and a real shift towards home-based working.

There will certainly be a higher investment in technology which serves to strongly underpin any business with an intent to succeed. Increasing VPN bandwidth capacity and new internet-based protocols are most likely in many firms. The use of Zoom for example by so many businesses to deal with multi- person team and client meetings has become the acceptable norm.

“As business owners we have a duty of care to our employees both within the workspace, and whilst engaged in business activity on our behalf, so clear guidance and personal responsibility are vital to the future.”

A return to dedicated desk space to avoid the potential for contamination through hot desking is likely, stronger protocols in terms of personal interaction, and a whole new style of management is likely to be needed. As business owners we have a duty of care to our employees both within the workspace, and whilst engaged in business activity on our behalf, so clear guidance and personal responsibility are vital to the future.

Many will have learned during this destabilising period that we don’t need to be face to face with each other to be effective managers, but that empathy, more collaboration in our approach and innovative ways of working will help us to become hallmarks of us becoming better business leaders. The sense of ‘community’ extends beyond our Thursday night neighbourhood applause of the key workers. Finding effective ways to work effectively from home in a controlled environment will require creative solutions. Health and safety and staff welfare checks will be needed to ensure suitable working environments as part of good team welfare for any business that is rebalancing its office/home based working arrangements. As a potential employee, it is important for you to clearly articulate what you need and want to feel safe and productive.

Most businesses will need to rethink staff/team engagement and the underlying culture that is so vital to making any business successfully tick. There are likely to be reviews of home working policy, relaxing or stiffening of dress codes (home based pyjama days are but a temporary indulgence), and the investment into professional interaction through digital platforms to create a successful and motivated workforce. We are already seeing flexible and innovative ways to operate, with my Brother in Law introducing into an established multinational organisation ‘bring your pet to the virtual meeting’ sessions, a weekly engagement opportunity for all employees with the CEO, a tripling of regular internal communications to keep colleagues engaged and motivated, the introduction of fun based activity such as virtual quizzes, post work virtual social networking and success ‘shout outs’ which name and fame particular achievements. All of these are measures beyond the normal practice. These have all been utilised so that employees feel blended and bonded as a team, not as an isolated end of the line call worker. Full staff meetings have become more common rather than the usual segmented or departmental approach adopted by his, and so many organisations.

“Key to much of this will for businesses to reset the mix of metrics by which personal and team performance results are measured… As the team are working in a more isolated way, I am listening for signs of anxiety or frustration. The mental wellbeing of my team is my absolute priority.”

Key to much of this will for businesses to reset the mix of metrics by which personal and team performance results are measured. Whist results are key to any operation, balanced, motivated, and committed teams and individuals will be vital in a new era of trust based working relationships. I find myself spending more time taking a keen interest in how my colleagues are coping with lockdown on a personal level, and I have strengthened my listening skills. As the team are working in a more isolated way, I am listening for signs of anxiety or frustration. The mental wellbeing of my team is my absolute priority.

So that does this mean for you, as you ponder how to approach your next step in your job search? As I have already suggested, start again with mapping out your options, research the viability of your preferred sector and targeted companies, be clear on your personal preferences to office or home based working, be honest about your capacity and discipline to work remotely in a structured and disciplined manner. Perhaps most importantly is for you to have a clear sense of the underlying culture, support and professional development offered by your potential new employer. Investment in people still sits way above any other quality you should seek as a new entrant. You will offer enthusiasm, fresh creativity, and a new way of thinking to your employer. In return you will need nurturing, valuing as a colleague and coaching as you become business hardened. The new interview style will be more a two-way process than ever before – you need to make sure you are buying into good practice, not simply good promises.

“You will offer enthusiasm, fresh creativity, and a new way of thinking to your employer. In return you will need nurturing, valuing as a colleague and coaching as you become business hardened.”

Ensure that you review your set of transferable skills, and most of all, use the internet and personal networks to gain the intelligence you will need to make informed career choices. There is a plethora of free to access podcasts, webinars, and masterclasses for you to tap into out there.

Yes, the world is changing. Risk management and personal responsibility in decision making has made us all more accountable for our own futures and destiny. To make a better world we must start with creating a better self.

As employers we want our new entrants to survive and to thrive. We are here to welcome you in, irrespective of the challenges that we currently face.

Working in Berlin

Phoebe Chubb is a current BSc Politics and International Relations with EEA at the University of Exeter.

Phoebe Chubb, current BSc Politics and International Relations with EEA at the University of Exeter, in Berlin.

(This blog post was written before the COVID-19 pandemic.) 

In my second year at University, I went to the autumn term Year Abroad meeting for students studying Social Science. I had always considered doing a study abroad year but wasn’t sure I wanted to be saddled with more debt by signing up to another year of studying. An opportunity arose when I was told about a more financially viable alternative the University offered: working abroad.

One year later, I am working for a start-up in the vibrant capital city of Germany, Berlin. I have been here for three months; I have sampled the food, moved flats three times, joined a netball club and met a number of interesting people from all around the world. To alleviate some of the qualms you may have about undertaking a year abroad, I thought I would share my initial reflections of this unique and wonderful experience the University supports.

“On reflection, the challenges I have faced have moulded me into a more resilient individual who is better prepared to deal with complications that arise, complications, which I have no doubt I will inevitably face in my later working life.”

I managed to procure a digital marketing internship for nine months with Labforward, a company that sells software solutions for scientists: an Electronic Lab Notebook (ELN) and a Lab Execution System. Now, if you had asked me prior to this internship what both of these were I would not have had a clue. I didn’t study science at A Level, and I do a Politics and International Relations (BSc) degree at University, so I wouldn’t say that I am well-versed in laboratory software. Yet, as a digital marketer, I have found that a large amount of my time is devoted to writing about new technological advancements which revolutionise the way we work, disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Automation and Internet of Things, a job which I thoroughly enjoy. This in itself demonstrates the breadth of internship opportunities that are available with this scheme, don’t limit yourself to one sector, try new things, and make the most of the opportunities working abroad facilitates.

“In this role, I have been encouraged to try new things and develop my skills further, and as a result, I have progressed as an individual both in skillset and in character.”

Unfortunately, my move to Berlin has not been without complications. When I first arrived I had a housing issue as the room I had booked was not as pictured. As a result, I had to move rooms three times and deal with frustrating admin tasks to try and solve the problems which I had no control over. Whilst this initially made me miss the simplicity of University life, on reflection, the challenges I have faced have moulded me into a more resilient individual who is better prepared to deal with complications that arise, complications, which I have no doubt I will inevitably face in my later working life.

I realise that I have been incredibly lucky with my internship. In the workplace, I am surrounded by a driven, talented team of individuals who have alleviated all my prior concerns about working abroad. Working for Labforward has made me realise what type of company I want to work at in the future, after all, working for a company where you are content is incredibly important. In this role, I have been encouraged to try new things and develop my skills further, and as a result, I have progressed as an individual both in skillset and in character.

As for those who worry about being away from friends in the year abroad, it is a consideration, yet should not dissuade you from going abroad. Whilst I miss my friends from university a lot, I’ve found that many people in my year have chosen to do a year abroad, choosing either to study or work. I have a friend who is currently somewhere in Japan, one who is in Brussels and another is in Spain. Plus if you make the effort you get to know people where you’re working, since being in Berlin I have joined a friendly netball club which has allowed me to meet people from all over the world.

“This internship hasn’t just helped me transfer academic skills into the working environment, it has been a journey which has gifted me a number of experiences one can only receive by living and working in a different country.”

My work abroad year has invigorated me with a drive to look into new areas of politics that I had not considered before. Writing about technological advancements has made me question what political and social impacts digitalisation will incur, a subject area I am keen to write my dissertation on. Already I have gained valuable experience that I can use to bolster my CV to acquire post-graduation employment. This internship hasn’t just helped me transfer academic skills into the working environment, it has been a journey which has gifted me a number of experiences one can only receive by living and working in a different country.

A virtual internship during lockdown

Georgia Humbert is a 2nd Year Business and Management with Industrial Experience (at Warner Bros). 

Georgia Humbert, 2nd Year Business and Management with Industrial Experience (at Warner Bros), working from home on her internship.

I’m on my 7th month of an internship with http://spoton.net a web design company with whom I started in October 2019. I found the marketing internship through My Career Zone, and the experience has been amazing for developing my workplace skills, and has shown me where my strengths and weaknesses lie. I would really recommend everyone to consider doing one! I have the aim of working in either the fashion or the entertainment industry, so wanted to explore if marketing would suit me as a potential long-term career. My time with http://itseeze.com/ (subsidiary company of Spoton.net) has been really valuable for this and, as a result, have just secured a third year placement in marketing. Furthermore, it has provided me with clarity that creativity is one of my strengths and something I enjoy applying to my work, so I intend to pursue creative roles moving forward. Prior to the internship I had started a hand painted wall art business

and have subsequently found my own ways of marketing it, so it’s been great to push myself to go about things slightly differently, and I have learnt skills I will carry over to my personal work.

For everyone doing a term time internship, we all know that juggling lectures, assignments, societies, as well as this regular commitment can have its challenges. But now, working from home due to the Covid-19 lockdown is a new one to overcome. As I started the internship a while before lockdown, I have had to change from working in an office once a week to homeworking, a change that seemed a bit daunting. I have a desk at home which I work from and I structure my day as I would if I was going to the office. Despite the big adjustment I would say it’s nice to skip the long commute to Torquay! This means I wake up with time to get ready so I can start at 9am and take a lunch break as I would normally. I find that I tend to take more breaks in the day at home because my family is there, so I usually make up for it by working a bit later into the early evening. I find this actually helps my productivity because breaks help me to stay motivated and alert.

Luckily for me, the team at http://itseeze.com/ are really supportive and as a web-based company, pretty much all my work can be done remotely. The marketing team is very small with just three of us so it’s easy to stay in contact, mostly through email or Trello. Because of the nature of my work, which is often content creation or routine tasks, plus how we use online task managers, we didn’t often have meetings in the office so this hasn’t been a problem since lockdown measures.

The original plan was for me to work in the office for a whole week in April, after which I would finish my internship, but since lock down we have decided it would be more useful for the company if I stuck to working one day per week. It will be strange to finish the internship remotely after working in the office for a few months, but the change has been another learning experience in terms of being adaptive and organised to work independently.

If you are currently doing a term-time internship from home, here are some things I’ve learned from the transition which might help you:

Make sure you have all the resources you need

One of the main things to consider if you’re used to working in an office is transferring all the files, passwords you’ll need etc. It’s probably a good idea to ask your manager to do the transfer of essential data to you; for me that was email passwords and social media logins. I had a bit of a struggle to set up my work email from home but once it was managed it has been a lot easier to stay in contact with the rest of the company (Thunderbird is a great desktop app for this).

You might need to change how you are allocated tasks 

Since I started at  http://itseeze.com/ we have used Trello as a tool for my managers to give me tasks online, allowing us to all see my progress. If you are used to chatting to your supervisor about being given jobs to do, suggesting this could be a good idea as it is really clear and easy to use plus you can add attachments and messages. It will probably be useful to your manager at this time in particular, if you can get on with your tasks without having to constantly communicate, and this is a great way to do that.

Get used to working independently 

As said before, every working environment is different, but if you run out of jobs to do it’s a good idea to have a list of other things to be getting along with without needing to be asked. For example, I have set up a Pinterest account for  http://itseeze.com/ so I can spend time managing that. If you’re stuck for ideas, competitor research and new marketing ideas never go amiss! We have a routine of procedure for my colleagues to give me feedback, via either email or Trello, the week after I send it; this way we all know what time frames to expect and I can access all the feedback online.

Don’t worry too much and keep in contact 

Checking in with your supervisor regularly with any questions or concerns is great for everyone, so they know how best to support you and can get a heads-up if things aren’t going to plan. It is understandable that the transition can take a bit of time to get used to, but the more you work independently the easier it becomes!

Shoot straight and hit the mark – assessment centre success

Our brand new edition of In the Zone, your essential careers magazine, launches today.

 

 

We’re taking Tokyo 2020 as our theme and looking at how to make your career journey a success. Hear from current students, recent graduates and the Careers team on everything from scoring a 10/10 at interviews, winning the postgraduate relay, standing out on the podium with LinkedIn, and sprinting across the finish line to land your dream graduate job.

Katie Bennett, BA Spanish and Management with UK Work Experience

In an extract from In the Zone, Katie Bennett, current BA Spanish and Management with UK Work Experience tells us how she hit the mark to succeed at a Deloitte assessment centre. 

 

Be prepared

The Career Zone were extremely helpful when applying for my industrial placement. I booked onto the Deloitte Autumn Careers Evening through My Career Zone, which was instrumental in inspiring me to apply to their scheme. I subsequently attended a talk about how to prepare for psychometric tests, explored an array of online practice tests, and borrowed numerical reasoning books to refresh my maths skills and explain how to answer typical psychometric questions. Using the Industry Reports on My Career Zone Digital gave me a better insight into the Consulting sector, and what key skills are required. I also sought advice from the Business School Career Zone team, and attended their Careers Café to refine my CV, and get some last-minute advice for my assessment centre.

 

Do your research

The ‘Assessment Centre Tool’ on My Career Zone Digital was helpful in giving me an insight into what format the assessment centre could take, as well as information on how to best-perform in a group exercise, e-tray exercise, and interview. I researched the placement role, the company, and the industry by reading the company website, as well as forums, blogs and news articles, and by listening to podcasts. Doing so gave me a good foundation of knowledge which I could draw upon during interview. I looked at practice interview questions online, and planned out possible answers and practised answering them out loud. I re-read my CV and thought about where I had developed or demonstrated particular skills, linking these to the espoused values of the company.

 

On the day

For the presentation, I drew on my academic knowledge and online research, using company reports and reputable websites to form the basis of my ideas. Practising your presentation to a trusted friend/family member is helpful for making sure you can articulate your ideas fluently and keep to the time limit. Like my friends, I was most nervous about the group exercise. A useful tip would be to speak up as early as possible – you don’t have to be the first one to speak, or take on the role of primary leader, but try to say something early on so that you can find your voice and not get lost amongst everyone else’s ideas. This also stops the experience from becoming too overwhelming and enables you to become a confident and active member of the group. Remember that nominating yourself to be the timekeeper, and bringing quiet members of the group into the conversation, or showing your agreement with your teammates’ ideas, are effective ways of showing leadership and teamwork.

 

What’s it really like?

The assessment centre is a chance for you to perform to the best of your ability. Everyone is in the same boat as you, and will be a lot more collaborative and friendly than some of the forums suggest! I would advise you to bring along snacks to give you that boost of energy you might need throughout the day! Thorough preparation is key to building your confidence, but you should also have confidence in your abilities and who you are – the company sees potential in you and wants to get to know you better, so have some self-belief and do the best you can.

 

Result!

I’m pleased to say that my hard work paid off and I was delighted to accept an offer from Deloitte for an industrial placement. I’m really glad that I put a lot of time and effort into my application and the assessment centre, and I’m excited to start my placement next year.

 

A creative career with IBM

Graham White graduated from the University of Exeter in BSc (Hons) Computer Science and Management Science in 2000, and has been working for IBM for 20 years since joining their graduate programme. 

Graham White, Certified Expert Technical Specialist, Emerging Technologies (IBM Research)

I work for IBM in the world-renowned IBM Research division. My focus is applied research within the Emerging Technologies group. In this role, I generally take new technology to our clients as part of a first-of-kind project which is always hugely interesting and very exciting. It is extremely varied as I can be talking to a client about a particular solution in the morning and in the afternoon I might be working on some fundamental research with my university partners. Hence, people in my job are typically very broadly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about technology but also have at least one area of deep technical skill.

It’s hard to pick just a few, but I wanted to share 3 projects I’ve been involved with in recent years:

 

  • I was involved with creating a system to automatically translate spoken English into British Sign Language. The project was created by IBM interns under the Extreme Blue programme (for which I would encourage everyone reading this to consider signing up to) that hooks up experienced technical people from IBM to mentor students during a summer project. Rather than describe it in detail, take a look at this 15 second clip to get a rough idea or listen to Helen explain it. Helen has since gone on to become one of the managers in my department. This is still one of the project we get asked about on a regular basis.

 

  • During 2018 I worked on a system to enhance rail travel codenamed Stepping Stone for people with disabilities and older people. This group of passengers find it harder to travel by train, and can often be extremely anxious while travelling. My solution was to create a mobile application that walks the passenger through their journey but does so by continuously linking them with a member of staff. So they can ask questions, get help, meet up with passenger service assistants and anything else they want at any point during their journey. It’s a bit like a WhatsApp type of interface where people can chat to station staff and staff on the train. It detects when they arrive at a station and contains a lot of features resulting from accessibility research so it can be used by people with visual or hearing difficulties, people with physical disabilities, learning difficulties, or older people.

 

  • A more commercial example of something very creative I’ve done is through our partnership with the Knorr food company. They approached us for help with a marketing campaign and through a period of consulting with them we came up with the idea of profiling flavours. The idea and tech we needed to implement involved working out the flavour profile in two respects: how people experience flavour and which ones they prefer; and which flavours different foods contain. In a broad sense, this allowed us to come up with a mapping between preferred flavour and different foods. It allowed Knorr to recommend certain products to particular individuals based entirely on the science behind which flavours they are most likely to enjoy.

 

To give a little more background to my career, starting from when I graduated with a Computer Science and Management Science degree, I still wasn’t entirely sure what career I wanted. I had narrowed my options to management consulting or computer programming. I applied for a few roles but was really attracted to IBM as it fitted my preference of a more technical job. After a 1 day interview in London and 2 day assessment centre in Winchester I was offered a place on the graduate scheme and started work at the rather lovely IBM Hursley on 4 September 2000. The site has a similar stately home history and campus feel to it as the Streatham Campus.

I formed the first Linux support team when the company invested $1 billion in transforming the IBM product line to work on Linux. My job was to provide support to the 3000 people working on site and consisted of being away from my desk a lot, either in a huge machine room working on servers or at people’s desks helping them more directly with one-to-one support. Since then, I have worked in a number of different roles that have taken me around the world. I have set up and worked on some of the world’s fastest super computers (they all run Linux); helped scientists crack some particularly hard problems such as mapping the human genome, weather prediction, seismic surveying and nuclear simulation; worked on teaching computers how to understand human speech, something we now fashionably call machine learning or artificial intelligence.

For more information about careers at IBM, see our website: https://www.ibm.com/uk-en/employment/

 

Alumn Profile – Liz Sherratt, Lifing Development Manager, Rolls-Royce

In celebration of International Women’s Day we’re profiling Liz Sherratt, who graduated from the University of Exeter in Mechanical Engineering 2009. She is currently Lifing Development Manager for Rolls-Royce

Liz Sherratt, Exeter alumn and Lifing Development Manager for Rolls-Royce

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?               

Following graduation I joined the Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace graduate scheme. The scheme places graduates around different parts of the Civil Aerospace business so they understand the various functions and how they work together to deliver engines to market and service those engines.

During these placements I worked within Development Engineering which I particularly enjoyed and so I returned to this area upon completion of the scheme. Development Engineering define and deliver the testing required to demonstrate new engines are suitable for entry into service and that changes to existing engines are acceptable. During my time in Development I worked on engine tests, both in the UK and abroad, and completed flight test campaigns to make changes to the engine mounted hydraulic system. After a couple of years in this role I took on a team lead position where I lead a small team delivering changes to the compressors of the Trent 900 as part of an improved efficiency package. Within these roles I got hands on experience of gas turbine engine hardware, build procedures as well as gaining an understanding of the airworthiness regulations and how to demonstrate compliance.

“I choose this career because of Rolls-Royce’s reputation as a leader within the aerospace industry and the complex and innovative nature of the products they produce. Almost 10 years later I still enjoy the varied nature of the work and the fact that I am constantly learning.”

Looking to increase my breadth of knowledge I moved into the Engineering for Services function taking on the role of Trent 900 Lifecycle Engineering (LCE) Team Lead. In this role I lead a team understanding and resolving issues encountered by the Trent 900 airline customers in service, from simple questions about how to interpret maintenance instructions to understanding why an in-service event has happened. I was involved in leading root cause investigations and working directly with airline powerplant teams, as well as with the aircraft manufacturer and the airworthiness authorities. This role evolved into leading the LCE team responsible for ensuring a new version of the Trent 900 engine would be mature at the point it entered service and thus free from reliability issues throughout its life.

Currently I am the Lifing Development Manager within Engineering for Services. This role is about managing any in service issues with engine critical parts and delivering new methods for predicting component life in service. This role sits across the different engine projects with an overview on how we best use the data we get from our engines to accurately predict when those engines need to be removed from wing thus improving operational reliability and getting the most life from our parts.

The next time you go on holiday it could be Liz’s team keeping you in the air! Photo credit: Hrishit Jangra (Unsplash)

 

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?            

I choose this career because of Rolls-Royce’s reputation as a leader within the aerospace industry and the complex and innovative nature of the products they produce. Almost 10 years later I still enjoy the varied nature of the work and the fact that I am constantly learning. Working in such a large company allows for lots of different opportunities and Rolls-Royce are very supportive of people moving into new areas. We also have many people who have chosen to focus on one area for a long time and are experts in their field, and they are always happy to share their knowledge.

 

Were you a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs?  

I was a member of the University climbing club throughout my time at Exeter and was club captain in my final year. This gave me lots of useful skills outside of my degree and was a brilliant source of examples for competency based interviews.

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?

I very much enjoyed the various group projects like the pelton wheel in the first year and the buggy project in the second year. Overall my biggest highlight was the individual project in the penultimate year as I found getting really stuck into something novel where I was completely responsible for the direction really engaging.

 

What did you enjoy most about studying here?               

In terms of the university as a whole I think the location was a real highlight, near the sea and Dartmoor and with a lovely campus environment. In terms of my degree I always found the staff very supportive and enjoyed the range of different modules.

 

“Do everything you can to keep your options open. This includes taking and making all the opportunities you can in terms of work experience, year in industry, summer placements and applying as early as possible for graduate jobs. If you have a really strong desire to end up in a particular place keep trying; I have been involved in interviewing for Rolls-Royce and we would always encourage someone to seek feedback if they are unsuccessful and to try again the next year. Also go and speak with the university careers office, they offer good advice for applications and interviews.”

 

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?              

I was initially not sure about the type of Engineering I wanted to go into so the general first year allowing me to keep my options open until I had an improved understanding of the various disciplines is what particularly appealed to me about Exeter. Additionally I attended an ‘Insight into Engineering’ course at Exeter during my A-Levels and found the University and department very welcoming, this definitely influenced my decision.

 

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?    

I think you pick up a lot of the specific knowledge you need for your role when you start, however university really prepared me for teaching myself and being able to learn efficiently. Things like learning how to read research papers, write clear, concise reports and present well have all stood me in good stead at work. Also the group work that you do throughout your degree prepares you for the teamwork required in most Engineering roles.

 

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?   

Do everything you can to keep your options open. This includes taking and making all the opportunities you can in terms of work experience, year in industry, summer placements and applying as early as possible for graduate jobs. If you have a really strong desire to end up in a particular place keep trying; I have been involved in interviewing for Rolls-Royce and we would always encourage someone to seek feedback if they are unsuccessful and to try again the next year. Also go and speak with the university careers office, they offer good advice for applications and interviews.

 

What are your plans for the future?      

Given the range of opportunities at Rolls-Royce I don’t currently have any plans to move on. So far I have taken roles based on the learning available, thinking I would enjoy them and that I could add value to the team and I plan to continue in this way. There are a few specific jobs I have my eye on but like to keep my options open.

 

Do you have any tips or advice for beginning a career or working in your industry/sector?          

For starters apply early; applications are reviewed on a first come, first served basis so the earlier you apply the better chance you have – start looking in the summer before your final year and apply early in the first term. The same goes for summer and 12 month internships. Beyond this I would follow what you enjoy as I think people perform best doing jobs they enjoy.

My Experiences on the Civil Service Early Diversity Internship Programme

Joshua Peters is a second year Politics and International Relations undergraduate at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus. 

Joshua Peters, Politics and International Relations student, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus

Last year I made the decision to apply for various first year schemes on offer by many companies. I applied to companies in Law and in Banking but being a Politics student, and someone whose family has had a history in the Civil Service, I also made the conscious decision to apply to the Early Diversity Internship Programme (EDIP). Fast forward 6 months, an application process and a telephone interview – I found myself at The Oval cricket ground in South London attending the opening ceremony of the EDIP scheme.

On the train journey to The Oval I had no idea what to expect from the opening ceremony. I felt nervous, excited, anxious and curious all at the same time! When I finally arrived, I was greeted so warmly by the staff that I quickly lost all the anxiety and nervousness that I came there with, and instead I felt eager to hear and see what the opening ceremony had to offer. A quick scan of the room and it was almost impossible not to notice the diversity that existed. This certainly helped me feel more at ease. Everyone on the scheme had been allocated places to sit at a table. It was great talking to the other people partaking in the scheme. Speaking to the other interns showed me diversity in terms of degrees being studied. One person studied PPE, another was studying Law and someone was studying Finance and Mathematics! This showed me that anyone from any background can have an interest in a career in the Civil Service. The opening ceremony itself was really illuminating. We heard from a number of motivational speakers who detailed to us the trials and tribulations they had gone through and how they had overcame them to be where they are today.

“On the train journey to The Oval I had no idea what to expect from the opening ceremony… When I finally arrived, I was greeted so warmly by the staff that I quickly lost all the anxiety and nervousness that I came there with, and instead I felt eager to hear and see what the opening ceremony had to offer. A quick scan of the room and it was almost impossible not to notice the diversity that existed.”

When you gain a place on the EDIP scheme you are allocated a government department. I was assigned to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Within this department I, along with another EDIP intern, was assigned to a civil servant, Mel, who worked in the food section of the department and even more specifically, the ‘food labelling’ sub-group (I didn’t know this was a thing either!). Shadowing Mel for the week was great and extremely insightful because I was able to see first-hand what working in the Civil Service actually looked like. I attended every meeting that she attended and saw most tasks that her and her sub-group were working on. I felt as though I came at a bad time as quite literally all work in the department was related to Brexit and creating contingencies if we left the EU with no deal. However, seeing how the Civil Service dealt with an issue such as Brexit was very interesting. Also, during the week, we were given a talk by Fast Streamers on different streams. The Fast Stream is the graduate scheme within the Civil Service, which offers many different streams, including a diplomatic stream, and an economic stream. I’d recommend paying a visit to the Fast Stream website to find out more about this.

I would highly encourage first years to apply for the EDIP scheme. The scheme allows for a first taste of networking at the opening and closing ceremonies and also a unique insight into a workplace as varied as the Civil Service. If you’re having trouble deciding on whether you’d be more suited to corporate employment or public sector employment, EDIP can certainly be a great starting point in helping to figure this out!

Interning at the United Nations, New York

Eleanor Nicolaides is a current BA History and Ancient History with EEA (Employment Experience Abroad) student at the University of Exeter, Streatham campus. For her EEA placement she was an intern at the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Cyprus to the United Nations in New York City.

Eleanor Nicolaides in the Security Council Chamber of the United Nations New York City

This was the best experience of my entire life, and it is really hard to summarise in one post, so I will do my best!

I found out about this internship years ago, through Nepomak, an organisation which aims to preserve Cypriot cultural roots and identity by bringing together young Cypriots in different branches all over the world. They do this through organising events, and running language and cultural tours in Cyprus in the summer. Other opportunities they provide are internships with the Government of Cyprus, the Cyprus Space Exploration Organisation, and the Cyprus Mission to the United Nations.

In 2014, whilst on holiday in New York, I went on a tour of the UN, and was fascinated by what I learnt, and the work that the UN has accomplished. Shortly after I found out that Nepomak offered an internship there, and ever since I had been desperate to sign up. Everything fell into place in October 2017 when Exeter offered the chance to do “Employment Experience Abroad” for the first time, and I realised that this was my chance. My application was accepted and in August 2018 I flew to New York.

“At times, I felt like I was watching history happen right in front of me.”

I was beyond nervous for my first day at the UN, however I quickly settled in. Everyone was so lovely and welcoming, and I greatly appreciate all the support they gave me over the year. During the first couple of weeks, I helped my colleagues prepare for the 73rd General Assembly – for example, by helping the Ambassador plan the President of Cyprus’ schedule for the High-Level week. During this week, my main role (much to my surprise) was to sit in on the General Debate and write this up in a report. I estimate that I saw between 70 – 80 Heads of State in this week, including: Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau, and Jacinda Arden (other famous figures I saw throughout the year at the UN include Antonio Guterres, Mike Pence, Amal Clooney, Angelina Jolie, and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). It was an extremely surreal week. I couldn’t believe that I was already trusted enough to solely represent the country of Cyprus at the most prominent political event in the entire world. My internship had completely exceeded all expectations in just a couple of weeks.

My main role at the UN was write up reports on the meetings I attended which would then get sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. These included General Assembly and Security Council meetings, conferences, humanitarian briefings, and resolution negotiations. At times, I felt like I was watching history happen right in front of me. For example, I attended an emergency Security Council meeting in November after Russia attacked Ukrainian vessels in the Kerch Strait and took 24 Ukrainian sailors prisoner. Tensions were extraordinarily high, with Russia trying to justify their actions, and Ukraine threatening to declare martial law. Although the situation between these countries is far from resolved, these sailors were finally released back to the Ukraine this month.

I also attended European Union Coordination’s around three times a week. These meetings were fascinating, as it was a private, behind-the-scenes look at how the 28 Member States work together to achieve their common goals (the way they discussed this never ending Brexit crisis was even more interesting!). One of the most memorable meetings I had here was during the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis. Both Maduro and Guaido were sending delegations to a United Nations conference in Buenos Aires, and the EU needed to decide on a common approach on how to diplomatically act in this situation. The issue was time sensitive, yet they also had to keep in mind how to deal with this in the long term. The cooperation and I saw during these meetings was so impressive!

“Living in New York was also a dream. The city is so full of life and opportunities, with something new to discover every day.”

Living in New York was also a dream. The city is so full of life and opportunities, with something new to discover every day. I made some incredible friends there, and some of the things we did were go to: all of the classic sight-seeing (Empire State, Statue of Liberty, Central Park etc.), Broadway shows, museums (the best is the Met by far), NBC studios to watch live recordings of SNL, concerts and festivals and Instagram popups, food markets, and travel. During my year I was lucky enough to go to San Francisco, Yosemite, Miami, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Washington DC, Virginia, and Philadelphia. I am trying hard to not be too critical of Exeter this year, but it feels so much smaller and unexciting after these experiences.

I am so grateful to the University for giving me the opportunity to live and work in New York for a year. Words can never justify how much I loved it and how much I want to return. To other students, I highly recommend working abroad, as it offers so much more than studying, and will be something you won’t regret!

If you’re interested in adding an EEA year into your course, contact the College Employability and Placement Advisor for your College or email careers@exeter.ac.uk  

Teaching English in China

Natasha Lock is a Yenqing Scholar at Peking University. She graduated in BA History, International Relations and Mandarin Chinese from the University of Exeter. 

Natasha Lock Yenqing Scholar at Peking University and Exeter graduate

I have been studying Mandarin Chinese for eight years and during this period I have been interested in the etymology of Mandarin, the history of China and contemporary political status of the country.

I’ve been extremely lucky to have spent the past five years back and forth from China – traveling, working and studying. I started with a family trip to China in 2013 and was fascinated by the country I had set foot in.

There seemed to be an energy here that was totally different from any other country I had been to, and a real connection between the past and the present. I followed this with a government study scholarship for short programmes (one/two months) spent in Shanghai and Nanjing during my university holidays. Then in 2016, I moved to Beijing for a year to study at Peking University. Since graduating in the summer of 2018, I have stayed in Asia, first to travel, then working for a manufacturing company based down in Southern China.

“Teaching in China has definitely taught me to chase a more hands-on job where I can interact with people, continue to learn and attempt to share my experiences and understandings with others. Academia is incredibly powerful, meaningful and allows for constant learning.”

Transferable skills

Teaching has been an incredible experience. It has allowed me first-hand access to see how the next generation of Chinese doctors, lawyers, academics and workers have spent their teenage education. Study pressures are both real and worrying. As a result, during my role as a teacher I’ve really tried to focus on addressing some of these issues. I try to pursue discussion-based learning, study topics that require the students to ‘think outside the box’ and do not set my students homework. I am also using my teaching experience in China to develop my Mandarin and fulfill my travel desires. There are breaks between lessons and I never work later than 5pm. This leaves a lot of time to study Mandarin, go out with friends and on the weekends and numerous national holidays, travel within China.

Teaching students in China feels like a real privilege. Whilst I am employed to teach the students, I also learn a great deal from them. Leaving school every day knowing that I’ve made a direct difference to someone’s day is extremely fulfilling and rewarding. Teaching certainly builds confidence and character. Standing in front of 50 teenagers for 4 hours each day demands lots of energy, organisation and drive.

The world famous Shanghai skyline

After the programme 

Since 2019 I have been a Yenqing Scholar at Peking University. The Yenqing Academy is an elite fellowship China Studies master’s programme that is fully funded. It takes 125 scholars from all over the world and teaches them in both core modules and their selected academic discipline. The Academy also organizes field studies to culturally, economically, and socio-politically significant regions within China.

The Yenqing Academy programme will be an intense two years of study concerning the International Relations of China and will facilitate my wish to become a more knowledgeable scholar and a better Mandarin speaker. In the past, I have found studying International Relations within China and from a Sino perspective to be absolutely fascinating. Furthermore studying this subject in a country so essential to International Relations is a unique privilege. Studying about China within the nation state has previously been extremely interesting, as aspects of politics were analysed from a Sino perspective and outside of class I could see the very case studies that were being utilized within my course.

Teaching in China has definitely taught me to chase a more hands-on job where I can interact with people, continue to learn and attempt to share my experiences and understandings with others. Academia is incredibly powerful, meaningful and allows for constant learning. Following the masters programme at Peking University, I wish to pursue PhD level studies. It is imperative that leading Sino specialists understand China’s past, present and future – looking at these behaviours through both Chinese and international perspectives. Subsequently I hope to use what I have learned throughout my career in academia or diplomatic consultancy. This balance between Chinese and international perspectives will be essential to bridge the gap between academic research and international policy-making.

Find out more about the programmes offered by Teach English In China or email info@teach-english-in-china.co.uk

Starting your career as an NHS Doctor

Luke Tester graduated from the University of Exeter Medical School in 2018. He’s currently working as a Doctor in the NHS. 

Luke Tester, Exeter alumn and NHS Doctor

Working as doctor in the NHS means that I’ve had four-monthly rotations and have worked in acute medicine, gastroenterology, geriatrics and general practice. These roles have included running ward rounds, being on-call for a hospital out-of-hours (approximately 250 patients for 2-3 doctors), ordering investigations and interpreting their results, responding to medical emergencies, and currently running GP clinics and seeing patients with a vast range of presentations – from tropical diseases, to new diagnoses of cancer, to minor illnesses, and the worried well.

I’ve seized numerous other opportunities, and have become a Trustee for a medium-sized social wellbeing charity that runs a befriending service, a social prescribing service, and a volunteering scheme. I led a medical student education programme (‘Foundation Teaching for Finals’) which taught final year medical students from Brighton & Sussex Medical School twice a week to prepare them for their final exams; I was a one-on-one mentor for academically struggling students from Kings College London; I am faculty for a state-of-the-art simulation suite for medical students, nursing students and student physician associates; I have taught volunteers from around Sussex first aid so that they can serve their communities, and more in the healthcare education sector.

I’ve also been part of a national St John Ambulance steering group responsible for the delivery of a £525,625 grant to provide 1,500 more spaces in the 35% most deprived areas for young people to become Badgers and Cadets and receive first aid training and other life skills. I’ve now joined a national prescribing working group for St John Ambulance. I have advocated for first aid, health, volunteering, community and young people at national conferences.

“I fell in love with the complexities of the human body and how I can directly work with people to improve their lives. I love the ever-changing, ever-evolving nature of healthcare and that front-line staff can drive improvement and innovation.”

Whilst at school I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. During my year 10 work experience I considered law and worked in a magistrates court; I considered business and worked in the City of London; and I considered medicine and worked in a hospital’s colorectal department – and became hooked. I fell in love with the complexities of the human body and how I can directly work with people to improve their lives. I love the ever-changing, ever-evolving nature of healthcare and that front-line staff can drive improvement and innovation. I enjoy working in teams to directly solve a problem, a diagnostic challenge or a treatment complexity. The detective work involved is enjoyable and satisfying, particularly with acute and emergency medicine where you can work to fix a problem and get instant results. Of course, not all problems are fixable, and communication is a big part of the role which presents its own satisfactions and challenges. Delivering end-of-life care and supporting both families and individuals through their physical, emotional and spiritual needs is very rewarding.

Next year I hope to work as an Educational Fellow in the Royal Sussex County Hospital’s Emergency Department. This involves working clinically in the major trauma centre’s high-intensity ED two-thirds of the time, and completing a PGCE for one-third of the time. This will allow me to experience emergency medicine and decide whether I want to pursue it as a career, as well as giving me the tools to become a better clinical educator.

University of Exeter Medical School was brand new and built on the experience of every other UK system, learning and adapting to provide the best course it could. It recruited the best staff from other universities, is in a beautiful part of the world, and used a modern, integrated, cyclical learning structure.

“Medicine is a significant commitment. You will have to work unsocial shifts, be in training for at least 10 years and face sights and experiences on a regular basis that you hope others will never witness. However, it comes with great satisfaction and challenge… working in medicine is a hard-earned privilege.”

The staff were always supportive, approachable and knowledgeable. The location is beautiful, and the lecturers are some of the best in the world. The small group work, logical course structure and constant feedback all made it easy to learn. I loved the significant amount of clinical contact that the UEMS Medicine course included from the very first week, which allowed me to develop as not just a scientist but as a clinician and professional.

Medicine is a significant commitment. You will have to work unsocial shifts, be in training for at least 10 years (and possibly 20+ years), and face sights and experiences on a regular basis that you hope others will never witness. However, it comes with great satisfaction and challenge, and working in medicine is a hard-earned privilege. Ensure you have done your research and make sure that the job is right for you, and that you are willing to make may be a life-long commitment. Seize every opportunity you can, and never stop trying to develop yourself. You’re not just learning for you – you’re learning for your patients. Ask for help whenever you need it. You are not expected to know everything and there is always support available.