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.

Start your Career in the Civil Service

Latika Chhabra is currently working for the Civil Service on the HMRC Tax Professional Graduate Scheme. She graduated in 2018 with a BA in Politics and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus. 

Latika Chhabra – Exeter alumn, currently working for the Civil Service on the HMRC Tax Professional Graduate Scheme

Having studied Politics and Middle Eastern Studies during my time at University I’ve always been interested in working in policy. I heard about the Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship Programme when some Exeter alumni, who joined the Civil Service through the fast stream graduate programme, visited a University Careers Fair. I managed to secure a place on the programme for the summer after my Second Year at University, and was placed with the Behaviour Insights and Research Team in HM Revenue and Customs.

“My line manager and colleagues were extremely supportive and had arranged a variety of projects for me, allowing me to get a rounded experience of working for the team and I lead a project on the relationship between HMRC and Generation Z.”

Whilst this was a daunting internship, as the idea of working with the tax office was alien to me, the breadth of the tasks and projects helped me understand the type of work I would like to pursue after completing my degree. The internship also made me more aware of my strengths and weaknesses in the work environment. My line manager and colleagues were extremely supportive and had arranged a variety of projects for me, allowing me to get a rounded experience of working for the team and I lead a project on the relationship between HMRC and Generation Z, which was extremely rewarding. The planning and structure of the internship programme ensured that I was given the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution and I have enjoyed working in a team to produce the desired quality of work in a timely fashion.

I was able to carry forward the teamwork, organisational, and leadership skills into my role as President of Politics Society on campus. I believe myself to have benefited from the programme and will seek to further develop these skills after graduation.

The overall experience of working in a large team in a reputable organisation helped me explore my future career opinions. Interning at HMRC has given me greater confidence in my work capabilities, and increased my motivation to pursue a career in the Civil Service.

I would recommend the Summer Diversity Internship Programme to anyone who is interested in exploring a career with the Civil Service. There is a range of networking events that allow us to gain a better understanding of the different roles available in government, further allowing us to gain a better understanding of our future career prospects.

Getting into International Development

Clara Hawkshaw graduated from Exeter in 2009, with a BA in International Relations. She’s currently Awards (Grants) Capacity Building Manager with Save the Children International.

Clara Hawkshaw – Exeter alumn, and Awards (Grants) Capacity Building Manager with Save the Children International

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

After I left Exeter I struggled to get a job in an NGO, and after four unpaid part-time internships and too many job applications to count I started my first paid job as a Personal Assistant in an investment bank. That experience opened doors to work as a PA; first into a social housing association, and then into the humanitarian sector. Since joining Save the Children in 2013 I’ve worked in many different countries including Sierra Leone for the Ebola Response in 2014-2015. I’m currently coordinating capacity building activities for our grant management teams in the Country Offices around the world.

The best thing about my job is working with our teams in the Country Offices and Field Offices and knowing that my contribution is working towards implementing life-saving programmes to children who need it most.

“I genuinely think that International Development is one of the most competitive sectors, and there isn’t any clear guidance in how to get in to it…there aren’t any graduate schemes or obvious routes to take…but so long as you keep sight of the end goal and be a bit creative with building up your skills and experience elsewhere then you’ll get there in the end.”

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

I started my career as a PA which taught me to be very organised – this is important as there are a lot of competing priorities in the sector and often there aren’t enough staff to deal with them all. Empathy and passion which I’ve learnt in my volunteering and field experiences keeps my spirit high in the face of adversity. Likewise, you need a lot of resilience – both in applying for jobs in the beginning, but also for the long working days and travel which come with the job. Project management is very important but it is more than studying for a project management qualification – you need a level of general creativity in how to make things work efficiently and effectively with limited resources.

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

International Development is a very competitive sector, and there’s no blueprint for how to get into it! If you ask any humanitarian worker they’ll all say they had a different route to their current job. You may be told that you need a Masters degree and that you need to do unpaid internships. If you are in a position to do both of these things then you’ll be able to get in quicker, but there are definitely other ways to get in so try not to feel discouraged. There are now lots of ways that you can study for a Masters part-time whilst working which is how I got my MSc in Development Studies.

What are your plans for the future?      

To continue to work in the humanitarian sector. I’m looking to leave the Head Office life and move back overseas to a humanitarian emergency, where I can really use the remote management and project management skills which I’ve perfected in London to build up the capacity of the teams who are implementing our programmes.

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

Don’t give up! I genuinely think that International Development is one of the most competitive sectors, and there isn’t any clear guidance in how to get in to it. Unlike other professional sectors there aren’t any graduate schemes or obvious routes to take. If you don’t have the financial opportunity to study a full-time Masters or do a full-time unpaid internship then it will be a harder journey, but so long as you keep sight of the end goal and be a bit creative with building up your skills and experience elsewhere then you’ll get there in the end. Also don’t underestimate the power of local volunteering – not just for your CV but mostly to keep your passion ignited.

Putting pen to paper: a career in writing

Emily Poole graduated with BA History in 2015, from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus. She’s currently working for workplace interior design company Interaction

Emily Poole, BA History graduate and copywriter

Hear the word “copywriting” and it may conjure up ideas of patenting products (Dragon’s Den style). Yet it’s actually another word for professional writing – and a great outlet for graduates that want to make a living out of a love for the written word.

Most copywriters these days will fall under the umbrella of marketing, and are therefore usually called digital copywriters – that means writing any copy (words) you see online; whether that be on websites, emails, blogs, news articles, social media etc. (the list is pretty endless). Digital copywriters will often work closely with other members of a team, including web developers, brand managers and graphic designers.

“I wouldn’t be in my current role if I didn’t have previous writing or marketing experience. Fortunately, soon after graduating, I was employed as a copywriter at a marketing agency… Although I wasn’t writing about anything that interested me… I became familiar with writing a lot of blogs and web pages in a short space of time, and also started managing the social media accounts for a number of clients.”

Writing for the web these days often goes hand in hand with SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Essentially, this means creating content around a set of keywords that will be searched on google. For example, say you wanted a pair of black jeans and typed “black jeans” into Google, the companies that appear first will be those that have successfully written SEO-optimised content. It’s really fun to see the effect that your writing can have on a customer – and learning how to track and analyse this.

How would I know?

Well, I’m a digital copyrighter, and have been since I graduated three years ago. After studying essay-based subjects at A-Level and falling in love with the Penryn Campus, I chose to study a BA in History with The University of Exeter. I wouldn’t have done this without a love for writing – which certainly came in handy when writing my dissertation! Wanting to write for a living, after graduating, I searched for content-based roles.

Fast forward to today and I’m currently working at a workplace interior design company called Interaction, based in Bath. My role is varied to say the least! I could also be called the Social Media Manager, Blog Editor, PR Manager, Web Assistant, Email Builder, Photoshoot Co-coordinator and more. No day is the same, but I still get to spend most of my time writing, which is what I’ve always wanted. Most importantly though, because I work for a creative and fun company, I get to conjure up the odd pun; which is a massive passion of mine!

A step in the right direction

I wouldn’t be in my current role if I didn’t have previous writing or marketing experience. Fortunately, soon after graduating, I was employed as a copywriter at a marketing agency in Weston-Super-Mare. Although I wasn’t writing about anything that interested me (generally windows, doors and conservatories), I learned a lot; I became familiar with writing a lot of blogs and web pages in a short space of time, and also started managing the social media accounts for a number of clients. Importantly, I became used to an office setting; working a 9-5 job is odd after the amount of free time you get at University, but I soon got used to it.

“The main factors that have enabled me to get where I am today are passion, experience and skill. I’ve always been passionate about creating content, which tends to shine through on my CV and during interviews.”

After a little less than a year, I applied for a maternity-cover role at Clarks HQ in Street (the shoe people!) I got the Content Executive role and learned so much in the process! I would create the content for emails that were sent out to hundreds of thousands of people. Not only was it amazing to work for such a well-known brand, but it proved to me how important even the smallest bits of text can be. I also got used to working in a larger marketing team (hint: being able to collaborate with people is a big learning curve, but so worth it).

Although my maternity contract was extended, I chose to move on. Clarks was great, but I wanted to work for a more creative company – and hence my applying for my current role at Interaction.

 A little bit of advice

The main factors that have enabled me to get where I am today are passion, experience and skill. I’ve always been passionate about creating content, which tends to shine through on my CV and during interviews.

I’ve been lucky to work my way up to a role I really love, for an amazing company – but this was only possible by getting my foot in the door writing for other companies (even if that quite literally meant writing about doors). Although I wasn’t passionate about my first job after Uni, it gave me experience of the marketing sector. So even if you’re thinking twice about applying for a job, I’d say go for it. Even if it’s only to add a year’s worth of experience to your CV, that could prove to be invaluable at a later date.

Personally, I think there are few traits that are vital if you want to be a professional writer (and a good one!) These include: immaculate spelling and grammar, the ability to create content quickly whilst maintaining quality, a creative flair, a genuine love for the written word, a willingness to learn new things (e.g. SEO), and the ability to work equally well alone or as part of a team.

If you’re wondering where to start after Uni (I know it can seem daunting), keep an eye out for copywriting, editing, publishing, or marketing internships and jobs. Although they may be unpaid or not paid very well, the experience will probably make them worthwhile, even if you only stay in them for a few months. Whilst applying for jobs, also spend time (and effort) getting your own work published online – this could be in the form of your own blog or portfolio, or on a site that publishes content for free.

As long as you’re passionate about writing, you’re halfway there! Good luck!

Be More Than Your Degree

Be More Than Your Degree

The core of your experience at Exeter is always going to be about academia, but extra-curricular activity is crucial to your personal development and employability.

Be More Than Your Degree showcases the incredible depth of ‘extra stuff’ you can get involved with at University, enriching your experience and helping you get the absolute most out of your time at Exeter.

From Monday 1 to Friday 5 October in the Forum Street, Streatham Campus, find out how we can help maximise your potential through ‘Making a Difference’, gaining ‘Experience’ and ‘Career Support’. You can speak to the professionals and find out what is on offer and ask all the questions you need to, in order to figure out what to do next.

Ready to get inspired?

Katherine Giff, BA English Graduate and Talent and Music intern at MTV

Katherine Giff – BA English Graduate 

“During my time at Exeter I joined XpressionFM, Expose and PearShaped Music Magazine. I chose these societies because I love music and wanted to try music journalism and radio. These societies helped me with my writing, gave me a taste of deadlines and introduced me to so many people. My role in XpressionFM forced me to think creatively as I had to come up with new concepts for our shows and live events, and taught me how to work in a team without my experience in these societies, I would not have got my current job as Talent and Music intern at MTV. Interviewers love to ask questions about when you have worked in a team, overcome difficulties etc. and every example I gave related to my societies. There are some parts of my job now that build on what I learnt in these societies, and I’m always grateful that I threw myself in, and would encourage everyone else to do so, too.”

Alex Somervell (right) started ‘One Third Stories’ whilst studying International Relations and Languages at Exeter

Alex Somervell established his own language learning business ‘One Third Stories’ whilst studying for his degree in International Relations and Languages. 

One Third Stories uses a concept developed by Alex and his business partner Jonny Pryn known as The Clockwork Methodology® which creates bedtime stories in the form of a book and app that starts in English and ends in a different language by gradually introducing words in the target language, delivered as part of a monthly subscription box.

Think: Try: Do was the first bit of support we received in the form of both mentoring and funding” said Alex. The pair also featured on the TV program Dragons den however declined their backing. Peter Jones valued their business at £300,000 and wanted 20% of their margins.

One Third Stories is now worth £2.6 million.

We look forward to meeting you at Be More Than Your Degree, and did we mention there’s free cake? #BMTYD

Go Global

Susannah Day is a Global Employability Consultant (currently on secondment), based on the Streatham Campus. She gave us the low-down on getting work experience outside the UK. 

Susannah Day, Global Employability Consultant

Students often ask me how they should start looking for work overseas, or if I know of any organisations in a certain sector or country which may be hiring. As my remit is to help you find work outside of the UK that’s an awful lot of sectors and an awful lot of countries, not to mention immigration requirements and employment laws I’m expected to know.  In most cases, as I’m sure you can imagine, I don’t know the answer but this I do know:

I think there are two approaches to finding work overseas; one is focussing on your sector of choice and seeing where it is on the rise globally, and the other is focussing on which country you want to go and then seeing how you can get there. They aren’t always the same thing. Sometimes this alone is enough to help people get started as it gives some purpose to the research.

“There are two approaches to finding work overseas; one is focussing on your sector of choice…and the other is focussing on which country you want to go and then seeing how you can get there.”

Don’t Google “How to find work overseas”. You’ll be inundated by articles, advice and offers of perfect internships in return for large sums of money. Be strategic in your job hunt.

The Global Employability website has a load of information about working overseas. It’s well worth looking at Target Jobs – Working Abroad as well and Prospects.

The Country Information section is divided into continents so you can look at North and South America, Middle East, Europe etc. separately. In most cases each country section provides information on sectors on rise and decline, chances of getting work (including visas) and some in country job websites.

Understand that immigration rules and visa restrictions exist and are implacable. There are no work arounds or quick fixes (not legal ones anyway). Understand the feasibility and likelihood of gaining work in that country based on their immigration rules, then decide whether you really truly want to invest all that time and emotion into it with potentially little chance of success.

We have alumni networks all over the world, you can find out who you may want to contact here: http://www.exeter.ac.uk/alumnisupporters/networks/international/ . They’ve volunteered to be country contacts so it’s fine to email them asking for advice and insights on how to find work in the sector/county.

I’d also encourage you to use LinkedIn, you can see where alumni are working around the world, so actively expand your network by connecting with University alumni and ask them also for ideas and tips on how to find work in your chosen sector and location. You can also see the career path they’ve taken to get where they are.

Don’t expect to jump straight to your dream job. Often it’s a series of steps involving smaller internships to gain experience in your sector, or because that’s the only visa available for that country. From there you can build up. On the flip side, don’t let this stop you applying for ‘proper jobs’ but choose these wisely and be sure you’ve answered the questions in the application form and absolutely highlighted how your skills meet their requirements.

“Always consider teaching English through TEFL or TESOL. This is one of the easiest ways to work in a non-English speaking country; once you’ve a “foot in the door” you can start looking for work and networking in your preferred sector.”

Always think; how am I going to make this application stand out from others, especially as I’m applying from overseas? Target Jobs also has a really good article on Writing Speculative Applications. Lots of students find international internships through speculative applications made via LinkedIn research.

Always consider teaching English through TEFL or TESOL. This is one of the easiest ways to work in a non-English speaking country; once you’ve a “foot in the door” you can start looking for work and networking in your preferred sector.

Finally, don’t worry if you don’t speak another language. Of course it helps, but many organisations are looking for English speakers so you can either pick up the language as you go, or enrol in tandem language classes, evening classes or use many of the online apps to help with this. Language is not a barrier.

Finding work overseas is a top down process; start at the top with the macro view researching countries, visas, sectors, companies etc. and then work down towards the micro level identifying who you may want to work for then applying speculatively to that organisation if they’re not advertising. This can make it seem like a longer process but ultimately when you do start applying to places you should be making more targeted applications with (hopefully) a higher chance of success.

If you’d like any further help you can book an appointment with the Global Careers Team by contacting the Career Zone

One Step at a Time

Rowanna Smith is a Careers Consultant based on the Streatham Campus. 

Rowanna Smith, Careers Consultant

TIME – it’s a funny thing. I bet if you look back at your study here at Exeter it’ll feel like it’s flown by, but remembering your first few days arriving on campus it probably feels like a lifetime ago!

Keeping perspective is therefore quite tricky when the goal posts keep moving – completing your first Autumn Term had once seemed like a fantastic challenge, getting a particular grade may have been a goal, now ‘what are you going to do after graduation?’ seems to be the only focus.

So at this particular crossroads, it’s really good to pause – TAKE TIME. Be proud of what you’ve achieved; the friends you’ve made, the fun you’ve had, the struggles you’ve overcome, all that you’ve learned.

A few moments of reflection can really help you to be aware of where you are, and create a new horizon. Making use of the range of services available through the Career Zone after graduation can help you to clarify your next journey and support you to reach your next goal.

Some of you may be feeling completely lost about what you want to do, and seeing friends advancing with clear plans while you may be heading home can feel quite isolating.  Fast Forward provides a full list of careers-related services available to everyone long after graduation.  You can book onto our career webinars if there is anything you want to catch up on, as well as gain support from finding work, to helping you to work out what you want to do next.  You can book 1:1 Careers Appointments to discuss your circumstances over Skype, Phone or face to face – a chat with a Careers Consultant can certainly help you stay connected and keep you on track.

*tick tock tick tock*

If you’ve planned to take some time out, perhaps travelling for a season, we can still support you via Skype, no matter the TIME ZONE, and even help you to find graduate opportunities abroad, or make plans for your return.

For those of you that may be anxious that your ideal plans haven’t yet come to fruition; be assured that we are still available to support you. I’m a firm believer in the word ‘yet’.  If you feel you’ve failed, change your perspective… you just haven’t reached your goal yet!  You can still have applications and CVs reviewed via Skype with the Career Zone, and talk to a Careers Consultant about targeting different employers or different types of work if your goals have changed.  You are still eligible to make use of The eXepert scheme which can put you in contact with University alumni to get advice on how to enter a chosen sector, occupation or company; extending your professional network.  So stay resilient, and remember that a detour to reach the summit can sometimes offer the best views!  You still have PLENTY OF TIME!

Finally, if you’re keen to prepare for your new job and want to do some personal development before you start, then making good use of My Career Zone Digital offers some excellent online training.  There is also support on creating your LinkedIn profile, and developing your professional networks.

So no matter quite where you are on your career journey, we have a range of opportunities available. Let us help you reach your destination, ONE STEP AT A TIME!