Growing a Sustainable Career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unknown – Being a student with a hidden disability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter… Pathways!

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

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

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

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

Enter… Pathways!

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

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

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

So, what is Pathways?

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

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

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

What did I get out of it?

SO MUCH, is the short answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The details…

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

Employer led training will be from 17-20 June 2019

Paid internship from 24-28 June 2019

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

Passion, Ability and Confidence – a Career in Law

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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