Finding a Common Purpose

Natasha Lock is studying BA History, International Relations & Chinese at the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus. 

Natasha Lock

From the 5th-11th January 2018, I was lucky enough to be selected for the Common Purpose Programme hosted at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Here, amongst 30 other students from Exeter, I was given an insight into leadership skills, the city of Sharjah and Emirati culture, and how to ensure that cities of the future are both inclusive and sustainable.

Boundaries are everywhere: between sectors, specialisations, geographies, generations, backgrounds and beliefs. Common Purpose aims to support future leaders who can work across these boundaries, who are therefore ultimately more likely to solve problems and create change. In the ever competitive world for graduates seeking employment, it is no longer enough to rely solely on one’s IQ. Common Purpose aims to show the importance of having EQ (Emotional Intelligence) – the ability to connect with people on a social level, and CQ (Cultural Intelligence) – the ability to work with people that are not like you. It demonstrates the necessity of being able to successfully lead people of a different culture, race, age, gender and religion.

Common Purpose students at the American University of Sharjah

The programme was hosted over four days and provided ice-breakers, pitching sessions, guest speaker sessions, trips to businesses and debates. On the penultimate day, we were arranged into groups of six and asked to design a product that would help Sharjah to become a more inclusive and smart city. We were given 24 hours to come up with an idea, design a poster, make a video, produce a written outline of our concept and finally give a 3 minute pitch to three senior members of local companies followed by a Q&A session. I found this particularly memorable, not only because of my wonderful group who worked so well together, but also because of the incredible ideas that every other group developed in such a short space of time.

“Common Purpose aims to support future leaders who can work across boundaries, and who are therefore ultimately more likely to solve problems and create change.”

Common Purpose programmes are based on the idea that cross boundary leaders need to experience the world and the people around them. With this in mind, the programme organised visits to four start-up businesses in both Dubai and Sharjah. Here, we were able to meet with both local and international entrepreneurs and get some insights into the core skills required to start your own business, the most important being resilience. Despite the difference from business to business all of the entrepreneurs agreed that starting your own company is undoubtedly the best way to get a grasp and understanding of enterprise, corporate structures and themselves.

Aside from the programme, we had the opportunity to explore Sharjah and Dubai in our free time. We quad-biked in the Al Qudra desert, went up the tallest building in the world and went to the world’s largest aquarium. Every Common Purpose trip takes place in a different city – previous trips have been located in Nairobi, Kuala Lumpur, Philadelphia and Melbourne – allowing for the unparalleled opportunity to explore a city on a scholarship funded trip.

The Burj Khalifa, the tallest structure in the world

The Common Purpose trip to the American University of Sharjah was a huge learning experience and one that I will value throughout my academic and career progression.

For students reading this and wondering how they can enhance their enterprise skills and employability, here would be my two recommendations:

Local: Get involved with Think Try Do at Exeter University! The team offer sessions to enhance enterprise skills and provide support to students who are engaging with their own entrepreneurial activity. You can find a list of their current sessions and more information on the following link: https://mycareerzone.exeter.ac.uk/workgroups/student-enterprise-support

Global: Apply for the Common Purpose trips! This is a great way of networking with like-minded people, building on your soft skills and having a taster of life in a different city. You can find more information about Common Purpose here: http://commonpurpose.org

A Christmas Message from Career Zone


Tom McAndrew is a Careers Consultant based on the Streatham Campus.

Merry Christmas? 

Seasons Greetings from the Career Zone

We’re often asked this around this time of year about how to best make the most of the Christmas period in terms of careers. You may find that we hesitate slightly.

It’s a tricky question and we don’t want to get the answer wrong; we’re thinking what’s best for you, the person standing in front of us. Talking to some students recently, I discovered that some have exams BEFORE Christmas and AFTER Christmas too. The ‘Yuletide Double Exam Whammy’, as it’s known. If this is you, concentrate on the exams but make sure you spend some quality time with family, friends and those you love. There will still be some internships available and graduate roles to apply to when you return. You can try and do too much.

If you’re lucky enough not to have exams or coursework to work on, then please send your lecturers a nice Christmas card. Also remember to not shout this out too loudly in front of those that do. If you have time then you could maybe look at some career applications, dust up the old CV and practice a few of those rusty interview techniques. Then again, you could just chill a bit, spend time with family and friends and those who love you and recharge your batteries. Sometimes not giving it 100% all the time can work out better than wearing yourself out.

If you have a paid job you do over Christmas, then you may not have time to sort out your career. Remember that the job will probably look pretty good on your CV so you’re doing great. Spend quality time with family etc. etc. etc.…

We also hesitate because some of our International Students don’t have the funds to return home, and for them Christmas can be quite a bit strange, a bit lonely far from home. A good time to make use of the Career Zone; get your CV or application checked, talk about your plans and see a friendly face.

Christmas is an odd time too. A time of high expectations and pressure to be happy. Which can make people miserable. Yes, It’s a Wonderful Life but not necessarily all the time (NB If the Capra film of that name is not one of you favourites like mine, remember this is not a sentimental film. It is actually quite dark. A man questioning the worth of his existence. Who finds redemption with the aid of an angel realising that he has made an enormous impact on family, friends and the people he loves).

So have as Merry Christmas as you can in the circumstances, taking into account that you might have exams, have to work, or be worn out from a stressful time or be a long way away from home.

I suppose I could shorten that a bit and get rid of the question mark:

Merry Christmas from the Career Zone!

Your Future Starts Now

Albert Linney graduated from the University of Exeter in 2017 with a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. He talked to us about life after Exeter, using the Career Zone to get ahead, and making the most of your time at Uni. 

Life is sweet for Albert after Exeter

Life is sweet for Albert after Exeter

What have you been up to since graduating in June?

I’ve always been fascinated by global economics so after graduation, I travelled around India and Sri Lanka for six weeks. It was an extremely informative experience, meeting so many amazing people along the way. It inspired me to work with emerging economies like India later in my professional career, though quite how, I’m not sure just yet.

I managed to bag a graduate job at a large multinational trading company as a Junior Agricultural Commodities Trader, but was also inspired during my philosophy modules to give writing a go so I’ve actually been doing some freelance remote blogging for a company called Cluboid. Studying a split focus degree like PPE just made me hungry to try all sorts of avenues to be honest. I’d always worried that selecting a degree would pigeonhole me, or mean I was only considered for one specific field, but it’s been quite the opposite. It seems to just have opened tonnes more doors.

“I’d always worried that selecting a degree would pigeonhole me, or mean I was only considered for one specific field, but it’s been quite the opposite.”

How did you find these opportunities?

Right from the start of my 3 years at Exeter, I made sure I was hooked up to the Career Zone email alerts – I was getting notified weekly with opportunities ranging from CV boosters to interview advice. The Career Zone was of particular help in preparation for the final round interviews for Graduate applications – conducting mock interviews was a massive help.

How did you prepare for the life of a graduate?

Whilst at university I was keen to keep myself occupied. This meant that when I wasn’t in lectures or the library, I participated in the French and Debating Societies, as well as in Boxing and the Officer Training Corps (A British Armed Forces initiative for Uni students to learn army-related skills and experience). I even acted as president of the PPE society where I was directly responsible for the running of a society consisting of over 100 members. During the summers, I’d occupy my time with internships. I found the continuation of work experience prepared me excellently for graduate job applications, because I was that much more accustomed to the business acumen and how to conduct myself in a professional environment.

How did your time at Exeter influence your future?

I owe a lot to my tutors, two of which stand out for me in particular. Firstly, Gary Abrahams was a great source of inspiration. Having been a huge economic success even in spite of the 2008 financial crash, I was so enamoured by his insights. His approach to the Economics of Financial Crises module was inspired, with a heavy focus on morality and changing behavioural standards in the finance world. Insight like that made me feel like I was approaching the field with something to give. Secondly, Lenny Moss – my Philosophical Anthropology lecturer – is an absolute expert in his field. He inspired me greatly towards further education. In fact, I’m currently in application for my masters in Politics and International Relations at Kings.

What would you tell your First Year self in retrospect?

I would have loved to have gotten more involved with the sporting side of Exeter – being one of the top sports Universities in the country. I’m pretty injury prone though, so I would have perhaps have told my first-year self to take rehab and physio more seriously. Maybe then I could have!

What has the future got in store for you?

I’m still intrigued by International Relations – a subset of politics. My dissertation focused on the North Korean nuclear situation and the Obama Administration so working for an NGO or political think-tank to address current issues such as this would be the big dream. Having said that, the nature of my course has made me hugely interested in so many different roles and areas, so quite honestly – who knows.

Getting Social Media to Work for You

Rachel Coombes is a Careers Consultant based on the Penryn Campus.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram – these are all social media platforms you use for fun, right? But have you also explored how they can help – or hinder – your job hunting? Here are my top 5 tips for how to go about making the most of Social Media when planning your career:

If this is your LinkedIn profile photo you're probably not doing social media right

If this is your LinkedIn profile photo you’re probably not doing social media right

  1. What Happens in Vegas stays on YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter…for everyone to see

We all know the importance of maintaining a good presence online, yet some people are still getting into problems with posts that they (or others) made. Remember, employers may check what information there is about you online before you join and have been known to withdraw offers based on what they find. So what can you do to protect yourself?

  • Make sure you lock down your privacy settings and regularly check these as they are often updated, meaning that things you thought you had secured may have become open to the public again.
  • Google yourself – check what is already online about you and do this regularly. Clear up anything you wouldn’t want anyone to see if they Googled you too.
  • Set up Google Alerts for your name to be informed about anything that is posted about you.
  • Always take a second to think about the effects anything you post may have before putting it online.
  1. Build Your Brand

Having a presence online can be a positive thing, and building your brand online can really help you get ahead of the game and stand out to employers for the right reasons. The more active you are on social media sites, the higher you’ll come in the Google rankings. Even just having a LinkedIn account (we’ll come on to that later) can help you get to the top of a Google search, so get involved.

  1. To Blog or Not to Blog…That is the Question

Blogs are easy to start up and one of the most popular and easy to use is Word Press. But how will blogging help you with your career? For a start you can use it to demonstrate your knowledge of certain areas, interest in a topic or skill sets. For example if you were interested in becoming a journalist your blog can show your writing ability. Or say if you wanted to get into marketing, you could blog about your views on various marketing strategies you’ve come across in the media, or any you had personally created. You can then add a link to it on your CV or LinkedIn account to demonstrate more about you. Make sure however that you update your blog regularly otherwise there’s no point.

  1. #Employers

They may stalk you online but you can also do the same, so get proactive.

  • Go to the employer’s website and find out which social media sites they use. Some may have separate sites for careers related information so always go onto the recruitment section of their website first to check.
  • If you like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter you can then get regular updates on job openings/events/company information etc, all from the comfort of your phone.
  • YouTube can also be a great way to find out more about the company and the various roles within it from current employees or recent graduates. Some employers will also post clips on how to succeed in their recruitment process and what a group exercise might look like.
  • Interact with them – don’t be afraid to ask them a question or get involved in discussions. This can help to get you known to the employer so make sure this is for the right reasons. Make sure the questions you ask couldn’t easily be found out from their website or recruitment literature otherwise it will look like you haven’t done your research.
  1. We love LinkedIn

And we hope you will too. Feedback from students however is that a great number of you have LinkedIn accounts but aren’t sure how to make the most out of it. So here’s some key tips to help you get started:

  • Time – it can take some time to start reaping the rewards of LinkedIn so be patient and know that the more time and effort you put into it the more benefit you will get from it.
  • Research – you have access to millions of CVs in millions of different job roles through LinkedIn so get researching. Just type some key words of roles you’re interested in into the search bar at the top of LinkedIn and find the profiles of people involved in those areas. Have a look at how they got into it, what companies they’ve worked in, and build a greater knowledge of that industry.
  • Networking – start connecting with people. This can be other students, friends, contacts, employers you’ve met, work colleagues etc. They may not necessarily be connected to the area you want to get into but they may know someone who is. You can even search for particular companies and then find relevant people within that company you may like to approach. Make sure when you send out your request to connect that you change the generic text box and target it to that individual so they are more likely to connect with you.
  • Profile – LinkedIn will take you through the necessary steps to help you set this up and give you pointers on how to improve your profile. Just like your CV it should be targeted to the area you wish to get into. Make sure you detail clearly in your work history the skills and experience you have gained, including key words which employers may search for.
  • Groups – this is a great feature of LinkedIn and allows you to join groups that may be of interest to you. Doing this can help target your profile and enable you to participate in discussions and learn about certain areas. But which groups should you join? Search for ones related to your career area or previous experience. The University of Exeter has a group so why not start by joining that. Professional bodies and company specific groups can also be great ones to join.
  • Is it worth upgrading? There are a few benefits to getting the professional upgrade however the majority of what you need to do can be done without needing to upgrade so don’t feel you have to do this at this stage.
  • More, More, More – if you want to know more come along to one of our LinkedIn labs which will shortly be advertised on My Career Zone.

In summary Social Media is a great way to open up your job search and help you approach your job hunting in a more creative way. Not only can it help you access that all important hidden job market but it can also help you network and get yourself known to employers. Make the most of it as a resource and be sure to include it in your job hunting action plan.

To start on your social media journey why not come along to one of our ‘LinkedIn webinars’ or follow the Career Zone on social media to keep up to date with all things employability.

Happy Networking!

Working Behind the Scenes at The Career Zone

Getting work experience while you study is crucial to landing your dream job. Kerry Mann current BA History, Streatham Campus, told us about her time on the Uni’s Student Campus Partnership (SCP) scheme. 

Jo McCreedie, Kerry Mann, and Sam Jackman delivering the Pathways training week

Jo McCreedie, Kerry Mann, and Sam Jackman delivering the Pathways training week

Student jobs are supposed to be working late in bars and clubs, right? Wrong!

My experience as an SCP for the Internships Team has given me a real insight into the workplace, and how the University works hard to support its students. My position as the Administrator for the Pathways to Arts, Culture and Heritage programme means that I’ve taken this training and internship from the planning stages to delivery.

The Pathways programme sought to provide a group of talented students intensive and specific training from industry professionals and then place them in companies in the arts, culture and heritage sector, to implement their new found skills and ideas. As a History student myself I was excited that the University was providing such an in-depth programme for a sector which is often neglected. To pull this programme off, with the help of Sam Jackman from the RAMM and led by Jo McCreedie, was really satisfying, especially seeing how enthusiastic the students were about something I had helped to create.

“Being given the responsibility of supporting the development of an important new programme was at first a little daunting but now I am proud of what we have achieved and feel ready to take on any graduate job.”

Working with the Internships Team has been a blessing for my personal development. From the basics like working the telephone to spreadsheets (lots of them) and Twitter I am now fully equipped to get on with the job and feel confident in what I do. Being given the responsibility of supporting the development of an important new programme was at first a little daunting but now I am proud of what we have achieved and feel ready to take on any graduate job.

My role has involved a lot of project management skills. Advertising the programme back in January meant liaising with the Design Team to create posters, banners and flyers and the overall brand of the programme. I then managed the application process, becoming competent behind the scenes of My Career Zone. Having never thought myself as a computer wizz, I’ve built my confidence learning new systems and even how to schedule tweets on Twitter. I’ve then been involved in booking rooms, food, speakers and coordinating paperwork between students and internship providers.

For me, being involved in running the assessment centre was the most exciting and relevant part of the job. Being able to see exactly what it is that assessors want to be hearing will be particularly useful in future job applications. It was, however, being given the opportunity to be an assessor on the day that fuelled my interested in HR. I really enjoyed matching the student’s attitudes and capabilities to those we had outlined to assess and have since sought further experiences in this sector.

Being around a careers team has shown me opportunities many students miss out on whilst they are at University. As I’m constantly telling my friends: ‘check out the Career Zone website; there are tonnes of info, and you can get loads of support like on the Career Mentor Scheme and eXepert!’

“What’s it like having a ‘real’ job while at Uni? Well it’s actually a lot less stressful than your average retail job.”

What’s it like having a ‘real’ job while at Uni? Well it’s actually a lot less stressful than your average retail job. Firstly it’s an internship, so there’s a lot of support and training. Plus the regular (and daytime) hours, flexibility and being on campus makes it the perfect student job. I would encourage anyone to get in touch with the Careers team to help you start getting an edge on those grad job applications, whether that’s through research, a job or a Pathways programme next year.

Coming to the end of this job I knew I wanted to do something similar in my final year, and was fortunate enough to get the position of eXepert Administrator, working with the same team, I really didn’t want to leave! As I’ve really enjoyed my experiences in recruiting and assessing students, I have also secured experience with a recruitment agency for the summer- something I would not have dreamed of without the experiences and support I’ve gained in my position.

You’re leaving so soon?!

Tom McAndrew is a Careers Consultant based on the Streatham Campus.

Go and change the world

Those in their final year are leaving us. In this Summer Term, final exams, bits of course work to deliver maybe and that’s it.

Ouch. So soon?

Congratulations to those who got their dream graduate role. You worked hard and deserve it. Well done.

Possibly you made those who haven’t got their dream job feel very, very envious. They are the ones who hurtled towards Career Zone throughout the year in search of solace and advice. A few reassuring words; your time will come, you will get there, keep on trying, you will get there.

You have all been in an education system where there is a definite path. Career paths after graduation are less direct. A minority follow a linear path. A graduate job after leaving and then a meteoric rise. Easy. The majority of us follow a much more haphazard path. Up and down, off at tangents, sideways steps.  One step forward, two steps back for some. The journey is the reward as Taoists say.

As Robert Louis Stevenson said: “Little do ye know your own blessedness; for to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.”

And you are all blessed, you are all the lucky ones. You are young, you’re bright, and the future beckons. Who knows where your journey will lead?

As Floella Benjamin used to tell our graduands; go and change the world.

If you’re struggling then the Career Zone is here to help and support you for three years after you graduate. Talking through ideas, helping formulate plans, help with your applications, your interviews. In person, by telephone, by email and by SKYPE. You may not need us but we are there for you if you do.

You’re leaving.

Bon voyage.

Getting into Cyber Security

Eneida Morina is a current BSc in Computer Science student at the University of Exeter. After graduation she’ll be working as a Cyber Security Specialist at an international technology services company. 

Eneida Morina

Eneida Morina

“I took part in the Career Mentor Scheme where I was introduced to a fantastic mentor. She worked in the IT sector and guided me through the different career options that I could pursue with my degree; reassuring me that it wasn’t just coding jobs out there! My mentor encouraged me to apply for a summer internship in one of the areas we discussed, and I luckily got an internship in cyber security at the Met Office.

The internship was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the field as I didn’t actually know as much as I thought I did! It was a good glimpse of the professional working world as well as an insight into the career. I enjoyed the nature of the work and the diversity of it, so I applied for the graduate role of Cyber Security Specialist at a leading international technology services company.

“Cyber security is evolving fast and is more important than ever. Companies and organisations need protecting, so I feel that my work will be really valued.”

Cyber security is evolving fast and is more important than ever. We’re constantly hearing of cyber-attacks on companies in the news, and there’s a real need for more cyber security specialists. This area is exciting as there will constantly be new ideas and issues to work on, and it’s an important field that really matters. Companies and organisations need protecting, so I feel that my work will be really valued.

The company I’m working for really stood out at the Careers and Placement Fair. They promote women in tech which is something I’m passionate about, and they offer great graduate opportunities. They also support continued development and the opportunity to gain further industry recognised qualifications.

The role I’ve taken on is really exciting; I get to continue learning and further build my knowledgebase. I’ll be working within an organisation that’s a market-leader and offers the best products as well as having a great reputation. Furthermore, the organisation is really ahead of the game so I’ll be exposed to all the latest cyber security news and products.

I want to be able to work with impressive clients and make a difference. That’s as far as I know for now – who knows what the future holds!”

Fur Seal Conservation and Marine Biology

Emma Milner

Emma Milner studied Conservation Biology and Ecology with Study Abroad at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus (2012-2016). Her Study Abroad year was spent at the University of Calgary in Canada.

How did your degree impact on your career choice? My degree has given me a really great grounding in the fundamentals of Conservation and Ecology due to the variety of modules that I was able to choose from during my time at Exeter. However I found that I enjoyed myself the most when I became involved in field work. This interest started in first year during the module Field Techniques and continued to grow as I participated in more field work both at University and with projects elsewhere. I would say volunteering with the North Cyprus Marine Turtle Conservation Project really opened my eyes to how fascinating and rewarding research can be. I really enjoyed my time with the project and it help spark a particular interest and focus on marine biology research. I continued engaging in fieldwork research during my study abroad year in Canada where I worked with a variety of animals such as guppies, flour beetles and aquatic phytoplankton and zooplankton. My degree has helped increase my interest and curiosity about the world around us and has encouraged me to want to pursue a career in research and further study.

“I think this placement really helped give me a push in the right direction in terms of pursuing a career in ecological research especially because of all the new field and lab techniques I acquired during my time on the island.”

How did you get the placement? I applied for the South American Fur Seal Research Assistant placement on Guafo Island (Northern Chilean Patagonia) after seeing it advertised online. I think that it was a mixture of the field skills I had acquired during my time at University and the research I conducted in my third year that helped me secure this placement. My third year research project focused on Stable Isotope analysis of juvenile Cornish Grey Seal whiskers. This project increased my knowledge of Grey Seal biology whilst also giving me experience handling seal tissues which held me in good stead for this project.

Emma Milner seal pupsWhat did the placement involve?Guafo Island is located in the Pacific Ocean, northwest of the Chonos Archipelago, Chile and southwest of Chiloé Island. It is uninhabited and isolated from outside communications, roughly ten hours by fisherman’s boat from the mainland but has one of the largest breeding colonies of South American Fur Seals in Chile. Research was conducted looking at behavioural, physiological and pathological aspects of the seals life history. Live pups were caught and genetic samples (blood, whiskers, faeces etc) were taken and the pups were tagged and marked in order to conduct behavioural analyses. Necropsies of dead pups were also conducted to determine common causes of death in the rookery. Females were also caught and sampled with the aid of an anaesthesia machine.
During this position I learnt many skills including animal handling, taking blood, capture/recapture techniques and census techniques. Lab work was also conducted in the field adjacent to camp. Specific tests for haemoglobin level and protein content were undertaken whilst red and white blood cells were counted under the microscope. Swabs taken from the pups were used to count hookworm eggs and thus estimate severity of hookworm infection in the individual. Hookworm related diseases affect large numbers of the pup population each year and so it is important to understand the parasites cycles and prevalence. Faeces samples were also taken to analyse for plastic pollution.

How has it impacted on your career?This position has greatly improved my confidence in terms of being a research assistant in a unique and isolated environment. It has also made me feel more comfortable handling and taking samples from potentially dangerous animals. I think this placement really helped give me a push in the right direction in terms of pursuing a career in ecological research especially because of all the new field and lab techniques I acquired during my time on the island.

What’s next for you? In terms of what is next for me I would love to continue working as a research assistant on conservation and ecology projects in the UK and abroad.  I would also like to pursue a Masters with a particular focus on Marine Biology and in time I would like to achieve my PhD which ideally would focus on marine toxicology and anthropogenic threats to marine mammal health.

Keep Calm and use the Career Zone

Rachel Coombes is a Careers Consultant based at the Penryn Campus. She talked to us about making the most of the Career Zone before you leave. 

Rachel Coombes, Careers Consultant

Rachel Coombes, Careers Consultant

My main piece of advice is don’t panic! There are still lots of options available to you.

The first thing to be aware of is that large graduate employers only represent a very small percentage of the total jobs available on the market overall. This means there are hundreds of smaller/medium sized employers out there who may have the perfect opportunity for you. But how do you access them? Well, most may advertise directly via their website but if not then you can approach them directly with a CV and covering letter to ask about opportunities. Sometimes they may also advertise through Recruitment Agencies so don’t forget to include them in your job hunting action plan.

“If you’re not sure how to draft a covering letter, what a recruitment agency is or even what career you might like to do your first point of call should be the Career Zone.”

Creative job hunting is all about networking so make the most of any contacts that you have. Remember the eXpert Scheme which the Career Zone offers, speak to family and friends, people on your course, tutors and spread the word. Don’t forget the power of social media also and get yourself on LinkedIn to develop some networks and start contacting people.

If you’re not sure how to draft a covering letter, what a recruitment agency is or even what career you might like to do your first point of call should be the Career Zone. Start by having a look at the information and resources at www.exeter.ac.uk/careers. Here you’ll find details about how to get started with your career planning, creating a graduate level CV, finding an internship, applying for international opportunities, getting involved in the Exeter Award or eXepert scheme and much more. You will also find links to My Career Zone where you can book on to the many different events we run where you can hear from employers, develop your employability skills or search for job opportunities.

So as I said earlier – don’t panic, you are in control of your career and the Career Zone is here to help you, so make the most of it! For those graduating this year good luck and don’t forget you have access to us for up to 3 years following graduation – look out for our ‘Graduating-what now?’ webinars for helpful tips and advice.

You’re Not Stuck in Your Subject

Chris Mastris graduated from the University of Exeter in 2015, with a BSc in Biological Sciences. He is currently a Digital Account Manager at Optix Solutions, a web design and digital marketing agency in Exeter. Chris also publishes a digital marketing blog about the industry, with a focus on career development. 

Chris Mastris

Chris Mastris

Since finishing college and applying for university placements, I knew that I wanted to work in the field of biology, most likely in research. I loved learning about the microscopic processes that happened every second, mostly without us even realising. And, while I wouldn’t have admitted it at the time, I really enjoyed wearing a lab coat. (“Yeah, I’m a scientist”.) However, during the final year of my degree I started to have doubts about whether I wanted to pursue a career in biology, and my (admittedly vague) plans began to falter. I’m still fascinated by the world of science and technology, but I realised that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working in a lab.

“Ultimately, the subject of your degree doesn’t have to define your career, even if following an unconventional path might be less obvious and more challenging.”

After graduating, I spent a lot of time trawling through job boards trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I decided to try learning some programming, as it was something I’d always been interested in. Although I enjoyed the logical and challenging nature of it, I decided that it wasn’t what I was currently looking for as a career. Around the same time, I’d also been volunteering at a local community organisation, helping them with their publicity and online presence. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it, so on a whim I started to read up about digital marketing. One of the most important – and fortunate – moments came when I happened upon a tweet by a local digital marketer, who was looking to recruit someone new. I sent him a message asking about work experience, and the rest is history- I’m now working full-time at that very same digital marketing agency.

Ultimately, the subject of your degree doesn’t have to define your career, even if following an unconventional path might be less obvious and more challenging. You might be surprised at how common this is, and it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To take one example, in our digital marketing team at Optix Solutions none of us hold a degree-level qualification in marketing- our backgrounds range from visual arts through to archaeology! For this generation especially, with rapidly changing technology and threats of increasing automation, I think being adaptable is one of the most useful skills you can have.

Importantly, I feel that my degree prepared me for my career by helping me to develop a variety of useful skills, such as analytical thinking and written communication- even if my knowledge of microbial disease doesn’t come in handy very often in the office. In addition, I think my university experience has also improved my ability to learn quickly and adapt; I’d like to think this helped me progress from being an intern to a digital marketing account manager in less than a year. My final year project, a lab-based research project, was particularly valuable in this respect- even though I found it fairly challenging at the time!

“Don’t be afraid to experiment a little with what you want to do for the rest of your life: there’s a good chance that you’ll be happier and more successful because of it.”

Although I’m now pursuing a different discipline, I’m still grateful for the experiences that my time at university provided me with. The message I want to share is that a degree can have benefits far beyond the subject matter, and it’s by no means impossible to change your path after graduating. It can feel stressful, even hopeless, when you’re not sure which direction to take. However, by putting in the effort and having patience, there’s still plenty of options out there. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little with what you want to do for the rest of your life: there’s a good chance that you’ll be happier and more successful because of it.