Getting into the charity sector as a journalist – Five things I’ve learnt

Trina Wallace
Trina Wallace

Trina Wallace is a freelance charity copywriter and journalist, and an Exeter alum. 

Excitement. Fear. Curiosity. Apprehension. These were just some of the feelings I had when I graduated from Exeter University in 2001 with a degree in English studies. My university years were fantastic. I made new friends, gained amazing memories and learnt so much about life. After graduation, I wondered what lay ahead.

I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but how would I get there – and what would I write about? More than 15 years on, I work as a freelance journalist and copywriter in the charity sector, which I love. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt in my career since I graduated.

Vocational training is fun and makes you stand out. When you’ve finished three or four years of undergraduate study, you might not be up for more education. But if you want to be a journalist, I really recommend doing further training. Journalism is a craft and getting a good grounding in solid journalistic news and feature writing principles is crucial.

I did a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, a great course. The training is more practical than academic, so I felt like I was moving forward. If I need help with work these days, I always look for people who have a journalism qualification.

“There are challenges but being your own boss means you get to choose who you work with and when, and you can fit your job around your life rather than the other way around.”

Work out what you don’t want to write about. I did some shifts at a popular woman’s weekly which involved interviewing people and telling their ‘real life’ stories. For me, that felt uncomfortable. Vulnerable people were paid to tell their heart-wrenching stories and I didn’t think they were supported enough before or after sharing them.

This experience helped me to figure out that I wanted to work in the charity sector. I enjoy interviewing and helping people tell their stories to make change happen. So in the charity sector, I specialise in interviewing the people charities support.

Charities need staff who come from outside the sector. It’s lovely working in the charity sector where people really care about what they do. Often, staff move from one charity to another which is brilliant as it means expertise is shared in the sector. But I do think charities benefit from employing staff with experience of the commercial sector because they have a different perspective. Journalists can bring that eye for finding a story to charities which helps them to reach more people.

Being your own boss is possible. I have worked as a features writer for business and lifestyle magazines and as an editor for a copywriting agency. At the agency, I was also an account manager for charity clients. It taught me about business as well as writing and helped me to return to the idea I’d had when I was younger about being my own boss. I always admired the freedom my dad had being self-employed, ­yet careers advisers never mentioned the option of being your own boss. But it really is an option and journalism is a perfect freelance career. There are challenges but being your own boss means you get to choose who you work with and when, and you can fit your job around your life rather than the other way around.

Journalism is evolving and journalists need to too. Many printed newspapers and magazines have closed which is sad. Now, more people are reading content online. So journalists have to keep their training up to date so they know about everything from search engine optimisation to creating videos. It’s a move to creating content, not just words. If you want to go into journalism, I’d bear this in mind when you’re considering work placements, training and jobs.

Find out more about me on my website www.trinawallace.com

Start Your Career with Sprint

Last year, the Career Zone was pleased to launch Sprint – personal and professional development programme for women. The course is aimed at supporting women to achieve their aims and aspirations, develop confidence and networks. To find out more about the programme we asked two previous participants to share their experiences with us.

Alexandra (3rd Year Flexible Combined Honours with Study Abroad) 

Alexandra McLeod
Alexandra McLeod

‘I found the Sprint course to be completely different to any area of academic study or society event I have participated in at university. It didn’t feel like a lesson or lecture but more of a group discussion on issues we were interested in. I did not contribute that much at first but soon became the most confident member of my group and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation that we did to a friendly panel that were not there to judge us, but were genuinely interested in our career aspirations.

One of my favourite activities was when we had to talk for 2 minutes on an ‘unimportant’ or ‘boring’ subject. Some people went with the weather, I chose the Kardashians. The group had to then become disinterested within 30 seconds and completely ignore you after 1 minute, whilst you kept talking – it’s a lot harder than it sounds! This provided me with a new skill in learning to keep to a concise topic, as well as knowing when to change the subject, especially in interview situations.

I learnt so many new skills such as breathing exercises and relaxation techniques before an exam or interview. It was also liberating to talk freely about things that you were passionate about, or in contrast things that really annoyed you, without being judged as it was accepted that everyone has different opinions.

It was such a friendly and positive atmosphere and I believe is the type of session we should be doing at a much younger age in order to develop confidence.’

“A small change of perspective has made a great impact on my future. I hope other young women benefit from the same opportunity to participate in this life-changing program.”

Catherine (4th Year BA International Relations, Chinese & TESOL) 

Catherine Arnold
Catherine Arnold

‘I participated in the Sprint program in my fourth year of studying International Relations, Chinese and TESOL at the University of Exeter.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I signed up to the Sprint programme, but thought it might enhance my employability in an increasingly competitive world of work. The Sprint programme went far beyond that, allowing me to develop personally as well as professionally. Sprint taught me to live my life with confidence and assertiveness, having pride in my achievements and striving for the full extent of my potential.  

I will continue to take the confidence and skills I have gained from Sprint forwards into my Masters study of Water Science, Policy and Management at the University of Oxford, and also in my personal life. A small change of perspective has made a great impact on my future. I hope other young women benefit from the same opportunity to participate in this life-changing program.’

You can find out more about Sprint, including how to apply via our webpage. If you have any questions, please ask the team a question via My Career Zone.

Collaborate, Communicate and Conserve

Todd Burlington is a current Physics student at the University of Exeter. He talked to us about his internship at the Met Office, collaborative projects and #TechnoRhino

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Todd and #TechnoRhino in the Career Zone

With the help of the Career Zone I spent this summer on an internship at the Met Office’s Informatics Lab. I took advantage of the Access 2 Internships (A2I) scheme offered by the Career Zone. This scheme helped me with travel costs, which allowed me to easily get to work, and in addition to this the application reviews, interview practice and career planning no doubt helped a lot in securing my internship.

‘The Informatics Lab employs scientists, designers and technologists, all of which leads to a very interesting working environment where collaboration is at the very heart, blurring the lines between technology, design, and science.’

The Informatics Lab is a new and very different team. The lab has eight full-time staff and operates as a rapid prototyping R&D centre. The idea behind the lab is to quickly trial new technologies for the Met Office, and produce prototypes of how they could be used. To achieve this, the lab has everything it needs in-house. It employs scientists, designers and technologists, all of which leads to a very interesting working environment where collaboration is at the very heart. These are the people blurring the lines between technology, design, and science.

You’ve probably seen some rhino sculptures around Exeter; they’re part of Paignton Zoo’s Great Big Rhinos Project. This involves placing rhinos around the South West in a mass public art event. IMG_1210

#TechnoRhino was developed as a collaboration between the Met Office Informatics Lab and Paignton Zoo. The collaboration was born out of the idea that the lines between technology and design are becoming increasingly blurred. With this in mind, what could the Met Office achieve if presented with a rhino? The Met Office is one of the biggest technology companies in the South West, and what goes on here far outstrips just predicting the weather for the TV. This surprised me when I arrived: the scope of their work is much larger than I ever thought.

It makes sense that the Informatics Lab would be the right people to push the edge of what is possible in a public art event. The way they thought they would do this is by using LEDs. My involvement in this project extended from the very start to finish, developing the software to power the LEDs as well as constructing the hardware required to operate them, all in addition to organising visit days with external organisations for #TechnoRhino’s tour. I then oversaw these days, interacting with the public in places such as the RAMM and Exeter Library.

Visiting these different locations allows #TechnoRhino to showcase the Great Big Rhino Project. Hopefully, due to how different the Met Office’s rhino is to what has been produced before, a lot of interest would be generated for the Great Big Rhinos Project. The project aims to raise awareness of the endangered species of the Javan and Sumatran rhinos, of which there are only 60 left in the wild. With this in mind, any way to generate interest is very welcome.

‘The Access to Internship (A2I) scheme is a wonderful opportunity which you should wholeheartedly take advantage of.’

Not only was this a cool project to work on, but it was for a very important cause. Hopefully, whilst #TechnoRhino has been on tour, a more people have gotten interested and donated to an excellent cause.

Working here has fundamentally changed my outlook on my future career plans. It has made me more eager than ever to dive into the world of work, but it has also changed my outlook on where I see myself ending up. I now expect more from my future career than I did before. I cannot see myself working somewhere with a ‘traditional’ working culture – I just loved the freedom and learning that came from a place like the Informatics Lab.

Luckily, our University has enabled me to really benefit from the experiences that come from working at such a world leading organisation. The Access to Internship (A2I) scheme is a wonderful opportunity which you should wholeheartedly take advantage of.

Your Big Career Adventure

RowannaSmith
Rowanna Smith

Hello, I’m Rowanna Smith, and I’m a Careers Consultant based on the Streatham Campus. I was really keen to be given this opportunity to welcome you all to what I hope will be an exciting time of exploration, adventure and personal development.

For those of you who are commencing your degree, starting your first year is likely to be all about ‘change’, some of which will be great fun, but at times may also feel a bit unsettling.  For returning students, you too may be living with new groups of people, or coming back from a year abroad and feeling ‘new’ again.  Establishing yourself within communities of friends from your course, clubs, sports and societies are a key part of making Exeter your home, so do try to build time into your busy schedules to enjoy fun activities and feel connected.

The graduate career journey is full of milestones and crossroads and there are definitely easier and more effective routes you can take.

In light of the amount of learning and development you’ll be encountering, from deepening your academic knowledge, to learning that you really can’t live on chips and curry sauce every night, I hope that you make time this year to progress your career adventure.

The graduate career journey is full of milestones and crossroads and there are definitely easier and more effective routes you can take, rather than walking round in circles or setting up camp in the same spot for three years.  It’s all about making informed choices, which usually starts with asking really good questions.  This is where the skills and expertise of Careers Consultants, Information Officers and wider careers staff are able to provide you with valuable support.

We work with first year, penultimate and final year students, as well as postgraduate students. So if you’re keen to find part-time work on or off campus, or would like to bounce some ideas around that you’re unsure about, we’re happy to chat things through – you really don’t need to have it all figured out before coming in.  For those of you who are already clear about your career choices, then you may want to discuss the best routes to reach your destination.  Some of you may also have struggled to gain work experience, or had work experience that has completely changed your mind about things – it’s all up for discussion and we can figure out the next steps together.

Your career starts here; you’re already on the road – what we would like to do is walk with you a while.

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You can plan to travel on your journey as much or as little as you wish, but let’s make it an active choice and decide to get moving.

As with all adventures, they can be fun and you’ll learn a great deal, but they also require energy and commitment.  You can plan to travel on your journey as much or as little as you wish, but let’s make it an active choice and decide to get moving.

Your personality, future occupations that you can ‘see yourself’ doing, your level of ambition and ways in which you’re motivated and engage with work, including the academic subject you have chosen to study, have already been influenced by many factors in your life.  Your world-view and how you see yourself within it will continue to be supported and challenged during your time here at University and beyond.

So come and explore more about yourself and declutter your thoughts about work and the future.  Come and find out about the types of occupations that may be of interest to you; investigate the different ways you can gain commercial awareness and relevant work experience.  Come and have a chat about how you can begin to identify companies or sectors that may provide a congruent and rewarding environment that suits your individual interests and values.  Whatever you need to follow your own path, we are here to help.

Some useful tips for your career survival kit include:

  • Log in to My Career Zone and add or amend preferences suitable for what you need
  • Visit the Career Zone and have a chat at Reception about what might be relevant to you, or simply browse through some of the range of careers information we have available
  • Consider signing up for some career workshops or employer events to learn more, as advertised on My Career Zone
  • Make an appointment to speak with a Careers Consultant to discuss and progress your plans by booking through Reception in the Career Zone.

Your career starts here; you’re already on the road – what we would like to do is walk with you a while.

Start-Up Your Career

Amy Wood graduated from Exeter in 2013 with a BA in French and Italian. She’s currently a Client Strategist at digital advertising agency Captify – voted Number 1 UK Start-up 2014 – in their New York office. Amy talked to us about her time at Exeter, what it’s like to work in a fast-growing start-up, and how to stand out in the graduate job market. 

Amy Wood, Client Strategist at Captify
Amy Wood, Client Strategist at Captify

Why did you choose Exeter?

Exeter has a reputation as a good university, which was why it made it onto my initial application. It’d been rising through the league tables for a while based on high student satisfaction, and was well-known for having a strong languages department; however, all the universities I applied for had similar reputations. It wasn’t until I came to an open day that I decided Exeter was the place for me. All the current students I met were raving about how great the university was, and it didn’t hurt either that it was a sunny day and the campus looked gorgeous.

“At start-ups, every move you make matters, even if you’re intern; they’re looking for individuals who’ll take the initiative and be creative from the word go.”

What did you enjoy most about your course?

By far the best part was having the opportunity to study abroad. I worked as a teaching assistant in Liguria, Italy. The year was such an amazing experience, as I not only improved my language skills, but I learnt many invaluable life lessons. My year abroad helped prepare me for the working world by forcing me to take initiative and be independent. I would recommend anyone attending university to study abroad if they can, even if they’re not studying languages.

How much of a factor was your degree in helping you get your break in the start-up world?

Exeter’s excellent reputation was definitely influential in helping me start my career. The transferable skills I got from my year abroad were also instrumental. I work in advertising, so the actual content of my languages degree wasn’t strictly speaking relevant. However, the fact that I had a degree from Exeter definitely gave me an edge.

What’s a typical day like at Captify?

I’m responsible for making sure campaigns rebook and increasing the revenue generated, which means my time is split between working with other departments internally to ensure that processes are as efficient as they can be, and communicating with our clients at advertising agencies. Relationships are key to my role; both internally and externally. Building strong relationships with clients will help generate extra revenue, whereas strong internal relationships will ensure efficient running of campaigns.

There’s a great culture of collaboration at Captify; everyone’s opinion is considered, regardless of seniority, and everyone’s welcome to share their ideas with senior management. The Captify team is very close, and loyalty is key. Everyone’s passionate about the company and wants to see it continue on an upward trajectory.

“To be a part of something like this from the very start gives me a great sense of achievement, as all my decisions are directly influencing the direction the company is heading in.”

Tell us a bit about your New York adventure so far.

I’ve been working over here for three months now, and even though Captify now has over 120 employees, it’s almost like working at a new start-up. We’re a team of 6 and I’m heading-up my department here. At times this can be scary, but for the most part it’s incredibly rewarding. We’ve already built some strong relationships with big advertisers such as BMW and Volkswagen, and we’re growing at a rapid rate. To be a part of something like this from the very start gives me a great sense of achievement, as all my decisions are directly influencing the direction the company is heading in. I’m learning so much about the market every day, and also have the benefit of living in the best city in the world.

What’s your one tip for grads looking to get noticed by start-ups?

At start-ups, every move you make matters, even if you’re intern. This means that they’re looking for individuals who’ll take the initiative and be creative from the word go. The best tip is to do your research before the interview. Make sure you know as much about the company as possible; from news articles and awards, to the ins and outs of their industry as a whole. Take the time to know what you’re going in for, and have questions ready about the company that show you’ve been doing your research. And above all, be confident in yourself.

BrighterBox helps ambitious graduates kick-start their careers at exciting start-ups like Captify

Jade Green, Blogger and Eco Entrepreneur

My name’s Jade, and I’m a blogger and clothing line founder at jadegreenvegan.com I studied at Exeter for four years as part of the KPMG School Leaver Programme, and shortly after graduating in 2015 with a first class degree in Accounting, I left my job at KPMG to launch my own clothing line and pursue a career in blogging full time. 

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Jade Green

I’m so grateful for the experience I gained whilst studying at Exeter and working at KPMG, as having a sound knowledge of business and especially accounting has proved immeasurably helpful as a small business owner. Thanks to my degree, I’ve been able to create my own accounting systems, I know how to budget/forecast and I even have the joy of being able to calculate my own taxes! Whilst my accounting degree has undoubtedly provided a great foundation for my career, I knew I didn’t want to follow a ‘traditional’ accounting route after university, as I have always been a very creative person and wanted to pursue a career where I felt I was making a positive change in the world.

“Pour your energy into something you’re truly passionate about, even if it’s not the safest or easiest option.”

Working on my blog throughout University meant that by the time I graduated, I had created a platform for myself that allowed me to turn my passion into my career. So, with little to no knowledge of what it entailed to set up an online clothing store or to blog full time, I dove head first into building my business. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

My blog’s aim is to promote compassionate and sustainable living. I share vegan recipes, healthy living tips, and interviews with influencers in the health/vegan community. My clothing line, an extension of my blog, is comprised of slogan t-shirts, jumpers and hoodies that also aim to promote compassion and kindness. It is really important to me that I support the incredible animal charities around the world, so for each item I sell, I donate £1 to an animal charity. I sell my clothing both online and at various festivals throughout the UK; and since starting my line in December 2015, have been able to donate just under £200 to two animal charities.

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Since embarking on this adventure, I have learnt more than I ever could have imagined about: marketing, designing, web developing, photography, branding, and even accounting (after four years of living and breathing accounting I thought there couldn’t possibly be any more to learn – how wrong was I?!) Whilst leaving the security of my job was incredibly terrifying, not to mention running my own business has been undeniably challenging and stressful at times, I absolutely love what I do and have a clear vision of what I want to achieve which makes it all worth it.

So, my message to anyone reading this would be to pour your energy into something you’re truly passionate about, even if it’s not the safest or easiest option. Life is too short to spend all day every day doing something that you don’t really love.

If you have any questions about what it’s like to start your own business, I would be happy to help so please feel free to contact me at jadegreenvegan@gmail.com

You can also find me at:

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Life as an Actor – Agents and Auditions

It’s never too late… helps final-year Humanities students get advice from successful Exeter alumni, and showcases opportunities from the Careers Zone Actor Des Yankson graduated from Exeter with a degree in Drama in 1999. Des has appeared in many TV shows including Still Open All Hours (BBC), Cucumber (Channel 4) and Hollyoaks (Channel 4).  

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Des at work in BBC One’s ‘Still Open All Hours’

When I left Exeter I had no real idea what lay in store for me. I wanted to act, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Fortunately, I secured an agent early on; they’re invaluable in helping you get work. They often have lots of contacts in the industry and get to hear of jobs through various means not available to actors.

However, securing an agent is tough, you need to either be recommended by somebody they know (and they respect, like a client or good friend) or you need to be in something that they’ve heard favourable reviews about or seen for themselves. You can get into a play for profit-share or head somewhere like the Edinburgh Festival (in August) or create your own projects that you can show to the agent (a showreel of your work). You should NEVER have to pay your agent upfront; they take a percentage from the work they secure for you. Not all agents take unsolicited CVs, so pick wisely. They’re always on the lookout for the ‘next big thing’ and that could be you. After you manage to get an agent, you may think it’ll be all plain sailing and that you’ll be at the Oscars within the year. But often, it takes a lot more work than that.

“Nothing beats telling your mum that you’re going to be on her favourite soap!”

You need a good relationship with your agent; after all, they’re working on your behalf and they’ll do a better job if they know you well. They’ll contact you when they have work, so days when you’re not working will be spent looking for work, or working as a temp. Temping is very flexible for actors and it tends to pay well enough to cover all bills. The downside is that you work often during the very times that most auditions are. Acting is a craft; you need to work at it and get better. As you progress, you’ll get better and better jobs which are higher and higher profile. This means that you need to be prepared for long periods of unemployment (from acting) and that when an opportunity arises you can focus on it completely. Acting is not a ‘part-time’ profession, but unless you’re rich you’ll need some form of part-time work. You need to pay for subscriptions, photos, travel to auditions as well as workshops and seminars.

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Opportunities are there for the taking. If you get a good audition, you need to grab it. Be punctual, learn the lines and be ready to do it more than once. And go in there with the belief that the job is already yours, it helps control the nerves. The majority of your acting life will be taken up with auditions. Personally I like them as you get a chance to play with new material and to meet new people. But lots of people think they’re nerve-racking and hate them. However, they’re a necessary part of the job, just be open to anything that’s said. After all, the casting directors want to finish their job by saying ‘I’ve found the actor we’re looking for’. But in the most part, they’re good fun, if you can relax. After all, if you can’t handle the pressure, then maybe acting isn’t the profession for you.

When you have work, it’s great because you’re in an industry that you love, working with people who are the very best at what they do, and you can often do things that people in other jobs can’t. It’s very exciting to work at your passion and also to be able to affect people with what you do. Nothing beats the rush from getting that all important job on TV, or when you meet someone really famous and then get to work with them, or telling your mum that you’re going to be on her favourite soap!

Start planing for your future and visit It’s never too late…

Show Your Pride – Being Out at Work

Luke Ounsworth is an Exeter graduate currently working as an Analyst in Accenture’s Digital practice. He joined the firm in February 2016 and is project managing a large, connected buildings project.

While I’m still very much a newbie, I did spend some time prior to this role working for a large, multinational NGO so I feel I’m in a good place to offer a bit of advice around the topic of this blog – what it’s like to be ‘out’ in a high profile, high performance role.

Luke Ounsworth, Exeter graduate and Digital Analyst at Accenture
Luke Ounsworth, Exeter graduate and Digital Analyst at Accenture

I’ll confess, I’ve never been involved in any sort of LGBTQ society before and never have I written publicly about my experiences of being a gay man. That’s not because coming out to friends, family and co-workers was easy for me so I didn’t need the support of an LGBTQ group – coming out was, in fact, one of the hardest things that I’ve ever done in my life.

Rather, it was because I didn’t start to feel truly comfortable in my own skin until I left university and began working. As such, now that I am happy in my sexuality – something made possible by working for supportive, inclusive companies such as Accenture – I couldn’t resist putting pen to paper for my alma mater to talk about my experiences of being out in the workplace.

“I made a conscious decision when I joined Accenture that I would be open about my sexuality. I can honestly say that this decision to be my true self is the best I’ve ever made in a professional capacity.”

The best piece of advice I could give to LGBTQ students and recent graduates is to be yourself. I know that sounds horribly cringey. You’ve no doubt heard it a million times in a million different contexts but one of the most important lessons I have learned since joining the world of work is to make sure you stay true to who you are.

My first role after university was with a large, multinational NGO. I still remember how excited I was to join. This excitement was tempered though by my nerves that I would be judged by my new colleagues because of my sexuality. That sounds ridiculous, I know, especially when I was out to all my friends and family. However, the office culture was fairly ‘blokey’ and I was desperate to prove that I was ‘one of the lads’ in order to get on and do well. As such, I made the mistake of either lying about my sexual orientation or simply avoiding any office discussion on partners or dating.

“The decision to be myself has already allowed me to forge very strong relationships with my colleagues. These relationships have enabled me to better perform my day job because I earn more respect from those around me when they can see that I am being genuine, honest and authentic.”

Ironically but unsurprisingly, this behaviour actually held me back. Though my colleagues and I got on very well, many took my shyness as a sign that I was disengaged and introverted (the complete opposite of who I am!) so didn’t feel comfortable broaching personal conversations with me. Over time, this led to me becoming ostracised from certain groups and, even worse, meant that I received some negative feedback when it came to performance review time.

As a result, I made a conscious decision when I joined Accenture that I would be open about my sexuality. I can honestly say that this decision to be my true self is the best I’ve ever made in a professional capacity. As an employer, Accenture is one of the most supportive firms when it comes to LGBTQ staff. (You’ll notice this the second you enter the building from the hundreds of rainbow-coloured lanyards which employees wear to show solidarity and uniting together to form LGBT Allies!)

This decision to be myself has already allowed me to forge very strong relationships with my colleagues – both gay and straight. These relationships have, in turn, enabled me to better perform my day job because I earn more respect from those around me when they can see that I am being genuine, honest and authentic.

I appreciate that this advice – be yourself – is tired, overused and sometimes patronising. However, for those of you reading this who might not yet feel comfortable in your own skin, take it from me that no one in a professional environment will judge you because of your sexuality. You won’t be held back because of who you choose to date. Rather, you’ll go further in your career when you show your colours (rainbow or not!) and remain true to yourself.

Accenture LGBT Careers information

Exeter Pride 2016 is a celebration of the LGBTQ+ communities and diversity within Exeter and the surrounding regions. 

Stonewall’s ‘Starting Out’ Careers Guide

Engineering a Brighter Future

Harry Chaplin
Harry Chaplin

Harry Chaplin graduated from Exeter in 2015 with a MEng Civil and Environmental Engineering. He’s currently a Project Manager at SEED Madagascar, working to bring clean, safe water to rural communities.

It all began in 2011, the summer before I started at Exeter, when I spent 4 weeks volunteering on a conservation programme in a rural village in southeast Madagascar. I was working with a charity called SEED Madagascar (formerly Azafady UK), scouring the biodiversity-rich rainforests for weird, wonderful and most importantly, rare flora and fauna found nowhere else on the planet. For me, that fleeting time spent in the Malagasy bush – learning the culture, meeting the incredible people and appreciating life for what it is – changed everything. Camp life was basic relative to the norms and luxuries we take for granted, as we had neither running water nor electricity. I was pretty content with the well water we were washing in until one night of heavy rain half-filled my bucket and I then realised what potential was being wasted every time it rained.

Making changes to the village school to collect rainwater
Making changes to the village school to collect rainwater

Once back home I got obsessively interested in how to improve the water supply, eventually writing a feasibility study on the subject in my Second Year. I continued pursuing ideas and designed the system and background project for a rainwater harvesting scheme based on the school roof in the village for my Third Year dissertation. After a two-month research trip between Third and Fourth Year, I presented to a board of trustees of a UK based donor charity and they agreed to fund the project.

“Embracing all the opportunities that have come my way has allowed me to do something I love and value.”

The project is a year-long pilot scheme aimed at providing the 143 primary school children with clean drinking water whilst demonstrating to the community a simple, affordable and replicable technique of clean drinking water provision. The system has been kept as simple as possible to reduce the risk of failure of small parts and the need for lots of skilled maintenance, but the challenging aspect is making it sustainable within the community. As Project Manager the learning curve over the last 5 months has been, and still is, very steep. The skills I’m learning in all areas of the job, be it people management or project development, budget supervision or working in a foreign country with a vastly different but amazing culture, is incredible experience for my professional development and I’m loving it!

Working with the community partners
Working with the community partners

The fascinating people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve shared and bush parties I’ve danced during my times out here with SEED have set me up brilliantly for a career in this sector. During a lot of my time at Exeter I hadn’t the faintest idea of where I wanted to be in 5 years’ time, but embracing all the opportunities that have come my way has allowed me to do something I love and value. If you want to find out more about how you can get involved or more about the project, visit www.madagascar.co.uk

Building a Beautiful Career

Kat Crapper, Fourth Year Year BA Management with Marketing (With Industrial Experience), talks to us about her 12 month International Brand Communications Internship with The Body Shop, getting photographed for Elle, and networking with vloggers.

Kat (third from left) and Body Shop colleagues
Kat (third from left) and Body Shop colleagues

What motivated you to take a year in industry?

Having taken 2 years out before coming to Exeter, I’d experience working already so knew I enjoyed working in a business environment, and understood the importance of building a strong CV to enhance my employability. One of the reasons I chose Exeter was because of the opportunity to do a placement year as part of my course and the support that the Business School and Career Zone offered in securing one.

How did you get your placement organised, and what was the application process like?

I remember finding the job through the Career Zone vacancies page, then around a week later I met the recruiters at the Careers Fair, which was really useful as they gave me advice on what they were looking for in a CV and cover letter. I was then invited to have a telephone interview, assessment centre, then a final Skype interview with my future line manager before being offered the job just before Christmas. The stages were challenging, and there was tough competition with over 500 other applicants for just the one position. I had to do a lot of background research into the company, industry and role, but it proved worth it in the end.

“The interview stages were challenging and there was tough competition with over 500 other applicants for just the one position. I had to do a lot of background research into the company, industry and role, but it proved worth it in the end.”

What kind of work did you do at The Body Shop?

My team was really supportive and trusted me with a lot more of responsibility than I was expecting. The nature of the role meant I was able to work with teams across lots of areas of the business, both in the London office and with those in Asia, America, Canada and Europe. My role was to assist the International Brand Communications team in the creation and delivery of all PR assets for new product launches. This ranged from assisting the production of international press releases, brainstorming creative ideas for press events, collating top magazine coverage from around the world, going to photo shoots, to helping organise international PR events for journalists. I also was lucky enough to be involved in building relationships and creative content with influential bloggers and YouTube vloggers – I identified a vlogger called Amena who was taken on board to promote The Body Shop’s Eid gifts and new skincare range on her channel, which was an exciting project to have been a part of.

Kat (centre left) in Elle Mexico
Kat (centre left) in Elle Mexico

Was working there like you thought it would be? Any surprises?

One day quite early on in the year, I was unexpectedly asked to model for a PR photo shoot with the brand’s skincare expert. Not wanting to turn down an opportunity to do something different, I agreed… and a few months later my photo ended up in Elle magazine in Mexico and an online magazine in France.

What was it like coming back to academic study after being away?

Throughout the year, we had to complete a number of academic assessments, so I didn’t feel too out of practice getting back into studying. While a lot of my friends had graduated, I did have other friends returning from their year abroad/in industry, and it’s easy enough to meet new people through my course in group projects and seminars.

What impact did your year in business have on your studies? Did it help with any modules?

My year out has definitely helped with my studies this year – particularly for modules such as Integrated Marketing Communications and Digital Marketing, as I’ve been able to apply a lot of what I learnt to my assessments which has improved my marks. It’s also given me more confidence in presenting and pitching ideas.

Has your year in industry changed the way you think about your career plans?

I really enjoyed working in Brand Communications so I would like to pursue a career in this field. I realised that living in London wasn’t for me, so next year I’m planning to take some time out to travel, then work abroad in Canada to gain some more international experience and see where that takes me.

Would you recommend taking a year in industry, and if so why?

100% – not only has it helped me work out what I do and don’t want to do, it was a great opportunity to network with some really ambitious and inspiring people, and make some really good friends.