Starting out in PR and Marketing

Matthew Robinson graduated from the University of Exeter in 2014 with a First in History. He’s currently a Comms Consultant for digital PR agency TopLine Comms and its sister agency TopLine Film

Matthew Robinson, Exeter Alum, current Comms Consultant for TopLine Comms and TopLine Film

When I left university, I wasn’t totally convinced about what I wanted to do. Upon graduating, I lived in Japan for three months, which gave me some time to reflect on potential career options. I like to write, learn about different industries and cultures, and have been told that I’m a strategic thinker.

I quickly found myself working in PR and digital marketing and have found it to be an incredible learning experience. I’ve been exposed to the way different businesses work, have been taught how to successfully promote a brand, and have been supported to quickly take on significant levels of responsibility.

I would recommend that anyone who isn’t quite sure about what they want to do to consider working at a digital agency, simply because of the variety of different tasks and projects you’re given the chance to work on.

If you’re thinking about a career in PR and marketing, here’s some (hopefully) useful advice.

“Provided you don’t delete the entirety of your agency’s Google Drive or say something inappropriate to a client, trying things is the best way to learn.”

Go for smaller agencies

For all of the obvious reasons, the digital industry is growing in size and scope, so you’ll have lots of choice when it comes to roles to apply for. You could go in-house at a brand, or work at an agency. Both have their benefits, but agencies are typically the best place to start for newcomers because there are clearer career development opportunities. Bigger agencies can be tempting – they sometimes offer programmes, really good benefits packages and tend to draw people in with big name clients. And that’s fair enough – working with Spotify does sound cool.

But don’t systematically decide not to apply for smaller agencies. They’re great for career building, learning and taking on responsibility. Smaller teams mean there is nowhere to hide, and you’ll be thrown in at the deep end right from the start. It sounds daunting, but you’ll learn a lot and you’ll learn it quickly.

Likewise, don’t shy away from or dismiss entry level positions. A foot in the door is a great thing and if you do a good job, you can build a strong foundation for the future. I started as an assistant and within a year I was running client calls with CEOs. Within another couple I was building their communications strategies and even interviewing new hires.

Don’t try and specialise too soon

Careers are long, and unless AI takes over and we all start living lives of leisure, we’re going to be working for a long time. Get as much experience as you can right at the start, so that you have a choice of what to do a bit further on. Having varied experience will set you in good stead for the future – employers are unlikely to turn down a candidate who has had a lot of experience.

In addition, as PR becomes more digitally-focused, it has significantly overlapped with marketing disciplines like SEO and social media. So, taking a broader view of developing your digital skillset is a smart option early on in your career – you can always specialise later.

“Get involved in meetings and ask questions. Whenever we hire a graduate who asks what the jargon means or gives an opinion, it’s valued and respected.”

Try to get some experience before you graduate

A couple of weeks at a PR or marketing agency will give you a taste of working in that kind of environment. During a short internship you’ll probably get a chance to dip into some fundamentals of the profession: pitching, copywriting, reporting, client relations, and more. I chose to do a short internship before settling down in a permanent role, so I got a feel for what I could be doing permanently.

In addition, don’t discount the value of service industry jobs. I worked in a supermarket and made a point of mentioning it on my CV. And in fact, it put me in better stead when interviewing because it showed that I had a strong work ethic. It also showed I had customer-facing experience – demonstrating an instinct for dealing with people (sometimes in tricky situations) is invaluable in agency life.

It’s OK to make mistakes

When you do get your first job, try and be confident, get involved in meetings and ask questions. It took me a while to grow in confidence when I got my first job – but whenever we hire a graduate who asks what the jargon means or gives an opinion, it’s valued and respected. Try to get involved and don’t be too afraid of making a mistake.

Provided you don’t delete the entirety of your agency’s Google Drive or say something inappropriate to a client, trying things is the best way to learn.

Start reading

It’s hard to get to grips with PR and marketing before actually entering the industry, but you can definitely start reading trade magazines and blogs to get a better idea of it. If you’re interested, give our blog a read, or check out PR Week, Marketing Week, The Drum, Campaign and Search Engine Land. We’ve also put together a PR Masterclass specifically for beginners and graduates. It’ll help you get acquainted with everything from creating newsworthy stories to planning and running entire campaigns.

Take it from me – working for a creative agency, whether it specialises in PR, marketing, advertising, video production, or a combination thereof, is a great way to start your career. You’ll learn a lot, meet great people and learn management and communication skills that apply to other types of jobs (if you change your mind further down the road). Go with your gut and get applying for jobs – good luck!

Getting into Marine Conservation

Celine Gamble graduated from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, with an MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity, 2017. She currently works as the Native Oyster Network Coordinator (UK & Ireland). 

Celine Gamble, Exeter alum, and current Native Oyster Network Coordinator (UK & Ireland)

After graduation I worked within the Engagement team of the British Science Association. During which I worked on the annual British Science Festival as a Festival Officer. More recently I have started working for the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in their Marine and Freshwater Department as a Project Coordinator for the newly formed Native Oyster Network (UK and Ireland). I’m very much enjoying the role so far, as it’s a good combination of conservation science and policy, networking, fieldwork and science communication.

I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in marine conservation, and during University I was drawn towards communicating science. Therefore a role where I can combine the two is perfect for me. The most enjoyable aspect of my current role is having the opportunity to visit native oyster restoration projects across the UK and Ireland, and be able to get out on the boat and assist with their fieldwork.

“My advice for anyone beginning a career within marine conservation would be to be persistent, and to be aware that it could take a few interviews and some time before landing your dream job.”

I enjoyed studying at the University of Exeter firstly due to the amazing location of the Penryn campus, with access to marine coastal habitat on its doorstep. And secondly due to the support and expertise of the lecturers in the Bioscience department.

I would say that being involved with extra-curricular opportunities, such as university societies and groups, helped build my independent working and confidence when delivering a project. I also found that modules such as Science in Society and Exploitation of the Sea, have been useful in terms of the science communication route that I’ve pursued.

The advice I would give to a current student, would be to throw yourself into extra-curricular opportunities and to research opportunities to volunteer for projects/ organisations that you’d hope to work for in the future. I would also say, don’t hold back from getting in touch with individuals who work in roles you’d like to see yourself in, as 9/10 times they will be more than happy to provide advice.

My current contract is for two years, after which I would hope to move into a manager role within a similar marine conservation project or organisation.

My advice for anyone beginning a career within marine conservation would be to be persistent, and to be aware that it could take a few interviews and some time before landing your “dream job”. But don’t let that put you off.

Your Guide to the Civil Service Fast Stream

Introduce yourself. 

Minh Tri Le, Exeter alumn and current Civil Service Fast Streamer

Hi there! My name is Minh, and I studied Sociology and Criminology at Exeter, graduating in 2016. I am currently in my second year on the Civil Service Fast Stream, currently working on EU Exit at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

If you were to describe life on the Civil Service Fast Stream in three words, what would they be?

Fun, diverse, gratifying

Tell us a bit about your background – what did you do before joining the Fast Stream?

After graduating from Exeter, I worked as an intern in the Department for Transport (DfT) in the summer of 2016. This was part of the Civil Service Fast Stream’s Summer Diversity Internship Programme, designed to get university students from a more diverse range of backgrounds interested in working for the Civil Service. My responsibilities included designing public consultation and developing legislation on the introduction of a mandatory requirement for quad bike users to wear helmets on public roads.

I was in DfT for 13 weeks before securing a full-time job at a global law firm. I was there for almost a year, before jumping ship to join the Civil Service Fast Stream. Before working in HMRC, I have been fortunate enough to work at the Department for International Trade on US-UK Intellectual Property Trade and Department for Work and Pensions on evaluating and developing public campaigns to improve awareness of pension schemes.

“I had the misconception that civil servants and the departments they work in were faceless, out of reach… In fact, Civil Servants are just ordinary people going about their daily lives.”

Why did you apply for the Fast Stream?

A sense of public duty has been instilled in me from a young age. I previously tried to join the military. Unfortunately, as a type 1 diabetic, I was unable to make the cut. An ideal alternative, for me, was to join the Civil Service, where I can design and deliver policies to ensure the Government serves the public more effectively.

Was there anything that surprised you about the Fast Stream, or working in the Civil Service?

I had the misconception that civil servants and the departments they work in were faceless, out of reach and you never knew what was going in the political machinery. In fact, Civil Servants are just like you and me; ordinary people going about their daily lives.

For the Fast Stream specifically, I thought being diabetic might limit my opportunities. Thankfully, the Fast Stream has ensured that I have never been restricted whilst accommodating my needs so I can take care of my health. You’ll have seen that I have worked in a wide range of departments and roles, all while being supported to stay close to my registered hospital, GP and pharmacy in London.

The biggest surprise, I think, were the open, frank and honest discussions the entire Civil Service has about promoting accessibility for people from underrepresented backgrounds, and the tangible action being taken to take this forward. The late Jeremy Heywood – former Cabinet Secretary (i.e the head of the Civil Service) published a strategy which aims to make the Civil Service the most inclusive employer by 2020. The entire Civil Service is working to achieve this, alternative pathways into the Civil Service such the Fast Track Apprenticeships, Early and Summer Diversity Internships are being expanded and more senior leaders are volunteering to champion the interests of those from underrepresented backgrounds.

“The biggest surprise, I think, were the open, frank and honest discussions the entire Civil Service has about promoting accessibility for people from underrepresented backgrounds, and the tangible action being taken to take this forward.”

Do you have any top tips for the Fast Stream application process?

I strongly encourage aspiring Civil Servants – not just Fast Streamers – to study the Civil Service Behaviours (follow this link for more info). These are the actions and activities that people do which result in effective performance in a job, and not just the in the Civil Service. Think how you might have demonstrated these behaviours in previous experiences whether that be in your professional, personal or volunteering experiences. You’ll be surprised how many of the behaviours you have already demonstrated.

To finish up: tell us about your favourite moment or achievement on the Fast Stream so far.

My favourite moment – or perhaps my most surreal experience – was when I was working in DWP’s Workplace Pensions Campaigns Team making the “you work, your pension works” advertisements. I was working with the team to deliver the advertisements to be launched in April, the time when I was about to rotate to a different posting. After I had left, the advertisements popped up on television, radio, social media and on the JCDecaux billboards around the country. It was completely surreal to see my work over the last six months come into fruition in being broadcast across the UK!

If you think the Civil Service Fast Stream might be for you, visit https://www.faststream.gov.uk/ to find out more and apply to join the next cohort of future Civil Service leaders in 2020.

Employer Presentation – An Introduction to the Civil Service Fast Stream

Starts: 9 Oct 2019 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM

We need talented people to lead the future Civil Service. Whoever you are, whatever your background, the Fast Stream is the fastest route to real leadership. Come and hear more at our presentation and book here

Getting into Radio

Annie Tricks graduated from the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus, with a 1st in BA Drama in 2018. She’s currently working as Campaign Executive at Global, and hosts The Grad Pod  

Annie Tricks, Exeter alum, Campaign Executive at Global, and podcaster

Whilst at University I threw myself into the societies. I always loved learning new skills and meeting new people, and many of the societies at Exeter provided this. In my First Year I remember throwing myself in perhaps a bit too much, but that’s always a good thing as you can work out what you’re truly interested in. One of my big loves were the three Xmedia societies, particularly Xpression, the student radio station. While growing up, radio was always in the background, but in my life Drama had always been in the foreground which is why I chose to study it at university. Nevertheless, the thought of getting involved in radio intrigued me, so I signed up to Xpression at the Freshers Fair.

Joining Xpression was one of the best steps I took during my time at Exeter. Not only was it great to learn how to control a radio desk and make my own radio show, but I also met so many interesting and exciting people from different degrees, who have now become my best friends. In my First Year I mainly worked on Xpression because I found it really enjoyable. I loved music, so got involved in the music team conducting interviews and helping out at various events. However, at the end of First Year I realised that I loved it more than a hobby, and began to consider it becoming my career.

“…there are parallels in terms of creativity and organisation which I learnt from my course. However the biggest contribution towards where I am now from my university life has to be Xpression.”

I knew radio was really hard to get into, and thought I had better start early, so I emailed a lot of local stations asking if I could get some work experience. This was really key in terms of getting to where I am now, as I threw myself into lots of different roles: promoting on the streets for Radio Exe, volunteering at events for the BBC, shadowing shows, writing bulletins, and editing interviews for Phonic FM. I tried to do as much as I could, as well as doing a lot for Xpression itself whilst being on the committee. I was then very fortunate to be given the contact details of a producer at Heart, and after getting in touch with him I landed a four month internship beginning at the start of Third Year.

The internship was extremely useful in terms of gaining experience. Not only did I learn how Global (who own Heart) worked in terms of programming, but I was involved in coming up with show ideas, editing promotional trails that went on air, and event managing when I helped out at their big Christmas Fair. I made many great contacts also, which enabled me to get where I am now; working for Global in Birmingham.

Although I’m not on the programming side yet, I’m very fortunate to be working for such a big radio company, especially straight out of University. I found out I got my job two days before Graduating which was incredible. I currently work as Campaign Executive, which involves helping coordinate various campaigns on air and online e.g. competitions, sponsorships etc.

Despite my job perhaps being far from my degree, there are parallels in terms of creativity and organisation which I learnt from my course. However the biggest contribution towards where I am now from my university life has to be Xpression. The support was amazing, and I would highly recommend anyone to join and throw themselves into such an incredibly encouraging environment.

Amy Magee – Creative Enterprise

This year, Amy Magee, a final year BSc Psychology student at The University of Exeter has been recognised for her impressive professional endeavours including the launch of her own company, Okulo Marketing and Design Ltd and her work in a range of sectors including television, finance and creative marketing. We spoke to Amy to hear about what she’s been doing and some of her professional highlights such as her design feature in the Art of Luxury magazine, as well as her plans for the future and any top tips for current students. 

Amy Magee, current BSc Psychology student at The University of Exeter and founder of Okulo Marketing and Design Ltd

Where did it all start?

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind these past four years – my initial desire to follow the clinical psychology route transformed into my fascination for consumer behaviour – quite simply I wanted to know why we do the things we do and how to use this in business. Since my first year I began exploring as many different industries as possible. I had my usual part-time supermarket job to keep me ticking over, but had also started to use my love for English to ghost-write blogs on the behalf of companies across the UK. I wrote for anyone from a famous hypnotist to plastic injection moulding companies (it was hard to make this sound interesting) – sometimes over 50 blogs a month which kept me busy alongside my studies!

Top tip: I suppose my top tip for anyone would be that you’ll be surprised how many things you can turn into a mini business. Say you have a knack for writing or you’re a great photographer, start by just asking people around you whether they need anyone to save them time by writing that blog or photographing an upcoming event. Once you have your first little portfolio, get out there and network (use LinkedIn too)!

What have you been up to alongside your degree?

As I was based in the South West for university, an opportunity arose towards the end of First Year for me to join the BBC as a runner for a Duran Duran concert at the Eden Project. From deciphering call sheets, to working with directors in the gallery truck (the truck full of screens behind the scenes) and learning to drive a saloon car (not fun to park), this job taught me to think quickly and to always be the person who uses your spare minute to ask your team if there’s anything that you can do to help. First impressions matter and this job ultimately led to me landing subsequent contracts with the BBC on a show called ‘Let it Shine’ with Gary Barlow and others throughout the year.

 Top tip: My top tip would be that various opportunities might come your way but it’s your job from then onwards to make a great first impression and utilise the stepping-stone to progress further.  

In second year, I wanted to learn more about the financial world and sought out some work experience in a London investment house called Octopus Investments. A year on, I was looking into financial advisory roles and studying for an R05 financial exam to break into the industry. I later found myself training with an international private wealth firm for two years alongside university, providing personal and business protection for various clients. However, finance ultimately taught me that, as an inherently creative individual, I crave environments that demand artistic and ambitious thinking where no day is the same. In fact, to this day I still have a £20 bet on with my sixth form art teacher who reckoned that I would eventually seek out a creative career despite me sternly sticking with the science route. It turns out he was right, but this is something only my work experience could teach me!

I spent my third year in an industrial marketing placement in Bristol where I had the opportunity to launch creative campaigns, manage their social media and blog platforms, liaise with external partners, and build a cohesive brand image online. I also self-taught a range of graphic design and videography skills – later filming and editing promotional videos for the company and producing their first brochures. These self-taught skills were ultimately the springboard to me later setting up my own business. I registered a company, Okulo Marketing Ltd, built my website and produced my business cards and went out to network. I now work with a range of interesting people including an ex-MI6 and Royal Navy fighter pilot and motivational speaker for whom I produce print media, websites and video showreels. I’ve also had my design for an international private wealth firm featured in the front of The Art of Luxury magazine and distributed to retailers such as Harrods, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason and House of Fraser, with door drops to Canary Wharf and Mayfair.

 Top tip: Students at The University of Exeter will have a range of opportunities in the future, but what I found is that only by exploring all of these opportunities and industries fully do you really learn what you want – a career that draws not only on your skills, but also on your passions and interests is key in my opinion. Eventually, you’re most likely to seek it out anyway!

 It was these experiences along with my final year of psychology that really developed my knowledge and interest in consumer behaviour. I studied modules that would gear me towards a greater understanding of how businesses and brands can use knowledge about the consumer brain – including what it pays attention to and what it remembers – to build a memorable brand through advertising and increase product sales. I also learned a lot about how organisational psychology concepts can improve efficiency within the workplace. I have since completed my final year thesis on ways to increase sustainable consumer behaviour – in particular, how the notion of social “trends” can promote pro-environmental meat-reduced diets. The University of Exeter allowed me to apply my knowledge to a field I am interested in and gave me a range of opportunities, including the attainment of the Exeter Employability Award and the Exeter Leader Award, to propel my professional experiences. As my time at Exeter draws to a close, I look towards a creative career in London where I can put these past four years of experience to good use!

Final thoughts:

  • I would recommend utilising as many opportunities at the university as possible – make use of the Career Zone and any “refresher” courses (e.g. “refresh your maths skills” for recruitment aptitude tests)
  • If you have a clear picture of what you want to do – spend a few term summers gaining as much experience as possible. If, like many, you haven’t decided on a career yet, explore as many industries as you can. It will help move you closer to your chosen career!
  • For students looking to ‘set up shop’; develop your skills and interests and build a mini portfolio! A slick website can make for a good first impression – if you don’t know how to do this, sites like Squarespace are a good alternative! Head to networking events or professional events within your societies and always have your business cards to hand. Finally, do your market research and find out the appropriate rates for someone of your experience so you know where to place yourself in the market.

Risks and Opportunities

It’s Never Too Late… helps final-year Humanities students get advice from successful Exeter alumni, and showcases opportunities from the Career Zone.

Carly Turpin, Head of Talent Acquisition at Crowdcube, graduated from the University of Exeter with a Master of Arts, European Languages and Cultures in 2008. 

Carly Turpin, Head of Talent Acquisition at Crowdcube, and Exeter alumn

There isn’t one career path for everyone… your career can take a number of twists and turns before finding something you really enjoy and want to excel at, but don’t down play the skills you pick up, and the experiences you go through along the way.

I came to Exeter to study a Masters in European Languages and Cultures as I had my heart set on becoming a journalist, and thought that being a polyglot would help open a few doors. I had just completed a degree in Applied Foreign Languages in France and an internship at the Daily Mail, and a year out spent working in pubs in Andorra and Mallorca. However I quickly realised there was no way I could go back to an unpaid internship at a newspaper as I couldn’t afford to live in London.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do anymore. I’d talked about becoming a journalist since I was 12 years old and now I felt completely disillusioned with the industry having seen it firsthand, as well as unsure about my next move. I’d toyed with applying to the UN in translation roles, or joining an NGO. In the end I moved back home after completing my MA, did a ski season in the Alps and basically took my time deciding my next move. I still hadn’t even considered a career in HR or recruitment at this point.

“There isn’t one career path for everyone… your career can take a number of twists and turns before finding something you really enjoy and want to excel at, but don’t down play the skills you pick up, and the experiences you go through along the way.”

Over the next few years I worked in hospitality, got on a postgraduate scheme working for a small independent property firm in London, taught English to foreign students with TEFL, worked in asset management, worked in a French speaking customer support role for a major toy retailer, got a job as an office manager in the food and beverage industry, and ran a nightclub and pub with my now husband. Running a business without any prior experience was probably the most fun and challenging time of my life. We ended up closing the business after 4 years but as they say ‘one door closes and another opens.’ A recruiter approached me about joining a recruitment firm so I took the leap, and about 6 months in, along came Crowdcube. I instantly bought into their company mission and after placing 13 people into the team there, I took a risk and pitched myself into the business. I’d just turned 30 and things seemed to start clicking into place.

All of the aforementioned experiences enabled me to pick up and hone a host of skills such as communication, process management, basic accounting, human resources management, people management, market research, teaching and training, and develop resilience, work ethic, attention to detail, patience, adaptability, empathy and emotional intelligence among others. I also learnt a lot about myself, how I work best, what I value, and most importantly what I enjoy, which will help steer future career choices. But most importantly I learnt that hard work and the desire to keep learning will keep you moving forward.

So let’s fast forward almost 4 years… I’m the Head of Talent at Crowdcube and I’ve helped the business grow, managed a restructure, set up the whole recruitment and HR function, implemented systems and processes, spearheaded a values revamp, started tracking engagement and diversity and inclusion metrics to be able to create strategies to tackle these areas. I’m currently on maternity leave and still have so much to achieve to help the business continue to grow and be an exceptional place to work.

As I said at the beginning, I don’t believe in a career for life or in one set path and actually all of the experiences I have had to date have enabled me to develop skills that make me good at my job. I still have a lot to learn and who knows if I’ll still be in People Operations in 10 years time. I love what I do but the world of work is changing at such a pace that the real skill is being able to learn, to adapt, to try new things, and being able to competently explain the choices you’ve made, your achievements to date and the skills you’ve developed along your career journey. Don’t be afraid to take a few risks, who knows what doors will open!

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.

Starting a Career in International Politics

Jack Berringer graduated from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, with BA Politics in 2014. He’s currently a Parliamentary Assistant at the European Parliament, Brussels. 

Jack Berringer – Exeter graduate and current Parliamentary Assistant at the European Parliament, Brussels.

Since graduation I have been working in the European Parliament, first as an intern before being promoted to an assistant. I initially worked for an MEP from the East Midlands region focusing on regional development policy, which interested me after studying on the Penryn campus and seeing how the funding had such a positive impact on the local area. My MEP was then elected to the House of Commons in the 2017 General Election and I moved to another MEP, this time representing the South West, working on environmental policy. It’s a fascinating policy area as it’s so broad and you’re constantly learning new things and seeing the ways in which technology is being used to combat the effects of climate change. Also in the past year I’ve started studying part-time at KU Leuven for a Master’s degree in Economics and will complete my studies there in June 2019.

“For anybody wishing to pursue a career in politics abroad I would simply recommend that you throw your name into the hat and go for it… You have absolutely nothing to lose from sending in an application and, if you are lucky enough to be offered an interview or job, just take it one step at a time.”

For me working in EU affairs was a natural progression having studied politics and written my dissertation on the EU accession process. I had also always harboured the ambition of working abroad, so as soon as I saw the opportunity to move to Brussels I jumped at the chance. The thing I find most enjoyable about my job is being in a truly cosmopolitan work environment. On an average day I will speak to people from perhaps 10 different countries and it’s always interesting to talk about what’s happening in our respective countries and the effects that these events are having. For me it’s also very cool to be able to say that you work on creating EU legislation.

My favourite thing about studying at Exeter was the people I found myself surrounded by, both students and lecturers alike. Being on the Penryn campus and having a smaller group of students added to the experience. I think we bonded massively as a group and the fact that lecturers were able to perhaps give us a bit more face time individually, if required, was also a major benefit.

Looking at the league tables I knew that Exeter was one of the 10 best universities at which to study Politics when I was applying, and that was naturally something I considered. When visited the campus I was really impressed by how modern the teaching facilities and accommodation was and this just reinforced my feeling that I wanted to study there if I got the necessary grades.

“It may sound obvious but write your thesis on an area you would like to work in. It means you may get the opportunity to meet people in the industry and make contacts prior to graduation…”

For anybody wishing to pursue a career in politics abroad I would simply recommend that you throw your name into the hat and go for it, no matter how nervous you might be about the idea of leaving family/friends behind. You have absolutely nothing to lose from sending in an application and, if you are lucky enough to be offered an interview or job, just take it one step at a time. Living in a country forces you out of your comfort zone, no matter how extroverted you are, and when you add to that the fact that you can learn other languages which improves your employability and experience other cultures I really cannot see a downside.

In the future I hope to continue working in the environmental side of business, hopefully using the Master’s degree I am studying for, and move to another country before coming back to the UK.

It may sound obvious but write your thesis on an area you would like to work in. It means you may get the opportunity to meet people in the industry and make contacts prior to graduation and, even if your dissertation does not require meeting with people from industry, it will show your interest to potential employers when looking for a job further down the line.

Made in Exeter

Benjamin Dale graduated with a BA in French and Spanish in 2015 and currently works as a Researcher for Made in Chelsea at Monkey Kingdom

Benjamin Dale, Exeter alumn and current Researcher for Made in Chelsea.

Once I graduated from the University of Exeter, I initially started work in the advertising industry. I was keen to work in a creative environment and realised though I may not be the person to come up with the ideas, I may well enjoy being a part of the process to refine and bring these to life. I started at an independent agency named Mother, before moving to a network agency Leo Burnett.

I concluded that in fact it was the production-side of advertising where I felt most engrossed. One of my biggest passions, among music and film, is television. I therefore decided I would try my hand in the world of TV production, marrying my interest and the element of advertising I had enjoyed the most.

“The industry is all about reputation, and therefore working as a team player, always being inquisitive and being a reliable pair of hands is crucial.”

It is commonplace knowledge in the TV industry that no matter your age or previous career experience, you start at the bottom of the ladder as a production runner. This is likewise something which everyone recommends; it provides the opportunity to see how the full production and crew teams operate as entities and gives one the insight into several varying aspects of the industry. It almost acts as a training ground, though admittedly much of the job role can be spent making cups of tea! Just a reality of the industry and the role of being a runner that I had to not only accept, but do so willingly without complaint. It is a position in which it is less about your level of responsibility that matters, but rather your level to take on jobs no matter how big or small and make the best impression possible. And do it all with grace and a smile on your face, looking for where you can add value in other areas beyond simply the job description. The industry is all about reputation, and therefore working as a team player, always being inquisitive and being a reliable pair of hands is crucial. I started as a runner on Gogglebox in February 2018 for a full series of the show. I then worked as a casting researcher for the show over the summer months before taking on the role as researcher on the latest series which ended in December. Currently I am working at a company named Monkey Kingdom for the show Made in Chelsea.

Though a university degree is not essential for gaining experience in the industry, I am thankful for having studied languages. The skills gained have been invaluable to me in both industries I have worked in; from clear communication and presentation skills through to applying my knowledge of the culture and languages themselves in adaptations of advertising campaigns or TV production shoots abroad. I have found myself surprised even in recent months of where my ability to speak a language has massively benefited a team.

“…I am thankful for having studied languages. The skills gained have been invaluable to me in both industries I have worked in; from clear communication and presentation skills through to applying my knowledge of the culture and languages themselves in adaptations of advertising campaigns or TV production shoots abroad.”

In terms of skills necessary to succeed in the industry, I would say an ability to think on your feet – a skill definitely taught in languages – is important. On a regular basis something can go awry on location for a shoot, from cast arriving late and causing delays to a filming schedule, through to equipment not functioning as it should. A good producer will always think quickly and succinctly of a way to make up the time and communicate this to their manager above, or work around malfunctions. Likewise, being inquisitive in other people and showing an interest in their lives is fundamental to success in reality television. Contributors, or cast, of a show will not always readily open up in ways you hope, and therefore it will be a good producer who sets them at ease, briefs them correctly for the filming ahead and draws out nuggets of information which can help inform content of the show.

Each day is incredibly varied in television; I would say it is rare to ever have exactly the same day twice. This is due to the nature of the industry and how each week (or day) you will be working towards the filming of something different to the last. I enjoy this immensely as never typically find myself staring at the clock towards midday wishing the working day would be over! The industry is freelance-based too, meaning once one series is finished filming, you then move onto typically something different. It can feel daunting to not have total stability in a normal company structure with a permanent contract job, however being someone who welcomes change, this brings excitement; again, meaning you never really feel a sense of repetition in what work can bring.

As I have hopefully outlined above, this is an exciting industry offering much variety. One day I hope to move from being a researcher to become a lead series producer, still working in my biggest passion area TV.

It’s Never Too Late… helps final-year Humanities students get that extra level of support during their final year of studies and aims to empower them to feel ready to tackle life after university with help from successful Exeter alumni, and showcasing opportunities including those from the Career Zone. If you have any questions about the campaign please do email

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.