Paid, Unpaid or Voluntary? Know Your Rights

James Bradbrook is the Career Zone Vacancy Co-ordinator.

A glitzy record company offers an inside track into the glorious world of Artists & Repertoire. They can’t offer a salary, but the experience is priceless. And if you do really well, you might even get a proper job out of it.

Unpaid work is everywhere these days. If everyone is doing it then it must be okay, right? Well, not necessarily. Working for free can be legal in certain circumstances and can offer valuable experience – but often it’s about unscrupulous employers exploiting people who don’t know their rights.

Don't undervalue how much your time is worth.

Don’t undervalue how much your time is worth.

So, what are your rights when it comes to getting paid for the work you do?

What’s in a name? Workers, Volunteers and Voluntary Workers

Your organisation might call you an “intern”, a “volunteer”. They might call your role “work experience”, a “placement”, or an “internship”. They might ask you to sign something waiving your right to the NMW.

None of that matters.

You can’t sign away your right to the National Minimum Wage[1], even if you want to.

And it doesn’t matter what your role is called. Many of the commonly used terms have no legal meaning. What really matters is the actual real life detail of your situation.

In legal-speak, if you’re a worker, you get the NMW. If you’re not a worker, you don’t.

But how do you know if you’re a worker or not? Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes not. But here are the basic definitions.

“One important indicator that can determine whether you’re a worker or not, is the question of reward.”

You’re usually a worker if you have things like set hours, defined responsibilities, have to do the work yourself, and have to turn up for your agreed hours even if you don’t feel like it.

A voluntary worker is someone who’s a bit like a worker (they have set responsibilities, hours, etc.) but who still works for free. The big thing here is who you’re working for. You can only be a voluntary worker if you’re working for a charity, voluntary organisation or a statutory body of some sort. People who help out at their local school or hospital, or do time in a charity shop are often voluntary workers.

A volunteer is someone who has no defined responsibilities, no obligation to turn up or do anything, and gets no financial benefit from the work they do. You can volunteer in this sense for any organisation, not just a charity.

Lastly, there’s work-shadowing. This isn’t a legal term, but if you’re hanging about the workplace (with their permission of course!), getting a feel for what goes on, watching people work, chatting to them about their jobs, etc. but not doing any actual work yourself then you’re not a worker and thus have no right to the National Minimum Wage.

What are you getting out of it?

One important indicator that can determine whether you’re a worker or not, is the question of reward.

Are you getting a payment? Have you been promised some training or a job at the end of your stint? If so, you could cross the line from volunteer or voluntary worker and become a worker.

Once again, it doesn’t matter what your organisation calls the payment or benefit you’re getting – what matters is the detail.

Maybe you get “travel expenses”. If this means you give your bus tickets to your organisation and they give you back the cash you spent on them, then there’s no problem. But, if they just give you a flat rate, regardless of your actual costs, that’s something else entirely. If you’re getting £20 a week for travel but you’re walking to work, then you could be a worker.

The same applies to “benefits in kind” (basically, non-monetary rewards). If the organisation gives you a pair of safety boots to wear on site, or a uniform, then that’s fine. But if you’re working for a music company that gives you free concert tickets or a fashion company that gives you a pair of posh shoes, then that’s a payment, potentially making you a worker[2].

Even promising a paid job at the end of your stint can cross the line and put you in the worker-camp.

“If you feel like you’ve been scammed, then it’s important to talk to someone about it. You can always pop into see us.”

Work experience in your course

If you’re doing work experience as part of your course, you’re not usually entitled to the National Minimum Wage, unless the duration exceeds one year.

Our view

As responsible adults, the ultimate decision to do unpaid work lies with the individual student. Only you can decide whether the trade-off of no cash vs. experience is worth it in your particular circumstances.

However, in general, we advise students to take on unpaid work only when you’re:

  • Doing a placement or work experience modules in your course;
  • Volunteering for charitable and non-profit organisations.

We don’t usually promote unpaid opportunities that last longer than three months, even if these are legitimate. You can find out more about our policy on vetting unpaid vacancies here.

The benefits of other sorts of unpaid work are questionable, with little evidence to suggest that they improve career outcomes. There’s even some evidence to suggest that doing unpaid internships can actually damage long-term prospects.

I feel like I’ve been ripped off … what do I do?

If you feel like you’ve been scammed, then it’s important to talk to someone about it.

You can always pop into see us. We can’t take action on your behalf, but we can certainly give an opinion on whether you have a genuine grievance. We can also talk to you what you were hoping to gain from the experience and see if there’s a better way to meet that goal.

If you found this job through Career Zone, it’s very important you tell us. We aren’t perfect and sometimes inappropriate vacancies do slip through. It may also be that the employer hasn’t been honest with us – either way, we need to know to make sure other students don’t get ripped off.

The Advice Unit at the Students’ Guild can help with many problems and should be able to chat through the issue and talk through your options.

If you want to take action, you can report the company to HM Revenue & Customs. They can fine companies and force them to pay you what you’re owed. More information on how to make a complaint can be found here.

[1] When we refer to the National Minimum Wage we also include the National Living Wage because National Minimum / Living Wage is a bit of a mouthful.

[2] It’s worth noting that, although benefits in kind might make you a worker, they don’t usually count towards NMW. The employer who gives you a pair of £500 shoes risks making you a worker, but the £500 won’t count towards what they should pay you!

 

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.

Take Your Career Fowards with a Graduate Business Partnership

Richard Evans graduated from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, with a BA in English. He’s currently the Careers Magazine Publisher for the Career Zone. He talked to us about life after Uni, and how getting a Graduate Business Partnership role is taking his career forwards. 

Richard Evans,

Richard Evans, in a field of his own

The hallmark of a Gemini is inconsistency. Staying true to my horoscope I started university determined to find a foothold in the production industry and now I’m working as a magazine publisher. In-between I’ve tried my hand in campaigning, film, retail, journalism and Public Relations so it hasn’t exactly been a straight road. When they told me an English degree would be sought after by a range of different professions I thought that was just another way of saying “you’re not really doing anything specific enough but here’s a sprinkling of hope”. Yet despite my inherent generation Y scepticism, here I am! My degree has taken me on a journey of professional self-discovery which eventually landed me in a role at the university that gave it to me. I think there’s something wonderfully cyclical about that.

“My GBP role has been a blessing. Not only have I fortified skills specific to the industries I hope to find a career in, but I’ve developed a whole new awareness of my capacity to work on professional solo projects.”

To be completely honest the application for my GPB internship was one out of many grabs at a graduate title. I had just completed four months of consecutive PR and journalism placements and after finally acknowledging the dilapidated state of my bank account, I started working twelve hour shifts in retail. I have a lot of respect for people who can maintain that type of job… But when I was apologising to a customer whilst they dangled a returned pair of ripped leggings in front of my nose due to the “shoddiness” of the garment I came to realise perhaps customer service isn’t my bag. Needless to say that when I received my offer to organise an entire publication singlehandedly, I had a drive and a determination to catch the opportunity firmly between my jaws.

It’s really interesting to work behind the scenes of the Career Zone. When I was a student I definitely didn’t make full and efficient use of them but now that I’m part of their team it’s pretty crazy to see how many different schemes I missed out on. It’s really important for me that this magazine effectively communicates the support Exeter provides its students so that I might deter at least a few of them from maintaining a lacklustre attitude. It was therefore imperative that I take a slightly different approach to the editorial process. In past editions of the “In the Zone magazine” the content has been predominantly advertorial. They were good at reaching out to employers in order to show off university students and services but I felt it didn’t quite address the student body effectively enough. This idea has driven the entire project and I’ve used my own experience of the terrifying world beyond academia to fuel the content.

So far my GBP has seen me conduct interviews with University department reps, alumni and students. I’ve organised issue design, contributed to department marketing meetings, taken on copywriting duties as well as produced my own original content. In many respects this job has combined my experience in PR with my experience in journalism perfectly – although I mostly have free reign over the magazine content the tonality needs to meet University standards as well as give each career sector and scheme appropriate coverage. I can’t exactly go off on tangents about Brexit’s effect on the graduate job market – it has to stick to its function.

My GBP role has been a blessing. Not only have I fortified skills specific to the industries I hope to find a career in, but I’ve developed a whole new awareness of my capacity to work on professional solo projects. Had somebody asked me to create an entire publication speaking on behalf of a professional service a year ago I would have laughed in their face. Now I feel just a few ranks beneath pro status.

Find out more about GBPs here.

Pathways to International Trade

Federico Aulizio

Federico Aulizio

Federico Aulizio is a current BSc Politics and International Relations with Study Abroad student. Last Summer Vacation he took part in Exeter’s Pathways to International Trade programme; bringing together talented students and SMEs, alongside training from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).

What is Pathways to International Trade?

The programme consisted of two parts; the first one was a week of training where professional trade advisors from UKTI came to Exeter and taught us a range of topics, including digital marketing and its influence on the present day, and the importance of cultural understanding when entering an international market.  The second part was an internship where we applied what we learned in the training to the tasks given to us by our assigned clients.

Why did you get involved?

I’m currently a student in International Relations and I wanted an insight on the PR and business side of things. It hasn’t helped specifically for my initial career idea, but it has certainly helped me expand my possible careers plans; as a student, I can’t be closed to ideas or be smallminded. This internship showed me and my fellow interns that expanding our insight can be scary since you may not be completely familiar with the topic or tasks, but at the end of the day it’s worth it.

How did you find the selection process?

Different (in a great way)! There is nothing that gives more relief to a student than realising that your face-to-face interview for the internship ends up being a series of collective activities with people that are there for the same reason as you. Other than being an engaging and thought-provoking exercise, it was an entertaining activity where you would meet your future intern mates and have a taste of the friendly atmosphere you were about to enter.

What did you think of the training?

Having finished my First Year a couple days before the training began, the last thing I wanted was to sit in a room for hours and listening to people lecture me on marketing and trading. But that was the complete opposite of what happened. Yes, there was some sitting involved, but the organisation, mechanics and interactive part of each day made it feel less like a lecture hall. The speakers were very knowledgeable with real life experience and made me feel more equipped for the workforce.

How was your internship? What did you do, and what did you take away from it?

I feel absolutely confident this internship went well. The program itself is closely linked, if not operated, by UKTI which is a quite influential and important branch of the UK government. Therefore, having done an internship with them is great for my CV.

My tasks consisted of finding my client’s competitors for that specific market in a specific country and compared them to my client. I researched the trade laws in the countries assigned and examined them to see if they could impact my client’s products in anyway. Finally, I researched the best possible way for my client to advertise their product using social media and/or hard advertising.

A word for future candidates for this scheme?

Well, my memory would say to do it for the free Domino’s at the end of the training! But my conscious however, would say to do it for your future. It may not be what you want to do in the years to come, but it is certainly a big step in expanding your horizon. It can open doors that you thought would remain closed for a long time, if not forever. It doesn’t cost you anything to try. If you see it doesn’t fit you, you leave with your mouth stuffed with pizza and your pockets filled with a great experience and memories.

Applications for the 2017 Pathways to International Trade programme open January 2017.

Internships that Click

Anna Gibbon is a recent Exeter graduate. She talked to us about how her internship with The Click Hub led to a graduate role in the same company.

Last month, I was lucky enough to meet with Santander’s CEO, Nathan Bostock, at an event hosted by the University of Exeter. I graduated in the summer, and in my final year Exeter created and supported an incredible 60 internships, which wouldn’t have been possible without the £82,000 backing from Santander Universities.

The Click Hub’s Anna, Santander CEO Nathan Bostock, and Exeter’s Employer Liaison Officer Jo McCreedie

The Click Hub’s Anna, Santander CEO Nathan Bostock, and Exeter’s Employer Liaison Officer Jo McCreedie

Over the course of my studies, I undertook a long-term internship with The Click Hub, a digital marketing agency based in Exeter and London. The company has taken on several interns through the scheme, all of who have gone on to work in similar fields.

I heard about The Click Hub from another student. She told me how they were a small company looking to take on another intern. This was over 3 years ago, and I hadn’t heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), and didn’t know much about digital marketing, but they were looking for content writers and I thought that my skills as an English Literature student would put me in good stead.

“Not only was my internship a fantastic opportunity to apply my academic abilities in a professional environment, build my confidence and develop my employability skills, but without the internship I probably wouldn’t have ended up working for the company after I graduated too.”

For me it was the ideal kind of internship. Many people use the Vacations as an opportunity to take part in an internship but being a big lover of travel I wasn’t quite ready to give up my holiday time just yet. My long-term internship with The Click Hub allowed me to undertake an internship alongside my studies, during Term time.

Over the years I learned a great deal, not just about digital marketing but about a whole range of industries as I wrote regular content and website copy for miscellaneous clients. From web designers to interior designers, builders, dentists, and accountants – you name the industry, I probably wrote a blog about it. The role taught me to be flexible as well as self-motivated since much of the work was carried out at home. However, during the time spent in the office I had the opportunity to learn about digital marketing. I became more interested in the workings behind SEO, and watching our clients progress up the Google rankings, eventually taking my Adwords exam to become Google certified.

Not only was my internship a fantastic opportunity to apply my academic abilities in a professional environment, build my confidence and develop my employability skills, but without the internship I probably wouldn’t have ended up working for the company after I graduated too.

Halfway through my final year of study, the company director offered me a full-time position after graduation. I’d seen the company grow from 5 to around 15 people and take on a great number of new clients over the years. I knew they were about to open an office in London, with plans to expand to New York, and I knew that if I worked there I would be genuinely valued as an employee. That’s one of the best things about working for an SME; you know you’ll never just fade into the background. It means that when I began my full-time position as Marketing Executive I was thrown in at the deep and expected to stay afloat because an SME won’t have the same resources as a larger firm when it comes to training. This has the potential to feel overwhelming but it also allows you to develop in other ways. What’s more, you’re in a company you know has invested in you.

I’ve been lucky enough to benefit from both Santander’s financial support and the huge amount of dedicated work carried out by the University’s Career Zone first-hand, so the event was a fantastic way to say thank you to all involved and let them know the result of their great work. And, working for a digital marketing agency, I just couldn’t leave without taking a quick selfie with both parties (on my boss’s orders)…

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

IMG_1215

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.

Making an Instant Impact

Danielle and colleague Rishi

Danielle and colleague Rishi

My name’s Danielle and I’m a Third Year Business Economics with Spanish student at Exeter. I’m currently in Madrid for my Erasmus year, but this summer I joined Instant Impact a graduate recruitment agency specialising in placing graduate talent into Start-ups and Scale-ups, as a Resourcer.

Who are ‘Instant Impact’ and what made me approach them?

Instant Impact stood out to me as a company, and in particular a graduate recruitment agency, because of its focus on fast-growth Start-ups, Scale-ups & SMEs. They’re dedicated to showing graduates that there’s more out there than the corporate grad schemes, and this really fitted in with my own entrepreneurial aspirations.

Since coming to university, I became quite involved in small businesses and projects that I believed would make a real difference to the student community. I’m still in the process of making Exeter receipt free which will hopefully come into play during the 2016/17 academic year – watch this space.

‘I’ve always been very entrepreneurial; as a child I would charge my sister interest on loans and even make her pay for hand-me-downs to the dismay of my Mum!’

I’ve always been very entrepreneurial; as a child I would charge my sister interest on loans and even make her pay for hand-me-downs to the dismay of my Mum! However, now that I’ve realised it’s best not to exploit family, I’ve co-founded a technology company alongside my studies with a couple of friends from Exeter.

The technology company I set up was taking a pause over the summer so the team could decide the direction we wanted to take it. I decided to branch out and investigate internships in other SMEs. I came across Instant Impact and was attracted by the companies they work with; the likes of Deliveroo, GoodLord and ProperCorn, who are all pushing the boundaries of the latest tech and challenging how consumers interact with traditional organisations. I signed up online and Ted (my now colleague) rang me up whilst on the Uni surf trip in France. I was mid wetsuit putting-on (not an ideal situation when talking to your potential employer), but within a week I had returned home, packed my bags and moved to London to work at Instant Impact as a summer Resourcer.

What does a day in the role of Resourcer look like?

I was immediately made to feel a part of the team, training took a couple of days and from the beginning I was given responsibility. Straight away I had vacancies to source candidates for and the opportunity to interview them myself. Previously I’d worked for an IT reseller; I loved my time there but the position was largely based on hard sales like cold calling. Here I have the opportunity to build more of a relationship and rapport with the graduates I speak to; I can relate to them and it’s genuinely great fun matching them to positions.

‘On a day to day basis the role is varied. One day I might be on a promotional trip to Graduation Week at universities around the country, or I could be having a chat on the phone with someone I immediately want to place in “the coolest start-up”, knowing they’d be just perfect for it.’

On a day to day basis the role is varied. One day I might be on a promotional trip to Graduation Week at universities around the country, or I could be having a chat on the phone with someone I immediately want to place in “the coolest start-up”, knowing they’d be just perfect for it. I loved my time at Instant Impact; they have iBeers every Friday afternoon to go through everyone’s highlights of the week and we even went to a dance class one evening as an office social. It’s this kind of start-up culture that makes work so enjoyable.

What’s coming next?

I’m in Madrid for my Erasmus year so I’m getting stuck in to studies and life in the sun. I’ll be back in Exeter for my final year in 2017, so who knows what the future holds.

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.