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
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.
James Bradbrook is Vacancy Co-ordinator for the Career Zone.
You’ve fired off several applications, smashed the interviews and assessment centres and you’ve had a job offer from Umbrella Corporation. It’s not necessarily your first choice, but it’s not too bad and you haven’t heard back from that marketing job you were hoping to get with Weyland-Yutani.
Umbrella are wanting to hear back from you, so you accept their job offer. After all, you think, you can always pull out if Weyland-Yutani come up trumps, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
What does the law say?
Contracts of employment are just that: contracts! Like all contracts, they signify all parties’ acceptance of mutual rights and obligations and there are penalties for failing to fulfil them.
When an employer makes you an offer, they can only then withdraw it under very particular circumstances. This is why most employers will only make conditional offers, for example, the offer being subject to references. This means that if one of your referees points out that you happen to have been fired from your last job for stealing, the company can withdraw their offer perfectly legally.
If an employer makes an offer and you accept but then the company withdraws it without good reason, you would be able to sue them for breach of contract.
The same applies the other way around. If you accept an offer and then pull out, the company is perfectly entitled to insist that you fulfil the terms of the contract and, if you don’t, they can pursue you through the courts. (It is important to note that accepting an offer verbally has the same legal force as an agreement in writing – the only difference is that the latter is easier to prove.)
“If you accept an offer and then pull out, the company is perfectly entitled to insist that you fulfil the terms of the contract and, if you don’t, they can pursue you through the courts.”
Assuming the company won their action against you, the gains would be minimal because the losses would be limited to the terms of the contract that were violated.
This wouldn’t mean that your losses would be minimal. The damages you’d have to pay for the actual breach of contract itself would be insignificant compared to the risk that you’d have to pay your own legal costs, plus the company’s legal costs as well. That could easily amount to many thousands of pounds, not to mention a large part of your life being swallowed up for months or even years of legal action.
That’s really not the best way to start your new career.
Would they really try to enforce the contract or sue me?
This is difficult to determine – much would depend on the specific circumstances. However, such actions are rare.
Firstly, in terms of forcing you to honour the contract, you’d only be obligated to work out whatever notice period is specified in the contract of employment. With most graduate schemes you’d have barely started the training before you could leave quite legally.
Secondly, it is rarely in an employer’s interest to have a disinterested, unengaged employee working for them.
Thirdly, they will probably believe someone who pulls out of a contract in this way is, at best, unreliable and possibly even dishonest. Most companies don’t want that sort of person working for them.
All-in-all, it’s probably not worth their time and investment to force you to take the job, when you’re going to up and leave in weeks or months.
As for legal action, the direct losses a company could recoup from you would probably be minimal – this would depend on notice periods, training costs, etc. or any other loss the company could demonstrate arose from your breach of contract. By far, the worst scenario for you would be covering their legal costs.
The employer would have to balance the effort in staff time required to pursue an action against the concrete return. They may also wish to avoid long-term damage to their reputation that might arise from pursuing such an action.
But … if the contract is short-term or a further delay in recruitment would harm the company’s business, they might be far more insistent that you honour your commitment. Things would also greatly depend at what point you pulled out – retracting an offer a couple of days after accepting is far less to trigger action than doing so the day before you’re going to start.
In conclusion, the risk of a legal action is probably small, depending on the circumstances. This doesn’t change the fact that a risk remains – you need to think very carefully about your situation before making such a serious decision and consider taking legal advice concerning your specific circumstances.
Other possible consequences
Recruitment costs companies a lot in terms of time and money. They take the process very seriously and don’t make offers to candidates lightly. They expect candidates to act professionally and with integrity. Make no mistake: they are going to be very, very unhappy.
“So what?” you might say.
True, you may not suffer any immediate problems if you decide to pull out. But, you could well burn your bridges with that organisation completely, scuppering any chance of working with them in the future. That might not be an immediate worry, but who knows where you’ll be in five- or ten-years’ time.
The personal circles in some professions are surprisingly small. People have long memories and reputation matters, especially in occupations where honesty and integrity are vitally important, such as law and accountancy. No-one likes the players on reality TV and they don’t like them in professional life either.
“The personal circles in some professions are surprisingly small. People have long memories and reputation matters.”
And, if you’re the sort of person that cares about other people, you might want to think about this. Employers might not be willing or able to take action against you, but they can (and do) complain to us! Take it from me, it’s very uncomfortable to have an employer phone up complaining about the poor conduct of a student.
Employers also take these sorts of things into account when they’re making commercial decisions about what universities they want to work with. If they have a poor experience with an Exeter student, they might well reconsider how much they want to work with us in the future, damaging opportunity for future students.
Last, but not least, there’s the matter of your personal integrity. If you value ethical conduct in the world, from other people and organisations, then you shouldn’t be too free with your own.
So, what’s the right thing to do?
If a company makes you an offer and you’re either not sure or waiting on another offer, tell them you need time to think. You don’t need to tell them exactly why.
Most companies don’t rush their recruitment decisions and they shouldn’t expect you to either. If you feel they’re trying to pressure you into a quick decision, then that tells you something about the culture of their firm and you may need to reconsider whether they’re right for you in the first place.
Only you can decide what sort of time frame is reasonable to you, although you can’t expect a company to hold an offer open indefinitely.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Sarah Hunt is a Liberal Arts student based on the Streatham Campus.
Jumping straight into the job market can seem pretty scary, right?
Before last year, I had this vague idea that marketing might be my career of choice, but I couldn’t say for sure. I had a few bits of work experience, but I wasn’t studying for a marketing degree, so most of the theory went straight over my head. Not only was I worried that I wouldn’t have a strong grad scheme application, but I was also concerned that, in a workplace, I’d be doing a whole lot more sinking than swimming. Basically, I needed some metaphorical armbands, and I needed them quick.
Summer is the opportunity to break free from university, to go out and live our best lives. That’s why a three-month summer internship can seem daunting; you go straight from exams into an even more testing environment.
Pathways is different. You don’t have to give up your whole summer, and in return for spending two weeks in a structured scheme, you get peace of mind that you’ve gained a fabulous lilo of information and experience to keep you afloat during application season and in jobs. It means you can chill when you’re bobbing around the pool just two weeks later.
“Pathways is different… in return for spending two weeks in a structured scheme, you get peace of mind that you’ve gained a fabulous lilo of information and experience to keep you afloat during application season.”
So, what is Pathways?
Pathways is a careers scheme run by the University of Exeter. It’s designed to take in those who are interested in a career in a certain discipline, and boost their knowledge, training and inspiration.
Week one is an intense learning week. You participate in talks from professionals, training sessions, Q&As and a project that’s presented in front of industry professionals. It covers loads of ground in your discipline – for instance, in Pathways to Marketing, we covered sports marketing, PR, agencies, digital, data, business-to-business and heritage, to name just a few. All in one week. There was no hanging around, let me tell you that.
Week two is totally different. You are sent off into the wide world to try out what you’ve learned at a business related to your area of interest within your discipline. Here, you do a one-week internship, getting to know the ropes, meet the people and prove to yourself that you’ve got what it takes for a career in this industry. It’s the perfect taster; short, intense and varied, because those supervising you are always keen to get you as involved as possible. For me, I went to HoneyBe Creative – a small marketing company in Exeter, where I increased the number of employees by half! I learned loads in just one week, and was able to ask my questions and improve my performance while I was there.
What did I get out of it?
SO MUCH, is the short answer.
The longer answer is that, because it comes from the Uni, Pathways is structured to give you the best start you could possibly get in your career of choice. Whereas other internships might expect me to basically already be a pro, I needed only passion to get onto the Pathways scheme, and came out of it with increased knowledge, confidence to apply to grad schemes, and a load more passion that resulted from the fab experiences I’d had.
But y’all want concrete facts, don’t you? OK. Here’s what I’ve gained from it:
I now know terminology that will get me through applications.
I can discuss important marketing debates that affect companies, like GDPR.
I know how to approach a marketing project and what makes it run smoothly.
I can pinpoint the specialist area of marketing I want to go into.
I know exactly how to improve my copywriting, thanks to my internship.
I’ve boosted my confidence in a workplace environment.
I’ve got two new things to put on my CV (the scheme, plus the internship).
I have new friends who I can ask for advice as we head towards the same career goals.
And that’s all from one intense, two-week course.
“Pathways is realistic, informative and gives you the breadth of information that even a whole summer stuck in one office couldn’t give you.”
I’d recommend Pathways, 100%. But who should do it?
I used to love those personality finder games in kids’ magazines. The ones that were like ‘Which 2000s pop diva are you?’ Avril Lavigne, but that’s not my point.
My point is that there isn’t one type of person who needs to do Pathways. There’s more than one route to get there (just like getting to Avril Lavigne). So, Pathways is for you if:
You’re someone who has a vague idea of what career path you want to take. Why? Pathways will give you the knowledge that you need to make a more informed decision.
You’re looking for an internship that’s going to be intense, supportive and really teach you things. Why? Pathways guarantees you an internship and guides the internship providers to making your week there beneficial to your career progression. So, basically, no more tea-making.
You want to boost your CV to prep you for grad scheme applications. Why? Pathways gives you two solid items to put on your CV, and a huge number of experiences to draw on for those pesky ‘Talk about a time when…’ interview questions.
Those are just three examples, but Pathways is open to anyone at Exeter (and Penryn), and I truly believe that it can benefit anyone and everyone towards making good career choices in the future.
There’s a wide variety of Pathway disciplines and talks from people who are specialists in those areas. If you’re not into marketing, there’s everything from politics to culture and heritage, and loads more.
Pathways is realistic, informative and gives you the breadth of information that even a whole summer stuck in one office couldn’t give you. For me, the most important part was that it gave me confidence to know that this is the right career path for me. For others, it may be the experience that helps them turn around and go in a different direction. Ultimately, Pathways is out to help you achieve the best for your future. It definitely did for me.
Applications open until 24 February 2019. Shortlisted students will then be invited to an assessment centre where the final selection of candidates to go forward to the training internship stage will be decided. Assessment Centres will take place towards the end of March before the end of term.
Employer led training will be from 17-20 June 2019
Paid internship from 24-28 June 2019
Pathways are available in a number of flavours this year… ‘Arts, Culture and Heritage’, ‘Charity and Development’, ‘Digital Innovation’, ‘International Trade’, ‘Marketing’, ‘Politics and Government’, and ‘Sport and Health’.
Andrea Hounto graduated from the University of Exeter, Tremough Campus, with BA (Hons) History and Politics in 2016. She’s currently a Stagiaire at the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg.
After graduating from Exeter, I went on to do the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL, also known as the law conversion course). I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the law school (BPP), which covered the majority of my course fee. I then obtained a place on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and decided to do an integrated Master of Laws (LL.M). Upon successful completion of the BPTC, I’ll be getting called to Bar of England and Wales. I’m currently undertaking a six-month internship at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, as the lucky recipient of the Hon. Sir Peter Bristow Scholarship. I was given this opportunity by my Inn of Court, who is funding me to be here. It is an amazing opportunity to develop both my legal experience and use my French language skills.
When I return to the UK, I’ll be seeking to obtain pupillage in a London-based chambers, which is the final step to qualifying as a barrister. Ultimately, I am planning to become a human rights barrister and then qualify as a judge.
“I chose this career because I’m passionate about speaking up for those who are unable to speak for themselves; for the rights of all who are destitute. I want to be an advocate for the vulnerable and marginalised, those who are often overlooked by our legal system.”
I chose this career because I’m passionate about speaking up for those who are unable to speak for themselves; for the rights of all who are destitute. I want to be an advocate for the vulnerable and marginalised, those who are often overlooked by our legal system. What I enjoy most about my work is knowing that I am using my skills to impact lives in a positive way and bring hope to those who may have lost it.
My degree put me in good stead for career at the Bar in that it developed my critical and lateral-thinking skills. I particularly enjoyed writing my third-year dissertation titled: ‘Is Margaret Thatcher the Ultimate Feminist Heroine?’, which explored the significance of Margaret Thatcher’s election as prime minister. Due to the largely polarized opinions of Thatcher, I was required to extract objective facts from tendentious material; a skill which will be invaluable at the Bar. Academics aside, being president of the African and Caribbean Society during my second year significantly boosted my confidence with regards to public speaking. Similarly, being BME Officer on the Liberation Committee in my third year gave me insight into what it means to advocate on behalf of a group of people and represent their interests.
“..being president of the African and Caribbean Society significantly boosted my confidence with regards to public speaking. Similarly, being BME Officer on the Liberation Committee gave me insight into what it means to advocate on behalf of a group of people and represent their interests.”
I would advise all current students who wish to pursue a career in law, regardless of whether they want to be a barrister or a solicitor, to start their research early. Try to find out what the difference between a barrister and a solicitor is as early as possible, and then work towards building your experience in that field. Don’t worry too much about specialisms, just try to get whatever legal experience you can get your hands on. The more experience you have, the easier it will be for you to ascertain which areas of law you like and which areas you don’t like. I would also recommend applying for as many scholarships as possible to fund your legal studies (GDL, LPC, BPTC, LL.M etc.). Lastly, I would say: don’t let the statistics scare you. Yes, law is competitive. Yes, you will face rejection and bumps in the road. Yes, getting into a top firm or chambers is extremely difficult. However, as long as you are prepared to work hard to achieve your goals, there is no reason why you can’t do it. Be confident in your abilities!
“Yes, law is competitive. Yes, you will face rejection and bumps in the road. Yes, getting into a top firm or chambers is extremely difficult. However, as long as you are prepared to work hard to achieve your goals, there is no reason why you can’t do it. Be confident in your abilities!”
Volunteering is key at the beginning as you will be very inexperienced. As you build experience, you can look for paralegal roles or legal internships which will benefit you greatly when it comes to applying for pupillage (barristers) or Training Contracts (solicitors).
William More is a current student at Exeter, and completed a placement last year with Enterprise. He shares his experience of being diagnosed with severe OCD, and finally getting the treatment he needed. (This post originally appeared on Enterprise’s careers blog).
It is okay not to be okay. This is a message that’s really important everyone knows – perfection is a myth and as a society we need to be easier on ourselves.
For a long time, since around GCSEs time, I have struggled with a mental illness that I could never pin down. I knew that things weren’t right, but I never had an explanation for what I was going through. On the surface things were okay, my grades were certainly fine, but underneath I was getting worse and worse over a matter of years. Whatever this illness was, it, took different forms, with different worries and fears ruining more and more aspects of my life. What once started as severe social anxiety – to the extent I used to throw up – it began to morph into something even more consuming. At university I was able to hide this and focus on other things to get by, so it would come and go. However, desperately wanting to do well on my placement year, away from the support network of home and the relaxed nature of university life, I finally realised that everything really was not okay.
“For a long time… I knew that things weren’t right, but I never had an explanation for what I was going through.”
I have always found exams and revision time very difficult. I can’t switch off, and get burnt out as a result as I am always ‘on’. Slowly the working world began to have the same effect on me and different scenarios would run through my mind all evening. I struggled to relax and was constantly on edge. I would end up having about an hour each day where I could process thoughts ‘naturally’ and didn’t feel gripped by anxiety. This was on top of my issues that had developed through university and eventually everything became overwhelming. Through the year I got more paranoid about situations that my mind had magnified until during my 21st birthday celebrations, I broke down to my girlfriend about a situation that any normal person would be able to comprehend rationally.
It now turns out I suffer from severe OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Behaviour is an illness which is commonly misunderstood, often by people who tidy their house, or order objects in a certain way, as they confess they are ‘OCD about that kind of thing’. These jokes trivialise how OCD can hijack someone’s life. OCD can have such a severe impact on someone’s quality of life that the World Health Organisation put OCD in the top ten of most disabling illnesses.
OCD is an anxiety disorder caused by a lack of blood flow to the area of the brain which produces Serotonin, the thought-regulating chemical, and as a result OCD sufferers cannot process their worries rationally and move on from them. A concern with dirt and tidiness is just one of the many ways someone with OCD can be plagued by this illness. Other obsessions can include looking for symmetry, but to the extent that they would worry a family member would be hurt if all the things in the room weren’t symmetrical. That is where the C for Compulsive Behaviour comes in. To get rid of the anxious obsessions that their brain is stuck on, to the extent that they think of the same thing literally hundreds of times a day, OCD sufferers develop habits or compulsions to relieve this anxiety.
Naturally, those who fear contamination and dirt wash their hands, however the OCD makes them do this irrationally until they are red raw. Others may need to check things over and over; those concerned with hurting others, for instance, can have to retrace their route to work to ensure they haven’t run anyone over on the way. Imagine the trauma of this each day.
“There still remains a stigma in today’s society around admitting you are finding things tough, particularly for men who are told to ‘man up’.”
To someone who is struggling to understand this mental illness, the OCD feeling to me is a mix between the worst anxiety you feel when hungover combined with the stress of exam season – literally constantly. I would look forward to the moment of respite when I woke up before the OCD would kick in, and go to bed worn out from fighting my brain all day.
What made the OCD worse was the stigma of my fears and these would even seep into my nightmares. The OCD would tell me all kind of things that I never wanted to come true and naturally I resisted and hated this.
This is just one of the reasons why it takes an average of 11 years for an OCD sufferer to be diagnosed, for them to talk about what they are going through. The irony of OCD is that it is the disease of worriers – the OCD becomes worse as you become more alarmed and upset by it. The more you try and resist a thought, the more you think about it, and hence OCD gets more and more consuming. This is called the ironic process theory, and whilst going through the worst period of this, on several occasions I thought I was going genuinely insane, would be institutionalised and considered ending my life.
There still remains a stigma in today’s society around admitting you are finding things tough, particularly for men who are told to ‘man up’. It is little wonder the male suicide rates are three times higher than women’s in the UK, and 75% of suicides are men. To explain the scale of this problem, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK and 84 men take their own life each week. Even if someone appears fine, it does not mean they are, and you only need to look at the sad cases of Avicii and Robin Williams to realise this is true. We need to change that people think they have no choice, and the best way to do this is by talking. It is okay not to be okay.
“…I now feel more confident, happy and just relieved that, more than anything else, what I was going through is normal.”
There is always a silver lining if you look hard enough though. After my 21st, I took some time to recuperate with my family and began to slowly unload the worries that had weighed me down for so long. I saw a therapist, started counselling and began to take enough tablets to knock out a small cow. A couple of months later I now feel more confident, happy and just relieved that, more than anything else, what I was going through is normal.
The key is to talk. Lots of stars have also come out and talked about their struggles in recent times, with Ryan Reynolds, Zayn Malik and Danny Rose all highlighting the issues that they have had with mental health.
Enterprise has a host of blogs about physical and invisible illnesses, and this is just one of the many ways in which it builds a culture of acceptance, and from these examples I knew I could be honest about my diagnosis at work. I summoned up the courage to talk to a selection of close people and found it so empowering. On a personal level, the more I have shared with people, the more I have learnt that everyone has their own hidden ‘bumps and bruises’. I am just thankful that there are people out there who are willing to listen and help, and take people as they are.
If you want to work in a world leading company that puts its emphasis on employee wellbeing, search and apply to Enterprise’s Graduate Management programme.
Jess Franks graduated from the University of Exeter in 2018 with a BSc in Business Economics WIE. She’s currently working in Client Relationship for BlackRock. Jess talked to us about making her time at Exeter work for her.
Morgan Stanley stood out at the Careers and Placement Fair because of its culture; opening my eyes to the opportunities in Investment Banking outside of the ‘front office’ trading roles. Having expressed an interest in the Operations division, the team set up a trial insight week for me and another Exeter student. I was fast-tracked, and secured a Placement Scheme prior to coming back to University in my Second Year.
At Morgan Stanley I was awarded ‘Campus Ambassador of the Year’ for my commitment towards promoting the organisation at Exeter. In support of the company’s core value of ‘Giving Back’ I volunteered for a day at Great Ormond Street Hospital, and ran my first half marathon for the charity, raising over £800. This helped me realise that I wanted to be part of an organisation which was both intellectually stimulating, but also gave back to society.
“The Career Zone’s services – ranging from Employer Events, Panel Sessions and the Mentor Scheme has undoubtedly helped guide me to a destination… I’m very thankful to all the team for helping make my career aspirations a reality.”
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed my year at Morgan Stanley, I knew I wanted to work in a sector which combined the client-facing experiences I had at PwC with the finance knowledge I’d gained. I took part in the Career Mentor Scheme where my mentor encouraged me to look into Asset Management. I realised that I preferred the ‘buy side’ work which is built on developing long-term client relationships, rather than the ‘sell side’ which is focused more on short-term work.
I successfully applied to BlackRock’s summer internship programme in the Client Relationship Management division – spanning from departments dealing with Central Banks to Charities. I enjoyed being in the Asset Management division where I observed fund managers who were managing portfolios and actively taking investment decisions.
After the internship I was offered a graduate role at BlackRock in the same Client Relationship department – a role I find very exciting. I get to work closely with insurance companies yet also follow what’s going on in the rest of the global economy at a macro scale, and the value of constantly innovating fits with my ethos of continuous improvement and development.
The Career Zone’s services – ranging from Employer Events, Panel Sessions and the Mentor Scheme has undoubtedly helped guide me to a destination I’m thoroughly looking forward to entering. I’m going to be able to contribute to an expanding business, work with impressive clients and give back to society. An induction of two weeks in New York with BlackRock is a dream come true and I’m very thankful to all the team at the Career Zone for helping make my career aspirations a reality.
Latika Chhabra is currently working for the Civil Service on the HMRC Tax Professional Graduate Scheme. She graduated in 2018 with a BA in Politics and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Exeter, Streatham Campus.
Having studied Politics and Middle Eastern Studies during my time at University I’ve always been interested in working in policy. I heard about the Civil Service Summer Diversity Internship Programme when some Exeter alumni, who joined the Civil Service through the fast stream graduate programme, visited a University Careers Fair. I managed to secure a place on the programme for the summer after my Second Year at University, and was placed with the Behaviour Insights and Research Team in HM Revenue and Customs.
“My line manager and colleagues were extremely supportive and had arranged a variety of projects for me, allowing me to get a rounded experience of working for the team and I lead a project on the relationship between HMRC and Generation Z.”
Whilst this was a daunting internship, as the idea of working with the tax office was alien to me, the breadth of the tasks and projects helped me understand the type of work I would like to pursue after completing my degree. The internship also made me more aware of my strengths and weaknesses in the work environment. My line manager and colleagues were extremely supportive and had arranged a variety of projects for me, allowing me to get a rounded experience of working for the team and I lead a project on the relationship between HMRC and Generation Z, which was extremely rewarding. The planning and structure of the internship programme ensured that I was given the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution and I have enjoyed working in a team to produce the desired quality of work in a timely fashion.
I was able to carry forward the teamwork, organisational, and leadership skills into my role as President of Politics Society on campus. I believe myself to have benefited from the programme and will seek to further develop these skills after graduation.
The overall experience of working in a large team in a reputable organisation helped me explore my future career opinions. Interning at HMRC has given me greater confidence in my work capabilities, and increased my motivation to pursue a career in the Civil Service.
I would recommend the Summer Diversity Internship Programme to anyone who is interested in exploring a career with the Civil Service. There is a range of networking events that allow us to gain a better understanding of the different roles available in government, further allowing us to gain a better understanding of our future career prospects.
The University of Exeter has recently partnered with the British Council and InternChina to run a bespoke funded internship programme exclusively for Exeter students this summer 2018.
Mark Pettitt, an Exeter Graduate of History and Middle East Politics who spent 7 months in Shanghai with CRCC Asia (the British Council’s other partner provider of Internships in China), tells us about his experience as an intern in China and the impact it has had on his life and career so far.
What did your particular internship entail?
I worked for the British Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. As part of my role, I led co-ordination and marketing of a project finance workshop on behalf of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the Chamber. I also led production of a report to the Executive Committee on the Chamber’s annual events, making recommendations on how to increase profit. On top of that, I gained experience preparing marketing materials and managing internal and external communications at the Chamber. I was offered a permanent position with the Chamber upon completion of my internship.
Did you have to speak Chinese to get the job?
No, not at all. Nearly all interns spoke zero Mandarin. My placement provider offered Mandarin lessons but they were not compulsory nor did your level of Mandarin impact the ‘quality’ of your internship. Whether you made an effort learn was down to you, your natural drive and how seriously you treated your experience.
What did you enjoy most about living and working in China?
I loved how different it was to what I was used to (a small Yorkshire village and Exeter!). My experience in a huge foreign city and culture opened my eyes to the wider world and took me completely out of my comfort zone. It was a chance for me to grow personally and professionally. Meeting a diverse range of people as part of the internship and making lots of new friends (other interns and local people) with whom I still stay in touch years later was the best part of the experience. It’s an experience that has shaped me, made me stand out CV-wise and given me a huge lift in getting to where I am today career-wise.
‘Employers frequently emphasise the importance for graduates and young professionals of combining overseas experience with other transferable skills in order to maximise their employability. China is becoming an important player in the world economy, and, increasingly, careers involve an international element. In this context, helping young generations to gain experience of China and improve their cultural fluency is an excellent investment in the future.’ – British Council
Where do you work now? Would you say working in China has made you more employable?
I would absolutely say my time in China has made me more employable. But only because I took it seriously and went with the goals of growing personally and professionally as well as having a great time and experiencing a new culture. The travel, exploration and enjoyment is important. But so too is making the most of the internship. I was offered two jobs in China off the back of it.
I now work for the Civil Service, in the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. I am responsible for the design and build of a new radiological monitoring and information management digital project.
What would you say to Exeter students considering working in China?
Absolutely do it but take it seriously as that’s where you will maximise the value. It’s better not to go it alone – use an intermediary like CRCC Asia or InternChina who will find you a host company. Equally, be mindful of your expectations. You will not be placed in a massive company as you’re a student. You will likely be put into an SME (Small or Medium Enterprise) and in many ways this is better as if you do well it will afford you more responsibility and allow you to shout about your experience more on your CV. Future employers want to know what you have done and achieved, not the names of the organisations you have worked at.
Feeling inspired by Mark’s story? Ready to apply for an internship in China this summer? The deadline for applications to Exeter’s China Internship Programme 2018 is 18 March. Industries covered include engineering, law, business, architecture, translation and many more.