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!

 

Associate Advancement – An Alternative Grad Scheme

Olivia Cottrell is a Service Management Associate at Computacenter

Olivia Cottrell

Olivia Cottrell

I graduated with a BA in History from Exeter in 2014 and I took a gap year re-living my childhood at Walt Disney World working for Mickey Mouse. After this year of fun I took another look at the graduate market to see what I wanted to pursue as my career.

Like many students I felt I needed to secure myself on a graduate scheme where I could gain some training to help me on my career journey.  In the midst of my research I came across Computacenter. They might be one of the biggest computer companies in the UK, but I had never come across them. They were advertising a service management associate role, a customer facing role helping different customers with their IT infrastructure services. The Computacenter Associate Scheme is an 18 month program designed to develop and train you for sales or service management role at Computacenter. Plus, if you’ve just finished university they run graduate schemes as well. The scheme is made up of rotations to understand the different elements of Computacenter’s business.

So why did I apply to the associate scheme within the IT industry?

Originally, like many graduates, I was drawn to the companies I’d seen on campus. However, I knew I wanted to work with technology even though studying History meant I thought the Gothenburg printing press was high tech. The IT industry is a changing landscape and looks very different from 10 years ago, let alone 20 or 30 years ago (we can all be grateful our desktops are not as large as our desks). If you are looking for an exciting and varied industry look no further than IT.

There was also a great variety in the service management role, it’s interesting to see how different companies utilise technology. If you think about how you use technology in your everyday life, businesses and employee’s want to use these technologies in their workplaces. The new ‘digital’ generation and expects digital working environments.  At Computacenter we’re striving to help companies develop their ‘Digital Workplace’. Nearly all companies employ digital technology in their workplace; but, no two companies employ technology in the same way. The possibilities are endless.  If you’re looking for variety and an insight into different companies; a career in IT service management is for you.

Olivia and Computacenter colleagues

Olivia and Computacenter colleagues

So why did this associate graduate scheme appeal to me so much?

There are major benefits for joining a non-traditional graduate programme like Computacenter’s Associate scheme. The scheme has a smaller intake than most traditional graduate schemes. This translates into an excellent support network. The network is to help you make the most out of the scheme and your time on it. As a smaller group we have established some great friendships, I have only been on the scheme a few months but there’s a lot of people to go out and network with.  Plus, we all look great in Hi Vis jackets as well.

Secondly the timing; our associate scheme opens in June and closes in October. This means if you’re looking for a role after you have graduated, you don’t have to wait until next September to start.

Lastly, Computacenter invests a lot of time and resources into this scheme. With senior leaders coming to speak to us within our first week and being interviewed by the companies COE at the assessment day. I feel valued and encouraged to progress within the company. I feel more than just a number at Computacenter and they go above and beyond to support you.

https://www.computacenter.com/uk/careers/future-talent/graduates

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!”

Keep Calm and use the Career Zone

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

Rachel Coombes, Careers Consultant

Rachel Coombes, Careers Consultant

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’re Not Stuck in Your Subject

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

Chris Mastris

Chris Mastris

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Persistence and Passion – Getting into Television

Alesya Capelle

Alesya Capelle

Alesya Capelle graduated in BA English from the University of Exeter, Penryn in 2016. She talked to us about getting a start in one of the toughest industries out there. 

After graduating with a degree in English Literature I had bounced around between what I thought were the right career options for someone with a background in humanities. I spent months contemplating an MA as well as careers in law, journalism and teaching before realising that I was focusing on what I could do rather than what I wanted to do. I knew that my degree would compliment those career choices, and that I would be capable within those roles, but it all felt as though I was settling rather than pursuing.

“I remember sitting at the front of a lecture during a television careers fair, listening to the list of difficulties I would face in the industry, and looking around to see hundreds of other people who, just like me, were competing for the scraps of entry level jobs thrown at us.”

After deciding to meet and obtain advice from a BBC TV researcher and producer, working in television gradually became more and more of a desirable option. It perfectly combined my creativity with my ability to find unique angles to stories and my love for writing and research. It was a path that automatically excited me, but also one that I hesitated to pursue in fear of rejection. The more I researched working in the world of television, the more I wanted it, but I also came to realise how difficult it was to even start at the bottom in such a competitive industry. I remember sitting at the front of a lecture during a television careers fair, listening to the list of difficulties I would face in the industry, and looking around to see hundreds of other people who, just like me, were competing for the scraps of entry level jobs thrown at us.

Despite feeling as though the skills I had acquired from university would help me to some degree, I was frequently reminded that my successes in higher education would mean nothing in my attempts to enter the industry. Over time I started to lose confidence and I hadn’t even applied for anything yet. I was to try and obtain entry level jobs but from my point of view, everybody would apply for them and everybody would seem the same – inexperienced, passionate about working in television, and willing to do anything for that first door to open. I couldn’t imagine appearing any different in a pile of thousands of one-page CVs and four-line cover letters. That was until I came across a training scheme that filled me with hope.

“I was finally given the opportunity to sell myself and my abilities, and the application process is testament to the supportive and encouraging nature of the scheme itself.”

The application for MAMA Youth Project’s Training Programme, a scheme providing free training for young people to both learn and gain hands-on experience working on Sky TV content, was refreshingly welcoming. Instead of asking me to forward them my CV and a ‘brief’ cover letter, MAMA Youth Project invite applicants to be honest about the barriers they have faced acquiring jobs in the industry, to share their goals, the reasons behind their passions, life challenges they have faced and, finally, to propose a detailed idea for the television show that candidates would be working on. I was finally given the opportunity to sell myself and my abilities, and the application process is testament to the supportive and encouraging nature of the scheme itself.

“It was so important to find an application process that genuinely restored faith and gave me the opportunity to express and articulate myself and my passions.”

After weeks of learning everything there was to know about the company, the life history of each team member and the TV show itself, I fell more and more in love with MAMA Youth Project’s Training Programme and how much it suited someone like me. I had it in my head that if I didn’t get a place I would apply again and again until they finally gave me one. I dedicated all my time to working towards this rare opportunity and after three application stages, including an intense seven-hour group interview, I was accepted onto the scheme as a Trainee TV Researcher and I am counting down the days until I start.

It wouldn’t be wise to advise people to limit what they apply for, but it was so important to find an application process that genuinely restored faith and gave me the opportunity to express and articulate myself and my passions. Even more inspiring was finding a scheme, opportunity and company that was suited to me as an individual, and if I hadn’t I wouldn’t feel so positive about my future as I do now.

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.

Networking for the Slightly Scared

Technology and social media have brought new dimensions to networking, but traditional social skills and motivation remain key elements of making successful connections. Mark Armitage, Careers Consultant, tells us how to master the dark art.

Attitudes to networking can vary from an utter dread of having to interact with a new person, to excitement at the possibilities that this can offer. Some see it as a spurious process of ingratiating others for personal gain, but it can be rewarding for both parties and is increasingly important in researching and attaining your ideal job.

Networking, not as scary as you think

Networking, not as scary as you think

If you don’t know what your ideal job looks like, the temptation is to procrastinate and be fatalistic. But networking can put you in control whereby you begin to interact and learn from others in roles that may interest you, and gain insights that never appeared in that careers booklet. Communicating with others in roles that interest you is a great start, and this can also be a gateway to work-shadowing and experience. Experience can help you understand what’s needed in a job and add to your CV to demonstrate skills and motivation.

“Remember that employers want to meet and network with you as the potential future of their organisation.”

It can be irritating to be told to network; you can’t force relationships, so where to start? The Career Zone resources can equip you with the basics of networking etiquette and our service offer a vast range of possibilities to meet and interact with people who can help you. For example, the eXepert scheme can enable you to contact Exeter alumni in fields of interest. There is also the Career Mentor Scheme; the opportunity to apply to have an Exeter alumnus to mentor and support you in a career area.

Exeter has great alumni and employer links and the range of people you can meet at careers fairs, presentations and skills sessions is immense. The important thing to remember is that employers want to meet and network with you as the potential future of their organisation, while alumni often wish to ‘give back’ to current students.

If you meet someone, treat it like a short but slightly less formal interview. Be ready to shake hands, make eye contact, smile naturally and be yourself. Ask informed and open questions about their role and the organisation, such as ‘How do you find working for…?’ Be prepared to talk and give some introduction about what stage you’re are at in your studies and your subject, but balance this with good listening skills and be attentive, interested and enthusiastic.

“Informal networking can happen anywhere, so consider your own immediate contacts and less obvious channels.”

Try not to take too much time if the person wants to meet other students, and don’t be too pushy or presumptuous. Employers may ask for your name and give you a business card. It’s a good idea to have your own business cards but use them sparingly and don’t shower people with your CV, however brilliant it may be.

If you have any sort of networking contact where you receive some help or insights remember to thank them. If you have a contact detail, a polite email of thanks could lead to further useful interaction or put you in a position to ask for work experience or further contacts. Employers at careers fairs and presentations will often make a note of your name. If you make a good impression, they may encourage you to apply and track your application. Remember that informal networking can sometimes happen anywhere and consider your own immediate contacts and less obvious channels.  An Exeter degree is not an access all areas pass, but the University is valued by employers and alumni and a great basis for your networking future.

Effective networking needs social skills and motivation to nurture relationships, combined with the appropriate use of new tools such as social media. This includes Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, which can all contribute to your networking strategy. But use them carefully in a professional way to contact people, make connections and follow trends in potential careers. Make sure that you keep more personal content private and be especially careful if you are posting pictures, comments or short articles. A good test is to consider how they might look in the future.

Positive networking may not land that dream job immediately but it will help you move to the next stage whether it be employment or further study. It will remain an important aspect of managing your future career as a graduate.

Transfer Your Skills

Claire Harries graduated from Exeter in 2016 with an MSc in Psychological Research Methods. She’s currently a Recruitment Advisor with Exeter-based recruitment agency Cathedral Appointments She talked to us about how her MSc shaped her career path.

What academic skills did you get from your time at Exeter, and how do they transfer to the workplace? 

Claire Harries

Claire Harries

Although the competing academic, clinical, social, and extra-curricular activities that the course demanded allowed me to develop a skill-set directly applicable to the field of psychological practice and research, these skills have also been highly transferable within professional business environments. In particular, the skills developed through working collaboratively on multiple projects with other students, academics, organisations, and businesses, alongside the skills I developed within data management and analysis have been particularly valuable. My primary role requires me to analyse business and person-specific information and data quickly and accurately, and to apply the information in a structured way by simultaneously understanding business, client, and candidate requirements. The emphasis that my Master’s placed on developing accurate and creative analytical and problem-solving skills has equipped me well to manage these competing and fast-paced demands. Further, managing competing demands throughout the Master’s has equipped me to manage, prioritise, and organise my workload well. The Master’s also helped me to develop strong verbal and written communication skills that have been invaluable.

“The skills I developed through working collaboratively on multiple projects with other students, academics, and organisations have been particularly valuable.”

How did you get into your current role?

I had been studying psychology at University level for 5 years. A large part of my MSc was spent analysing numerical data: something that I did not specifically want to pursue. However, I loved the aspect of critical thinking required within psychology: discovering differences in personalities or organisational designs, and resolving them. I approached an Exeter-based recruitment agency in search of work. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I did know that I wanted to work with people, to utilise my analytical skills, and to be able to solve problems effectively and creatively. I met with a consultant who throughout the interview was quickly gathering and understanding information about my skills, preferences, and work experiences, while simultaneously applying it to jobs on her caseload. I found the process of understanding, analysing, and applying information about people exciting, and I expressed this within the interview. The consultant asked if I would be interested in joining their team: I started the following Monday!

What are your main responsibilities?

My main responsibility is to source candidates for the latest vacancies our company has. Integral to my role is to understand the requirements of a job and finding the right person to fill those requirements. An ability to understand and communicate well with people and businesses is key. It’s all about building relationships – not only with candidates, but with clients too. On a day-to-day basis, I am required to analyse and understand job specifications, write creative and appealing job adverts, advertise jobs, and then use a variety of different resources and databases to find the right candidate for the advertised roles.

What’s the most challenging part of your role?

An important transition has been to adopt a more business-focused lens through which I view decisions, challenges, and negotiations. My MSc taught me to view situations and challenges through a person-cantered lens: focusing on how organisations, research, and clinicians can specifically help the individual. My new role requires me to respond and manage the specific needs and expectations of businesses while also meeting the needs of individual candidates. This new environment has required me to shift the way in which I view situations and make decisions. While this has been the biggest challenge in my new role, I have capitalised on the critical thinking skills developed through my MSc to transfer to these situations. In particular, throughout my MSc I spent a considerable amount of time examining how different psychological treatments work for different individuals and disorders, why they work, and when they work. I have utilised this mindset of thinking about the demands of my role that require immediate attention, for whom, and when, within my new role to help with my transition to developing a more business-focused lens.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to current students and recent graduates?

Don’t fear expressing your ideas. As young people with creative and analytical minds we should take responsibility for driving change, facilitating service delivery, transforming practice, and redesigning and building leadership when change is needed. Take responsibility for your abilities and ideas and apply them.

What’s the best thing about your time at Exeter Uni?

Something that will always stay with me is the confidence I developed to express my own ideas and confidence to drive change… Although it would be too easy to say Camper Coffee!

Claire is happy to hear from current Exeter students and recent graduates. You can email her at

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)…