Multiple Choice

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.

Having to choose between job offers is great. And confusing. And Stressful. But great.
Photo by Letizia Bordoni on Unsplash

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.

Need help making a decision?

Amy Magee – Creative Enterprise

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

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

Where did it all start?

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

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

What have you been up to alongside your degree?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts:

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

Risks and Opportunities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chance, Luck and Careers Fairs

Grace Chan graduated in BSc Geography from the University of Exeter, Tremough Campus in 2015. She’s currently an Asset Manager with Low Carbon

Grace Chan, Exeter Graduate, and Asset Manager with Low Carbon

Careers Fairs were something, that looking back, I should’ve participated in from the get-go. In my 3 years at University, I attended a single Careers Fair – one organised by the Geography Student-led Employability Committee, which I was a part of, and therefore needed to be there in any case.

This, however, set the trajectory of my career.

It was sometime in February in my final year, and I dropped in to check if everything was running smoothly. I made a few rounds to see if there were any employers who didn’t already have a crowd around them, so I could have a chat to find out more. I noticed a stand that wasn’t particularly busy, possibly due to the fact that as a renewable energy company, they stuck out amongst the other companies who were predominantly environmental consultancies. I wandered over to chat with them, not expecting anything – I’d always been under the impression that the renewable energy industry was very engineering-based, and not suitable for a Geography student like myself – but came away with a business card and email address to send my CV to after a 15-minute conversation.

The main person I was speaking to turned out to be the then-Operations Director of the company, and I was brought in for an interview straight after I sent across my CV. Following his recommendation, I was offered a job in the Planning Team at CleanEarth – before even graduating! Fast forward 4 years since meeting them at the Careers Fair, and I am now a Project Manager within the company, developing and planning for large-scale wind turbine projects in England, Wales and Scotland, with a number of impressive projects under my belt. I have recently begun the next chapter of my renewable energy journey and am working as an Asset Manager with Low Carbon, managing utility-scale solar PV farms across the UK.

Summer Recruitment Fair, Thursday 9 May 2019
11:00 to 14:00
The Forum, Streatham Campus

I would definitely advise students to attend any Careers Fairs they are able to, and to attend with an open mind. I had assumptions about the renewable energy industry that were completely proven wrong, just by chatting to the employer there. I never thought it was a suitable industry for myself, yet here I am. Spend a few minutes at each stand to find out more about their company and the industry they are in, you never know when you may have made the wrong assumptions!

I would recommend being generally inquisitive when chatting to employers – a Careers Fair is the best opportunity to find out more about a company, their culture, and what their roles entail on a day-to-day basis. It’s the information that cannot be found on a job description that you want to be finding out. As I knew nothing about the renewable energy industry, my chat helped me gain a much better understanding of the various roles and responsibilities that come into play in developing renewable energy projects. I found out that the skills I had picked up in my degree: data analysis, ArcGIS, environmental policy, to name a few, actually meant that I was well-placed for a role in renewable energy project development and planning.

If you are job hunting in your final year, or looking for a summer internship, I would recommend bringing along copies of your CV to the fairs and researching the employers that would be there. I came across my employer and fell into this industry by sheer chance, but you don’t need to leave it to luck.

Find out more about the Summer Recruitment Fair, and our others Fairs here.  

Starting a Career in International Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter… Pathways!

Sarah Hunt – Exeter student, Pathways participant, writer of Sk8er Boi.

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.

Enter… Pathways!

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.

Basically, I think you should apply. And they didn’t even ask me to say that.

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.

 

The details…

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’.

Passion, Ability and Confidence – a Career in Law

Andréa 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. 

Andrea Hounto, Exeter (Tremough Campus) Graduate and current 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).

Make Your Experience Work

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. 

Jess Franks, Client Relationship for BlackRock, and Exeter Graduate

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.

Create Your Own Career

Natasha Azar graduated from Exeter with an MA in Creative Writing in 2014. She’s currently Senior Manager of University Relations at Osage University Partners. She talked to us about the often surprising benefits of being flexible in your career path.

Natasha Azar, Exeter alumn and Senior Manager of University Relations at Osage University Partners

Osage University Partners is a venture capital firm that invests in university spinouts. Before coming to Osage, I worked as a contractor for Siemens, a position which made me an attractive candidate for my role as a University Relations Manager. At Siemens I was a Communications Specialist under the Communications & Government Affairs group. I supported one of the R&D offices in New Jersey, from a communications and internal marketing perspective.

The best part of my job is that every day is different. I might be at a university or conference, designing marketing materials for an event, editing a podcast episode we just recorded, blogging the highlights of a recent webinar we held, or developing a new program to test on our universities. The startup landscape is always changing, so it’s the nature of the industry as well.

“You shouldn’t feel cornered in your current job… nor restricted by the degree you chose to study. If you come across a job you really want, go after it regardless.  There really is no harm in trying.”

The biggest challenge I face is that my role is so unique and traditionally not found at a venture capital firm.  While there’s no clear career trajectory for someone like me, I think the experience I have has set me up for a plethora of options after this.  I could stay in finance, work for a university, or even keep with a relationship management role in a different sector such as government or politics. The lesson I learned is to be open-minded and assume I could qualify for a position I truly am interested in, even if it means venturing into a new industry.

I moved back to the US after finishing my MA at Exeter in 2014. At first, I was juggling my time between applying for jobs and freelance blogging. I wanted to move out on my own, but it isn’t news to anyone that it’s tough to make a living as a freelance writer. I instead focused my application efforts on positions that would involve some aspect of writing. At first I only applied for full-time permanent positions directly on websites of companies where I wanted to work, but found nobody was biting.  I chose a different tactic and met with a few different creative headhunting agencies.  These recruiters place individuals in contract positions which can be part-time or full-time, short-term or long-term. Contract jobs are much easier to attain with high profile companies as there is little to no risk to the company.  It’s a great way to gain experience at one or several recognizable companies – plus the placement process is usually expedient.  I used this method for 3 contract positions before falling into my current role, which is full-time with benefits.

When I decided to pursue a Master of Art’s in Creative Writing at the University of Exeter, I didn’t believe the degree would be applicable to any career outside of writing – whether it be journalism, screenwriting, or novel writing. But when I was interviewing for the Communications Specialist role at Siemens – a position that would require ample interviewing of scientists and article writing about technologies being developed at our research & development centre – my future boss pointed out my degree specifically during my interview.  After I was hired, she said it gave me leverage over the other candidates as I would be able to provide a ‘unique voice’ and creative angle to the articles I would be required to write.

I found it hard to believe my Creative Writing degree could be useful in writing articles describing science and government contracts, but the experience taught me I had a very close-minded approach when it came to applying for jobs. I would read a job description and assume I wasn’t qualified for it.  By now, I’ve heard many stories from friends who have transitioned into different industries and roles just by catering their resume to the job they’re going after and writing a stellar cover letter.  You shouldn’t feel cornered in your current job market if you want to get out of it, nor restricted by the degree you chose to study. If you come across a job you really want, go after it regardless.  There really is no harm in trying.

Start your Career in the Civil Service

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. 

Latika Chhabra – Exeter alumn, currently working for the Civil Service on the HMRC Tax Professional Graduate Scheme

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.