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.

Careers in Nature Conservation

Louise Mason is Second Year Geography with a proficiency in Spanish at the University of Exeter. She talked to us about how she enhanced her skills and experience with the Careers in Nature Conservation Programme. 

The beautiful and diverse Portuguese landscape

The beautiful and diverse Portuguese landscape

Being a Geographer with a love for nature and the environment, I jumped at the opportunity to apply for the Careers in Nature Conservation Programme. After applying online and attending an interview (my first one!), I was excited to find out that I had successfully gained a place. I didn’t fully know what to expect, but I hoped that the experience would aid me in deciding what I want to do in the future, and to develop some skills to help me achieve this.

We arrived in Mitra, Portugal a day late after flight complications, but everyone was so friendly that we slotted into the group without any issues. Our experience was split around a mixture of employability classes, employer presentations and practical activities on the montado. The montado landscape was the focus of our nature-related investigation; its mix of scrubland and forest providing us with a field space rich in biodiversity.

Our sessions included valuable employability skills such as learning about presentation skills, CVs and having a growth mindset, whilst the interactions with employers gave us some really useful information about the importance of networking and examples of how people in the industry had achieved their career goals.

“Not only have I reaffirmed my interest in nature conservation and learnt some valuable skills for my future career, I had a great time laughing and learning with individuals, now friends, from across Europe.”

During the week we visited the nearby city of Évora, where we had a look around one of the impressive university buildings, before having a delicious lunch on the campus. We then had a session about entrepreneurship and the business canvas model where we worked in groups to plan a business, taking into account some of the key principles we had learnt beforehand.

Exploring the montado

Exploring the montado

Working with a range of experts throughout the week, particularly in employability, insects and birds, the week culminated in three nature walks led by us trainees. In our group of three, one person from the UK, Hungary and Portugal, we planned our audit task based on our chosen creature, grasshoppers, with some help from a species expert (thanks Gergő!). Being the last walk of the day we had to contend with some ‘disruptive participants’, but it went well, meaning in the afternoon we could all relax and enjoy our last evening in Portugal.

Much to my excitement one of the project trainers from SPEA (Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds) agreed to take us back to Évora in the afternoon where we explored the Chapel of Bones, the Cathedral and had some time with the group. Our meal times throughout the week were also a great time to get to know the other trainees and the trainers, not to mention tucking into the delicious food that was prepared for us every day. This was also a great time to try and learn a few Portuguese phrases from the other participants who were very helpful, and kindly put up with my terrible pronunciation!

If a trip to Portugal was not enough, I have come away from this week having developed my skill sets in numerous areas. Not only have I reaffirmed my interest in nature conservation and learnt some valuable skills for my future career, I had a great time laughing and learning with individuals, now friends, from across Europe.

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How you can get involved If you’re interested in participating in this project, you can apply to take part in the Participative Management Training programme that will be running in south Devon in August 2017.  You’ll also get to work with students from Hungary and Portugal and work with the trainers I worked with in Portugal. ex.ac.uk/cinc

You can find out more about the project and access a lot of learning materials by logging into the project website  http://careersinconservation.elte.hu/moodle/login/

Follow the twitter feed #careersinconservationka2

Pathways to International Trade

Federico Aulizio

Federico Aulizio

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

What is Pathways to International Trade?

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

Why did you get involved?

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

How did you find the selection process?

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

What did you think of the training?

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

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

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

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

A word for future candidates for this scheme?

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

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

Internships that Click

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Entrepreneurial Skills in the Workplace and Beyond

When we talk about skills like creative planning, sustainability, project management and corporate social responsibility it’s easy to think that these skills are only needed if you’re starting your own business. However, evidence has proven that this isn’t the case and that more and more market-leading businesses are employing graduates that can demonstrate these skills in the workplace; we call this ‘intrapreneurship’. Tom Crosswell, Enterprise GBP tells us more.

Think Try Do

Think Try Do

The Think, Try, Do programme is there to help you develop these essential skills. Through workshops, guest speakers, panel discussions and more, the programme helps guide you through our three stages: Think – what are these skills and how do we put them into practice within the workplace and outside of it? Try – One to one meetings with advisors to help you develop a start-up idea and competitions that allow you to try out the skills developed in the previous stage. Do – meet other budding entrepreneurs, bespoke in-house business support and access to funding to fuel your start up. Think, Try, Do sessions also count towards your Exeter Award so you really do get the most out of every session. You can find out more about Think, Try, Do and book yourself onto a session by visiting our microsite at http://ex.ac.uk/thinktrydo.

This week is Global Entrepreneurship Week, thousands of events and competitions will be run across over one hundred countries, the sheer scale of the week really goes to show just how important these skills are to universities and businesses. Think, Try, Do will be running numerous sessions, workshops and a panel discussion throughout the week and there’s something on offer for everyone.

Ever thought about starting your own website? Join us on Tuesday and Wednesday evening when we will be hosting Dan Wiseman of Webwise media, an expert in web design and e-commerce. Want to hear about how entrepreneurial skills have impacted our alumni in their start-up journeys or their work with businesses? Come along to our panel discussion with speakers including General Manager of Deliveroo, Jeremey Rawlinson, Venture Capitalist Richard Blakesley plus more to be confirmed. The talk will be followed by a Q&A and the opportunity to network. You can check out the full list of events by clicking here.

The week culminates with the second Exeter Start-up Weekend and Global Battle. Over 54 hours you have the chance to pitch and work on your start-up idea alongside technologists, entrepreneurs, designers, developers and other experts to work on providing real solutions to the world’s problems. There are a wealth of prizes on offer and expert help at hand to make sure that you can make the most of this exciting opportunity. Interested? Click on the here to find out more and book your place.

Getting into the charity sector as a journalist – Five things I’ve learnt

Trina Wallace

Trina Wallace

Trina Wallace is a freelance charity copywriter and journalist, and an Exeter alum. 

Excitement. Fear. Curiosity. Apprehension. These were just some of the feelings I had when I graduated from Exeter University in 2001 with a degree in English studies. My university years were fantastic. I made new friends, gained amazing memories and learnt so much about life. After graduation, I wondered what lay ahead.

I knew I wanted to be a journalist, but how would I get there – and what would I write about? More than 15 years on, I work as a freelance journalist and copywriter in the charity sector, which I love. Here are some of the things I’ve learnt in my career since I graduated.

Vocational training is fun and makes you stand out. When you’ve finished three or four years of undergraduate study, you might not be up for more education. But if you want to be a journalist, I really recommend doing further training. Journalism is a craft and getting a good grounding in solid journalistic news and feature writing principles is crucial.

I did a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism at Cardiff University, a great course. The training is more practical than academic, so I felt like I was moving forward. If I need help with work these days, I always look for people who have a journalism qualification.

“There are challenges but being your own boss means you get to choose who you work with and when, and you can fit your job around your life rather than the other way around.”

Work out what you don’t want to write about. I did some shifts at a popular woman’s weekly which involved interviewing people and telling their ‘real life’ stories. For me, that felt uncomfortable. Vulnerable people were paid to tell their heart-wrenching stories and I didn’t think they were supported enough before or after sharing them.

This experience helped me to figure out that I wanted to work in the charity sector. I enjoy interviewing and helping people tell their stories to make change happen. So in the charity sector, I specialise in interviewing the people charities support.

Charities need staff who come from outside the sector. It’s lovely working in the charity sector where people really care about what they do. Often, staff move from one charity to another which is brilliant as it means expertise is shared in the sector. But I do think charities benefit from employing staff with experience of the commercial sector because they have a different perspective. Journalists can bring that eye for finding a story to charities which helps them to reach more people.

Being your own boss is possible. I have worked as a features writer for business and lifestyle magazines and as an editor for a copywriting agency. At the agency, I was also an account manager for charity clients. It taught me about business as well as writing and helped me to return to the idea I’d had when I was younger about being my own boss. I always admired the freedom my dad had being self-employed, ­yet careers advisers never mentioned the option of being your own boss. But it really is an option and journalism is a perfect freelance career. There are challenges but being your own boss means you get to choose who you work with and when, and you can fit your job around your life rather than the other way around.

Journalism is evolving and journalists need to too. Many printed newspapers and magazines have closed which is sad. Now, more people are reading content online. So journalists have to keep their training up to date so they know about everything from search engine optimisation to creating videos. It’s a move to creating content, not just words. If you want to go into journalism, I’d bear this in mind when you’re considering work placements, training and jobs.

Find out more about me on my website www.trinawallace.com

Start Your Career with Sprint

Last year, the Career Zone was pleased to launch Sprint – personal and professional development programme for women. The course is aimed at supporting women to achieve their aims and aspirations, develop confidence and networks. To find out more about the programme we asked two previous participants to share their experiences with us.

Alexandra (3rd Year Flexible Combined Honours with Study Abroad) 

Alexandra McLeod

Alexandra McLeod

‘I found the Sprint course to be completely different to any area of academic study or society event I have participated in at university. It didn’t feel like a lesson or lecture but more of a group discussion on issues we were interested in. I did not contribute that much at first but soon became the most confident member of my group and thoroughly enjoyed the presentation that we did to a friendly panel that were not there to judge us, but were genuinely interested in our career aspirations.

One of my favourite activities was when we had to talk for 2 minutes on an ‘unimportant’ or ‘boring’ subject. Some people went with the weather, I chose the Kardashians. The group had to then become disinterested within 30 seconds and completely ignore you after 1 minute, whilst you kept talking – it’s a lot harder than it sounds! This provided me with a new skill in learning to keep to a concise topic, as well as knowing when to change the subject, especially in interview situations.

I learnt so many new skills such as breathing exercises and relaxation techniques before an exam or interview. It was also liberating to talk freely about things that you were passionate about, or in contrast things that really annoyed you, without being judged as it was accepted that everyone has different opinions.

It was such a friendly and positive atmosphere and I believe is the type of session we should be doing at a much younger age in order to develop confidence.’

“A small change of perspective has made a great impact on my future. I hope other young women benefit from the same opportunity to participate in this life-changing program.”

Catherine (4th Year BA International Relations, Chinese & TESOL) 

Catherine Arnold

Catherine Arnold

‘I participated in the Sprint program in my fourth year of studying International Relations, Chinese and TESOL at the University of Exeter.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I signed up to the Sprint programme, but thought it might enhance my employability in an increasingly competitive world of work. The Sprint programme went far beyond that, allowing me to develop personally as well as professionally. Sprint taught me to live my life with confidence and assertiveness, having pride in my achievements and striving for the full extent of my potential.  

I will continue to take the confidence and skills I have gained from Sprint forwards into my Masters study of Water Science, Policy and Management at the University of Oxford, and also in my personal life. A small change of perspective has made a great impact on my future. I hope other young women benefit from the same opportunity to participate in this life-changing program.’

You can find out more about Sprint, including how to apply via our webpage. If you have any questions, please ask the team a question via My Career Zone.

Jade Green, Blogger and Eco Entrepreneur

My name’s Jade, and I’m a blogger and clothing line founder at jadegreenvegan.com I studied at Exeter for four years as part of the KPMG School Leaver Programme, and shortly after graduating in 2015 with a first class degree in Accounting, I left my job at KPMG to launch my own clothing line and pursue a career in blogging full time. 

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Jade Green

I’m so grateful for the experience I gained whilst studying at Exeter and working at KPMG, as having a sound knowledge of business and especially accounting has proved immeasurably helpful as a small business owner. Thanks to my degree, I’ve been able to create my own accounting systems, I know how to budget/forecast and I even have the joy of being able to calculate my own taxes! Whilst my accounting degree has undoubtedly provided a great foundation for my career, I knew I didn’t want to follow a ‘traditional’ accounting route after university, as I have always been a very creative person and wanted to pursue a career where I felt I was making a positive change in the world.

“Pour your energy into something you’re truly passionate about, even if it’s not the safest or easiest option.”

Working on my blog throughout University meant that by the time I graduated, I had created a platform for myself that allowed me to turn my passion into my career. So, with little to no knowledge of what it entailed to set up an online clothing store or to blog full time, I dove head first into building my business. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

My blog’s aim is to promote compassionate and sustainable living. I share vegan recipes, healthy living tips, and interviews with influencers in the health/vegan community. My clothing line, an extension of my blog, is comprised of slogan t-shirts, jumpers and hoodies that also aim to promote compassion and kindness. It is really important to me that I support the incredible animal charities around the world, so for each item I sell, I donate £1 to an animal charity. I sell my clothing both online and at various festivals throughout the UK; and since starting my line in December 2015, have been able to donate just under £200 to two animal charities.

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Since embarking on this adventure, I have learnt more than I ever could have imagined about: marketing, designing, web developing, photography, branding, and even accounting (after four years of living and breathing accounting I thought there couldn’t possibly be any more to learn – how wrong was I?!) Whilst leaving the security of my job was incredibly terrifying, not to mention running my own business has been undeniably challenging and stressful at times, I absolutely love what I do and have a clear vision of what I want to achieve which makes it all worth it.

So, my message to anyone reading this would be to pour your energy into something you’re truly passionate about, even if it’s not the safest or easiest option. Life is too short to spend all day every day doing something that you don’t really love.

If you have any questions about what it’s like to start your own business, I would be happy to help so please feel free to contact me at jadegreenvegan@gmail.com

You can also find me at:

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Life as an Actor – Agents and Auditions

It’s never too late… helps final-year Humanities students get advice from successful Exeter alumni, and showcases opportunities from the Careers Zone Actor Des Yankson graduated from Exeter with a degree in Drama in 1999. Des has appeared in many TV shows including Still Open All Hours (BBC), Cucumber (Channel 4) and Hollyoaks (Channel 4).  

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Des at work in BBC One’s ‘Still Open All Hours’

When I left Exeter I had no real idea what lay in store for me. I wanted to act, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. Fortunately, I secured an agent early on; they’re invaluable in helping you get work. They often have lots of contacts in the industry and get to hear of jobs through various means not available to actors.

However, securing an agent is tough, you need to either be recommended by somebody they know (and they respect, like a client or good friend) or you need to be in something that they’ve heard favourable reviews about or seen for themselves. You can get into a play for profit-share or head somewhere like the Edinburgh Festival (in August) or create your own projects that you can show to the agent (a showreel of your work). You should NEVER have to pay your agent upfront; they take a percentage from the work they secure for you. Not all agents take unsolicited CVs, so pick wisely. They’re always on the lookout for the ‘next big thing’ and that could be you. After you manage to get an agent, you may think it’ll be all plain sailing and that you’ll be at the Oscars within the year. But often, it takes a lot more work than that.

“Nothing beats telling your mum that you’re going to be on her favourite soap!”

You need a good relationship with your agent; after all, they’re working on your behalf and they’ll do a better job if they know you well. They’ll contact you when they have work, so days when you’re not working will be spent looking for work, or working as a temp. Temping is very flexible for actors and it tends to pay well enough to cover all bills. The downside is that you work often during the very times that most auditions are. Acting is a craft; you need to work at it and get better. As you progress, you’ll get better and better jobs which are higher and higher profile. This means that you need to be prepared for long periods of unemployment (from acting) and that when an opportunity arises you can focus on it completely. Acting is not a ‘part-time’ profession, but unless you’re rich you’ll need some form of part-time work. You need to pay for subscriptions, photos, travel to auditions as well as workshops and seminars.

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Opportunities are there for the taking. If you get a good audition, you need to grab it. Be punctual, learn the lines and be ready to do it more than once. And go in there with the belief that the job is already yours, it helps control the nerves. The majority of your acting life will be taken up with auditions. Personally I like them as you get a chance to play with new material and to meet new people. But lots of people think they’re nerve-racking and hate them. However, they’re a necessary part of the job, just be open to anything that’s said. After all, the casting directors want to finish their job by saying ‘I’ve found the actor we’re looking for’. But in the most part, they’re good fun, if you can relax. After all, if you can’t handle the pressure, then maybe acting isn’t the profession for you.

When you have work, it’s great because you’re in an industry that you love, working with people who are the very best at what they do, and you can often do things that people in other jobs can’t. It’s very exciting to work at your passion and also to be able to affect people with what you do. Nothing beats the rush from getting that all important job on TV, or when you meet someone really famous and then get to work with them, or telling your mum that you’re going to be on her favourite soap!

Start planing for your future and visit It’s never too late…

Beyond the Stereotype; Careers in Recruitment

Nina Gordon is the Marketing Manager at SW6 Associates. She graduated from Exeter in 2011 with a BA in Politics and Sociology. She talked to us about personal growth, closing deals, and gaining invaluable skills.

Nina Gordon, Marketing, Branding and Communications Manager at SW6 Associates

Nina Gordon, Marketing Manager at SW6 Associates

When I left Exeter I swore I wouldn’t go into recruitment. I had a preconceived idea about it not being a real job, to this day I have no idea where the notion came from, but I know I wasn’t alone in this misconception.

Recruitment is often seen as an industry for people who couldn’t secure a role in a more ‘conventional’ career path, but what I’ve learned at SW6 Associates – the UK’s Leading Graduate Recruitment to Recruitment Specialist – is that aside from just the money (which is great) it’s also a fantastic career which offers just as much, if not more, in personal growth and transferable skills than many other roles.

The industry is a vibrant one: In the UK, the annual industry turnover is currently over £30 billion and is forecast to rise considerably over the next few years. It’s also an industry where candidates can move their careers forward at a pace unrivalled anywhere else. Recruiters operate in virtually all sectors of the employment market, so there’s always the possibility of finding and working in a sector that particularly interests you.

There’s a real thrill in closing a deal; not just because it earns us commission, but because it’s genuinely exciting. We win the business, find a candidate, take them through the interview process, and then finally they accept the job offer.  There’s an enormous satisfaction in owning that process. Even junior recruiters just starting out will be speaking to CEOs, sometimes in large corporate enterprises and FTSE 100 companies. This means gaining valuable communication and confidence skills, and learning a huge amount from intelligent people who are experts in their fields.

“There’s a real thrill in closing a deal; not just because it earns us commission, but because it’s genuinely exciting. We win the business, find a candidate, take them through the interview process, and then finally they accept the job offer.  There’s an enormous satisfaction in owning that process.”

You quickly learn how to handle difficult situations, communicate with people at all levels in their career, and get an insight into how businesses make decisions. From day one you begin building your own business within a business. I’ve developed invaluable skills in negotiating, prioritising and communicating.

It’s not all fun and games, and believe me you WILL want to throw the towel in on occasion. It’s a role where you’re dealing with people day in, day out, and people can be unreliable and frustrating. This job is tough: Investing time, effort and energy in every candidate you believe in only to be let down time and again is harder than you might think; you can do everything right and still not get a deal. However, eventually it does all click, and there’s a moment where everything becomes easier and you begin to really understand the recruitment process and your role in it.

Recruitment has allowed me to make a substantial dent in my student loan debts, move out of my parent’s house, visit nine countries in a year and a half, and spend way too much money in bars socialising with colleagues and friends. I’ve been taken to some of the top restaurants in London and been bought all the alcohol I could handle on Lunch Clubs. I’ve been take on a 5* holiday, and I’ve made friends for life in my current company, and among my clients and candidates.

I grew more as a person in one year in Recruitment than in three years at university and I’m definitely a more capable person in every aspect of my life. Recruitment isn’t easy, but it’s an incredibly rewarding job and I’d recommend it to anyone who isn’t afraid to take on a challenge, and put in a lot of hard work.

The main piece of advice I’d give to anyone looking to join the industry is to choose a company suited to you. In the last year alone 5,000 new recruitment agencies were created, so choosing which ones to apply to isn’t easy. Luckily, I’m exposed daily to the best companies in the UK, so I have faith in the Recruitment Industry’s ability to train, support and grow the next generation of top Recruiters.

As a University of Exeter Alumni I’m always happy to give advice and information to current Exeter students and recent graduates thinking about recruitment as a career. You can contact me at