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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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?
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
Current Exeter students Bianka Weber (BA History and Politics) and Sofia Marmorini (BA English and Drama) told us why completing the Exeter Award should be top of your New Year’s resolutions.
Bianka When I began the Exeter Award, I didn’t know much about it, and didn’t realise how much I could learn from the sessions provided by the Career Zone. However, as I attended session after session, I realised how beneficial they were. Not only did I improve my CV, build a great LinkedIn profile and learn how to write effective job applications, I also made new friends and met like-minded and inspiring people.
“Not only did I improve my CV and learn how to write effective job applications, I also made new friends and met inspiring people.”
I learned how to network and negotiate with people and how to positively influence them. Completing the Exeter Award gave me great employability skills and when participating in interviews for summer internships, I was asked about the Award several times. Interviewers were always impressed by the fact that I took the time – during my studies – to take on extracurricular activities and develop the skills they required.
Last year I was asked to become an Exeter Award Ambassador, and I took on this responsibility with great joy as I find happiness in encouraging students to do something profitable for their careers. I hope others will follow my example and gain as much from the Exeter Award as I have.
Sofia The Exeter Award, in an increasingly competitive field, is a certificate that can really help your job application set you apart from other candidates. Independently of what you study you can take courses to increase your employability. Because the classes don’t belong to a particular subject, you meet students that are proactive, have a will to learn, and improve in areas that aren’t exclusively linked their academic subject. It’s therefore a nice way to make friends that branch out of your usual routines.
“Essentially, the Exeter Award pushes you to improve in the areas you decide to pursue, which is exactly what employers want to see you’re doing.”
I’m an international student and I study English and Drama, a subject that doesn’t really address job applications and CVs until the third year (as most subjects at the university do). Through Exeter Award classes, I was able to build a CV in a correct format that helped me apply for things such as summer jobs.
The Award offers skill-sessions that are targeted at improving your performance outside of the strict academic sphere. However, the extra classes I took in Creative Writing to help my studies also contributed to my Exeter Award, so I benefited twice.
Essentially, the Exeter Award pushes you to improve in the areas you decide to pursue, which is exactly what employers want to see you’re doing.
Anya Wallington-Lardi is a current BA History student, based at the Penryn Campus. She talked to us about how volunteering with the British Red Cross helped her find out what she wanted to do after university.
Anya ‘taking over’ from the Director of People and Learning on the British Red Cross Takeover Day 2015
I first joined the British Red Cross as a volunteer during my First Year when I took part in the Aspirational Educators programme with the University of Exeter. This incredible opportunity allowed me to deliver humanitarian education sessions in local schools as a part of a team. After learning more about the humanitarian charity, I knew I wanted to be involved further. Since then, I’ve become a Fire and Emergency Support Services volunteer, a youth engagement volunteer, have taken part in schemes such as Takeover Day 2015 and the Humanitarian Awards 2016, and have started my own Red Cross on Campus group on Penryn Campus. Throughout these various experiences I’ve learnt a range of skills which has helped me to identify what I want to do.
Networking I’ve met a huge range of individuals including the CEO of the British Red Cross, MPs at Westminster, and volunteers who have set up their own charities in the Calais jungle. I’ve been able to ask a huge range of questions about the sector as well as been inspired by a range of role models, all of whom bring something special to the organisation.
Anya presenting Jeremiah Emmanuel with his British Red Cross Humanitarian Award for saving the life of stranger who was stabbed near his home in May 2016.
Skills I’ve developed a range of skills through my volunteering; from interpersonal skills when helping those who have been victims of fire or emergencies, to team skills when discussing refugee policy in Takeover Day 2016. I’ve also grown in confidence as a result; I’m more comfortable as a public speaker since delivering Missing Maps volunteering sessions as president of the FXU Red Cross on Campus group, and feel more confident in my own career prospects.
Opportunities Networking and volunteering within such a huge organisation has taught me a lot about the opportunities on offer to young people wanting to get involved in the sector. I’ve learnt about their internship schemes, International Voluntary Service, and roles within the organisation. I’ve also been able to learn more about individual teams within the UK Head Office when I visited as a part of the Humanitarian Awards, and now know that I would like to work in the international development sector.
What next? My experience with the Red Cross has been vast and varied and I have been able to develop skills and knowledge which has helped me identify what I want to do. I’m currently applying for postgraduate study in international development as well as graduate schemes in the charity sector.
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.