Recently we interviewed Ashley Kilgallon, recent Exeter graduate, on her move from Exeter to Leeds for further study. This week she gives her tips on how to take your degree further.
- Get experience outside of academics. Summers are the best time to get internship experience and during my first two summers at Exeter I interned at the Violence Reduction Unit in Glasgow, which was an incredible experience. In addition to this, I interned for 6 months at Ames Police Department whilst I studied abroad in America. When I applied for my scholarship for my Masters in Security and Justice at Leeds, I was so worried that because I wasn’t on track for a First my chances would be harmed. However, I was told that my internship experience would enhance my application. Naturally, university is so expensive and I appreciate that many people might work over summer to try and earn some money – if this is a necessity try and seek a job that is to some extent in your field of interest. If financially feasible also look for unpaid internships – both of mine were unpaid but the experience I gained was invaluable and has massively aided me.
- The advice my parents always gave me was to find what it is in life you love and build a career from there. Don’t live a life “living for the weekend” – love everything you do! This is the same for your degree. Find your niche and build a career out of it. Policing and crime prevention was always my main interest therefore I knew where I wanted to focus my efforts when searching for a job/scholarships. Social science is such a huge discipline and at undergrad you cover so much, it is vital to figure out what it is you’re interested in. And if you can’t work out what you enjoy, try a variety of internships or voluntary positions to at least work out what it is you don’t enjoy and eliminate career paths from there!
- If you can seek a scholarship with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), they’re honestly the best! I’ve never experienced an organisation, which is more dedicated to your success. I’ve met so many other passionate students with a variety of research interests. The ESRC regularly put on workshops and conferences throughout your funded period with them. These focus on developing you as a student; enhancing your research ability; improving your writing; teaching you how to get published; networking with other researchers and so much more! The scholarships are competitive, but completely and utterly worth the hard work.
- Learn to network! I totally appreciate that not everyone is confident and speaking to unknown people can be daunting, but it’s such a vital skill. Alongside this, don’t shy away from using family and friend contacts. This can really help in getting the ball rolling with internships and opportunities. But remember, the family/friend contact can only do the introductions, you have to follow through with the hard work!
- Some female only advice (sorry men)! Naturally this is dependent on what type of work you’re going into, but ensure you lift each other up and don’t see each other as unnecessary competition. For those of you seeking work in a female dominated area – lucky you! For those of you who aren’t – it’s also great, but be prepared, it can be lonely! I recently met a female PhD student at a conference and we joked about how great it was that at least there was never a queue for the loos! Men are fabulous and working alongside them is great, but sometimes you can feel isolated. Seek out female colleagues and build each other up.
- Play hard, work harder. University is the best place to have fun and this is certainly something you should do whilst there. Never again will you be able to embarrass yourself so spectacularly at Top Top TP with minimal consequences. But you need to balance this with hard work. Something that continually motivates me is the idea that you can always do better therefore, always aim to move up and don’t become stagnant.
- Lastly, don’t panic if you haven’t got everything figured out by graduation. We’re all still so young – try different things out and if you fail, who cares! Just get up and start again. The only important thing is you don’t get put off by failure!