My Career as a Freelance Creative Arts Facilitator

Kat Merrick. Exeter Alumn, Freelance Creative Arts Facilitator, and Director at Katerpillar Creatives

Kat Merrick is a Freelance Creative Arts Facilitator, and Director at Katerpillar Creatives  She graduated from the University of Exeter BA Drama, 2008

What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?  

The balance between theory and practical work. Many of the universities that I looked around were keen to stress that they weren’t a drama school and were more concerned with theory, but Exeter allowed the opportunity to put the theory into practice. Being able to physicalise what we had learned was hugely helpful to me, and I felt like the balance between theory and practice was a perfect fit for me.  

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?  

It’s a strange one to start with, but organisation has been vital for me. I manage my own diary, bookings and invoices, so it’s really important to stay on top of that and ensure I’m giving accurate information to schools that want to book me (I’ve met facilitators who are extremely talented, but have put people off with their lack of organisation and time management – it doesn’t look good). 

“Experience-wise, I’m extremely fortunate to have worked with some amazing people and fantastic organisations, and I know how much this has helped me to form my own practice and to figure out what works for me.”

Communication is also vital for my work. When I was in London and contracting to several companies, keeping in touch with all of them was really important, and now that I’m striking out on my own, it’s so important for me to touch base with schools regularly and keep them up to date with plans and arrangements.  

There is a lot of time management involved in my work, and a level of discipline too – as I’m self-employed, often there is no one planning things for me, or breathing down my neck over deadlines. While that’s a lovely way to work, it does mean that I have to make sure I’m holding myself to account and keeping up with the work that I need to do outside of schools. It’s very easy to get lazy when no one is making you do it, so keeping up with the admin side of the job is something that I had to get used to!  

Experience-wise, I’m extremely fortunate to have worked with some amazing people and fantastic organisations, and I know how much this has helped me to form my own practice and to figure out what works for me. Every job has taught me something (even if it was ‘that didn’t work at all!’) and I find it really important to pay attention to what works and what doesn’t, even after all these years. Working with other people has taught me a huge amount about different practices, but also about my own – I now have a much better understanding about what works for me, and can use my strengths to make my work the best it can be. 

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?  

Gain as much experience as you can! I’m all for valuing yourself as an artist, but if you’re brand new to the field and need to make your CV stand out from the crowd, look at the ways that you can add to it, even if that means volunteering or low paid opportunities. I volunteered with a local youth theatre while I was a student at Exeter who were delighted to have me, and spent my university holidays assisting with holiday workshops at my youth theatre at home. Not only did I learn a huge amount through these different jobs, but it meant that my CV stood out.  

“Be prepared to work hard. My line of work isn’t about getting a job and sitting in it for 20 years. It’s a continuous process of making connections, finding work, developing content, delivering sessions, and repeating.”

Following on from that – use your contacts! I was very lucky to have an amazing youth theatre tutor while I was in school, and she was incredibly helpful to me as I went through university and beyond. Whether it was letting me help out with youth projects, answering questions over a coffee, or giving me my first ever youth theatre directing job after university, she was always happy to help. If you are lucky enough to have any useful contacts (a youth theatre tutor, school drama teacher, university lecturer, or anyone whose work interests you) then do use them – keep in touch, ask for help, and take advantage of any opportunities given to you. You’ll build up your skills and your CV!  

Be prepared to work hard. My line of work isn’t about getting a job and sitting in it for 20 years. It’s a continuous process of making connections, finding work, developing content, delivering sessions, and repeating. It’s incredibly rewarding (and does get easier with practice) but you have to be ready to work hard and be responsible for driving yourself.  

“Know your worth. I mentioned volunteering earlier as a means to gain experience, but understand when enough is enough. The arts are notorious for people undervaluing our work.”

Know your worth. I mentioned volunteering earlier as a means to gain experience, but understand when enough is enough. The arts are notorious for people undervaluing our work (“What? You want to be PAID? But I thought you did it for the love of the craft!”) and it’s important to recognise what your skills are worth. Yes, I love my job, but it is a job. This is something that I’ve always found challenging (and I’m having to practice what I preach with my new business) but there’s no shame in putting a price on your skills. If you’re unsure about price points, try to find someone that you can ask for advice. Understand that things won’t always be predictable. As so much of my work is based in schools, my work can fluctuate a lot over the academic year. There are times when I’m snowed under and stressed beyond belief, and there are times when things go quiet and I wonder if I’ll ever work again. Understanding that has been vital for me personally, and after several years, I’m more able to anticipate the quiet patches and prepare for them.  

The last two years have been a huge challenge (thanks Covid) but I’m proud to have made it through. Take care of yourself. The hours can be long, the days can be lonely (I work alone a lot), and when there’s no one telling you to clock off at 5:30pm, it can be very hard to know when to stop. Try to limit the amount you’re taking on in one day, and make sure you’re making time for yourself. Whether it’s seeing friends, exercising, or doing something that makes you smile, schedule in some You Time every day. Lastly, enjoy yourself and have fun! I absolutely love my job, and for all the madness and mayhem that it brings, I wouldn’t change it for the world! 

What are your plans for the future?  

Who knows? Right now my focus is on getting my new business up and running (it’s still early days) and on getting back into schools. Schools and students have had an incredibly tough time over the last couple of years, and being able to bring a bit of sparkle back to the curriculum feels especially rewarding right now. Other than that, I’m still enjoying the novelty of finally being back in schools, and doing the work I love! For now, I’m thinking about the present – the future can worry about itself! 

Your route into Trade Marketing Management

Kate Blackmore, Exeter alumn and Trade Marketing Manager, Wella Company

Kate Blackmore graduated from the University of Exeter with a BA Geography, 2015. She’s currently Trade Marketing Manager, Wella Company

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

After leaving Exeter I wanted to work for an FMCG company. I applied for a few graduate schemes but was unsuccessful, mostly because I struggled with the speed of the Numerical Reasoning Tests! I got a job in sales in Exeter and worked as an Account Manager for just under a year. With that experience I was able to join PepsiCo as a Sales Development Representative (the same job the graduate scheme starts on).

As an SDR my role was to visit 11 stores per day, speak with the manager and try to educate them about the best range to stock and how to display them, plus help merchandise the fixtures to maximise sales. It was a lot of hard work, and a lot of driving, but I loved working with the customers and it was nice to know that a lot of the leadership team at Pepsi had also come into the company through this role. I was promoted within the year to Trade Marketing Executive, based at PepsiCo Head Office.

“I had no experience in Trade Marketing at all, but PepsiCo supported me to learn the ropes. Trade Marketing is essentially the go-between for Marketing and Sales.”

I had no experience in Trade Marketing at all, but the company supported me to learn the ropes. Trade Marketing is essentially the go-between for Marketing and Sales. Brand Marketing create new campaigns and new launches, Trade Marketing work on the pricing, promotions, forecasts and targets, point of sale materials, planograms, sales presentations, briefing meetings and anything else needed to execute the launch, then sales sell it into customers.

After two years in role, I decided I wanted to take some time out to travel. I quit my job and started working for Topdeck Travel as a Trip Leader – essentially my role was to lead group tours around Europe. I would collect a group of up to 48 18-30 year olds in London, and travel with them around Europe, organising all the on-the-ground logistics and giving tours into the history and culture of each country. I did this for one ‘summer season’, then spent the winter backpacking in Latin America. Then Covid hit!

“I was pleased to know I could come back to my career at a higher level than before, and my employability hadn’t been destroyed by my year of travel!”

While travelling, I had lined up my next role in my Trade Marketing career, as a Trade Marketing Manager in the beauty industry. I was pleased to know I could come back to my career at a higher level than before, and my employability hadn’t been destroyed by my year of travel! I started working for Wella Company in their Gain/Grow team, developing plans to gain new customers to the business. After one year I was promoted to my current role, managing the execution of Colour campaigns (our biggest brands).

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?            

I got into Trade Marketing mostly at the suggestion of the management team at PepsiCo – when the role came up, they recommended me for it and felt it would suit my skill set. I hadn’t even heard of Trade Marketing when I was at university! I love that my work is closely linked to the execution of campaigns and has real tangible results – even just walking past a salon window and seeing POS I created. I also love how cross-functional Trade Marketing is as you really do work with all parts of the business – you work most closely with Sales and Marketing, but I also have to work with Supply Chain to ensure we have the right forecasts, with Finance to build the promotions and EComm to ensure the digital side of the business matches what we put out in person, with Category Management and Consumer Insights to ensure we get the messaging right and so much more!

“I wish I’d known, when I was at Uni, that there are a million different routes your career could take. There are different ways to achieve the same result – the career I have now is the same as if I had got onto the grad schemes.”

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?      

I think the biggest take-away from my time at Exeter was learning to put yourself out there and try new things.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?    

I wish I’d known, when I was at Uni, that there are a million different routes your career could take. There are different ways to achieve the same result – the career I have now is the same as if I had got onto the grad schemes. There are pros and cons of each approach – grad schemes tend to offer additional support and can offer a faster pace of progression, but often at the expense of control over your career and you sometimes have to work stints in jobs you wouldn’t necessarily have chosen. It can be a bit harder (but not impossible) to progress at the same pace off the schemes, but you can absolutely work for the same companies, in the same roles, and you’ll have more choice over which moves you make internally. I was also so scared to take time out to travel, but I would recommend it to anyone!

My Placement at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary

A seal, enjoying a stay at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary

Flo Taylor is a BSC Marine Biology student at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus. Flo recently completed a placement with the Cornish Seal Sanctuary.

Why did you decide to take a placement module?

It was part of a compulsory Skills and Careers module in Year 1, but I wanted to volunteer at the Seal Sanctuary anyway.

What type of work you did on your placement, and how do you think this has given you experience for your future career?

I was an education volunteer, so I was engaging with visitors, answering questions and telling them about the animals and the charity. I even gave a few talks to groups of visitors about some of the animals.

“I was outside the whole time, which was great, and reaffirmed for me that I don’t want to work in an office!”

It certainly gave me more confidence in talking to and approaching people, and I came away with more knowledge about the animals and how a charity like that functions.

I was also outside the whole time, which was great, and reaffirmed for me that I don’t want to work in an office!

What did you enjoy most about your placement?

I loved knowing that I was contributing, supporting, and representing the Seal Sanctuary, somewhere that is well-known and well-loved. The people there are so friendly and it felt like a little community.

“I loved knowing that I was contributing, supporting, and representing the Seal Sanctuary, somewhere that is well-known and well-loved.”

I didn’t actually have any direct interaction with the animals, but it was wonderful to be able to see them every week, and I did come to recognise all the individual seals (actually quite hard to do!) and some of their individual quirks.

Do you think your placement has benefited the local community? If so, in what way?

My volunteering there will have certainly helped the Sanctuary, and the Sanctuary definitely benefits the local community, so I suppose, indirectly I will have benefited the local community.

The Sanctuary brings many tourists to the local area, and even just to Cornwall as a whole, which in turn benefits local businesses such as restaurants and B&Bs.

“The Sanctuary brings many tourists to the local area, and even just to Cornwall as a whole, which in turn benefits local businesses such as restaurants and B&Bs.”

The Sanctuary also supports and is supported by other businesses such as A&K Wildlife cruises, which operate out of Falmouth. The Sanctuary also brings so much joy to the local community. There are many people who are regular visitors and who know all of the seals as well as I did! So the Sanctuary absolutely plays an integral role in the local community.

Do you have any tips for other students looking for/undertaking a placement?

Perseverance and knowing how to write a concise, well-structured email are absolutely key.

So many places will either not reply, say no, or say not right now, and all of those are OK and should not discourage you. Keep emailing lots of places, and send appropriate follow up emails when you don’t get a reply.

“Perseverance and knowing how to write a concise, well-structured email are absolutely key.”

It’s also definitely worth emailing places even when they don’t have anything advertised right at that moment – perhaps they are about to advertise something and you might get in there early (that happened to me with the National Trust!), or at least you will have made yourself known, so that when they do want/need someone, you’re already there.

Being able to write a good email will make it easier for the recipients to read and make a decision about you. Be concise in what you want/ask for from the placement – how long, why you want it, what you want from them and what you can give back.

If you’d like to find out more about placements you can start your research here

Returning Home and Impressing Employers with your Time in the UK

Going back home after your time at Exeter? We’re able to help you wherever you are via phone, email or video appointment.

Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant at the University of Exeter. She runs careers workshops for international students and co-ordinates India Career Ready.

As an international student you have worked so hard during your studies. You have adapted to UK culture, developed your language skills, and taken on academic challenges. Surely employers in your home country will be fighting to offer you a job?

While it is true that many employers see the benefits of a UK education, you will not be the only overseas-educated student returning home. The competition may be tougher than you expect. You may need to do more than show your degree certificate and watch the job offers coming in!

Here are our top 10 tips for international students who plan to return home after their studies:

1 Stay connected to the job market in your home country

It can be tempting to focus purely on your studies in the UK and leave your job search until you get home. This might mean a few months between arriving home and starting work though. The job-hunting process often takes longer than you might expect. It’s unlikely that you will get the first job you apply for. Would you be happy with this? Could you support yourself financially while you look for work at home?

Most students would rather have a job waiting for them after finishing their studies. In today’s virtual world, job searching at a distance is possible for international students. You will need to know how and when employers in your country typically recruit. For example, in the UK application season is October to January but in China, there are two periods, September to November and March to May. Employers in Malaysia tend to recruit all year round. What is the schedule in your country?

The following websites contain useful information about employment around the world, as well as country-specific job vacancies.

You should also pay attention to any channels specific to your country i.e. Weibo / LinkedIn

2 Don’t forget connections at home

Your friends and family are a huge source of support- tell them all that you are looking for work. Ask them to help by introducing you professionals who might be able to give advice about working in your country. Tell them to let you know if they see or hear of opportunities.

At Exeter we have strong alumni networks of graduates from most countries. Many of them are keen to support current students too – why not reach out to alumni in your region through one of our groups?

You could also connect with professionals working in your sector via LinkedIn. We have written a super guide about using the alumni networking tool. Have a look at industry-related groups or country specific events too.

3 Make the most of your time in the UK

Most international students would love to find a UK internship. However, internships are competitive and usually need to be applied for months in advance. UK internships mostly run over the summer and so may not fit with term dates if you are a postgraduate student. This means that you may not be successful in getting an internship. The good news is that there are lots and lots of other alternatives to internships which will still help you tell a rich story about your time in the UK.

By getting involved in extra-curricular activities, you can show your ability to fit in, add value to wider communities and work on social issues that may be relevant to employers. At very least, you will have fun and build a network! If you’d like to find out more about ways you can develop during your studies, why not come along to our workshop Maximising Your Time as an International Student in the UK or see our advice on the Career Zone international student pages.

Think about what makes you unique. Your improved English language skills are important but you have so much more to offer.

4 Think about what makes you unique

Your improved English language skills are important but you have so much more to offer.

  • You are a self-motivated, risk taker
  • You can adapt to new environments and learning situations
  • You are culturally aware
  • You have a greater understanding of how Europeans do business

These qualities are so impressive to employers. However, you need to explain them clearly because they will not speak for themselves.

Try asking yourself these questions to reflect on what you have learned:

  • What has surprised you most about the UK?
  • What things have you found most difficult? (Tip- difficulty is where we usually learn most!)
  • What were you hoping to gain or develop by coming to the UK that you couldn’t get in your home country?
  • How was your education at home different to what you’ve experienced at Exeter?
  • How are you a different person now?

5 Be prepared to describe your skills and learning

Employers in your home country might not understand why they should hire someone with a Exeter degree or realise the quality of the education you are gaining. It is up to you to explain to them why you are the perfect candidate and why your studies have made you a great future employee. Would you know how to explain your degree to employers in your own country?

Think about how you will explain your studies so that employers at home can understand it. How was it different to studying at home? Did you experience new methods of teaching? Simulated business projects or work-based assignments? Group work? Critical thinking? How would you describe your course to show your new learning, ideas and professional development?

6 Get ready to describe the University of Exeter

Employers in your country may not have heard of the University of Exeter, so it’s up to you to explain how reputable it is. What facts, figures or league table positions could you include in your descriptions? What might you say about your course, professors or college? Make sure you have something ready to tell employers in your home country when they ask about the University.

7 Have a clear and positive answer prepared to explain why you have returned home

Returning home after studying abroad can sometimes raise questions. Employers may wonder why you didn’t stay in the UK. They may think you were not good enough to find work. Make sure you explain to them that you made the choice to come home. Although some of your reasons may be because of family or friends or lifestyle, try to answer in a way that benefits the employer. Be positive in your explanation, for example:

“I couldn’t wait to bring home my insights into European sustainability in business to Thailand, particularly around the use of plastics. I couldn’t imagine living anywhere other than Thailand and as the world’s 6th biggest contributor of ocean waste there is a lot of work for us to do! I really want to be part of that.”

8 Be realistic

You may not find an employer who wants to pay you a higher salary simply because you have a British qualification. Feedback from some employers around the world is that returning students can sometimes be over-confident and expect better opportunities than home educated students. Sometimes your UK education may really show the benefits when you start to apply for promotions, so be patient.

Talking to Exeter alumni or other professionals in your home country will help you to have realistic expectations.

9 Be prepared for reverse culture shock

Do you remember how you felt when you arrived in Exeter? I bet it was exhausting! Trying to get everything done, learn new things and speak English all the time.

Going back home might feel the same. You will be different and so will your friends and family. Life will have moved on at home. However, they may have little understanding of how your time at Exeter has changed your outlook. Be prepared for things to feel a little difficult and be kind to yourself in the first few weeks.

10 Stay in touch

As a graduate from the University of Exeter, a forever institution, you are not only entitled to all of the fantastic resources that the alumni office can offer, you also have access to the Career Zone forever. All of our graduate Career Zone support and resources are now housed in one central location for you to access from your home country.

For more help with taking your UK experience back home, come along to our workshop on the topic which runs several times each year, and is bookable on Handshake. We run a series of workshops specifically for international students on other topics too.

Should I stay or should I go?

You may not manage to perfectly line up a job for when your course finishes. So, what are your options?

Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant at the University of Exeter. She runs careers workshops for international students and co-ordinates India Career Ready.

Many international students come to the UK with plans to stay and work after studying. However, you may have already discovered that the UK job market:

  • Is competitive (i.e. well paid jobs in well-known companies receive hundreds or thousands of applications)
  • The application process takes a lot of time and effort
  • Many graduate schemes opened and closed in the autumn term- earlier than you expected!
  • It can take months to get a job.

UK students are often surprised by these things too! The good news is that there is lots of help available from Career Zone to tackle these challenges. We can help you to find less competitive roles, create more successful applications, and recognise the other jobs available for graduates in the UK that are available all year round.

What we can’t do though, is speed up the time it takes from searching and applying to actually starting work. Often that process takes at least 3 months. Once we allow for rejections (and we ALL get rejected) we might be looking at even longer.

As an International Student you’ll have a lot of options to explore

This means it is possible that you may not manage to perfectly line up a job for when your course finishes. Even if you really want that to happen, the reality is that it may not.

So, what are your options?

Keep searching and applying until you are successful. Thankfully, the Graduate Visa is flexible. It allows international students to stay in the UK to look for work. Even if you don’t find a job, you can still stay in the UK. Under old rules this wasn’t an option. However, being an unemployed graduate brings challenges- where will you live while you job search? How will you afford it? How long could you keep searching and applying before you had to take a different approach? One way to increase your chances of getting job offers is to ask for help from Career Zone. There are many ways we can help, including giving feedback on your applications to make them more effective.

Stay in the UK and do a more casual job whilst you continue to look for a professional role. Another feature of the Graduate Visa is that there is no professional level or minimum wage required for a job. This means that you could find a casual job to earn some money while you continue applying for other jobs. Causal jobs are things like administration (office work) hospitality (tourism) catering (food) and retail (shops/sales). These tend to be readily available, quick to apply for, and often have rapid start dates. Come along to one of our short sessions on finding and applying for part time work which are bookable on Handshake.

Apply for one of Exeter’s unique Graduate Business Partnerships. Our GBP roles are full time, paid and with supportive employers in the South West. They are professional roles that tend to last for 3 or 6 months, or a full year. The internships are in a wide range of sectors, including working in Higher Education; Advertising; Arts and Culture; Engineering; and Legal Services. Types of internship vary, but usually cover a variety of roles, such as Marketing, IT, Web Development, PR, Technical, Environmental, Engineering, Market Research, Business Planning, Accounts and Sales. If you want more of an idea about what might be available, have a look at some student case studies.

Consider an off-cycle internship. “Off-cycle” means anything outside of the usual internship cycle i.e. during the summer (May-Sept). These internships are often found in finance and consulting roles and are full time and paid. Simply put “Off cycle internship UK 2022” into your search engine.

Are there opportunities at home that are worth looking into? It’s possible that you may find it “easier” to find work at home. You can write applications and interview in your native language, use your networks, get lots of support from family and friends and maybe stay somewhere rent free too!

It’s worth making some comparisons to help your decisions. How much you can you really earn in the UK?  Try looking at vacancies or job profiles of the careers your considering to get an idea of salaries. Then think about the cost of living in the UK. There’s a big difference in costs like rent and socialising between different UK regions. Find out more in this article on UK’s most affordable cities for new graduates Now do the same for opportunities back at home- how do they compare?

You can find other Exeter graduates working in your home country using the Alumni Tool on LinkedIn. Why not  ask their advice? If you do decide to go home, come along to our session for international students “What every international student needs to know about impressing employers in your home country after your studies” which you can book on Handshake

Look at global opportunities. As an international student you are brimming with cultural awareness, adaptability, language skills and a sense of adventure. Maybe you could take your job search to another country? We provide free access for students to GoinGlobal.  A country-specific career and employment database contains more than 30,000 pages of constantly-updated information, to help you understand how to apply globally.

Whatever you choose to do, the Career Zone is here to help you.

Introducing the Career Mentor Scheme

Hannah, final year at the University of Exeter studying BSc Geography with Applied Geographical Information Systems

Hannah, please can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about the Career Mentor Scheme?

My name is Hannah and I am in my final year at Exeter studying BSc Geography with Applied Geographical Information Systems (GIS). This is my second time participating in the Career Mentor Scheme, which is a 6-month programme, running twice a year, that matches current students and recent graduates with a sector professional.

Throughout the six months you’re expected to meet either online or in-person for at least 1 hour a month, although you can meet as many times as you and your mentor would like! At the start of the scheme you set career goals for yourself, such as improving your CV or applying for placements or graduate jobs, and during the meetings you get 1:1 advice, guidance and help on reaching your set goals.

“Going on the scheme improves your employability, as you can show you have been proactive in sourcing a 6-month mentorship and taken the initiative to improve your transferable skills.”

What have you done during your partnership so far?

My mentor works in the Earth Science sector. The scheme started in December so we are just over half-way through the partnership. They have been really helpful so far! I have started to apply to graduate jobs and further study and they have reviewed my CV and applications, and given useful feedback that enabled me to make my applications as good as possible! As a result of my strong applications I was given interviews at most of the places I applied to, and they helped me prepare by conducting a virtual mock interview. They created questions specific to the job and skills involved as well as personal attribute questions. I felt much more confident going into the interview after my meeting with them and I was able to prepare examples and skills after discussing my answers to some common interview questions. In my real interview they asked several of the same questions as my mentor, so I could use and expand upon some of my examples. I am thrilled to say I got the job and I know a big part of this was due to the preparation and advice I was given on my application.

“They have been really helpful so far. I have started to apply to graduate jobs and further study and they have reviewed my CV and applications, and given useful feedback that enabled me to make my applications as good as possible.”

Why did you apply for the scheme?

I saw the scheme advertised around campus and decided to find out more about it (the link to the website is at the bottom of the page). When I applied the first time, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do so I thought speaking to a mentor in the Geography field might help me narrow down my options. I enjoyed my first time on the scheme, and it was instrumental in helping me source a second year summer placement as my mentor worked in the same field as my placement. It also showed I am proactive and used my initiative to source a mentorship, which gave me something to talk about in my interview.

I decided to apply for the current scheme during the first term of third year. I knew it would be very helpful for someone with experience of applying to further study/jobs in my sector to give me guidance, and I knew that as the scheme is very flexible I would be able to balance it alongside my dissertation, part-time job and other commitments.

“I would say to definitely apply. No matter what stage of your career planning you’re at, having a mentor to discuss your ideas with is very helpful.”

What would you say to someone thinking of applying?

I would say to definitely apply! No matter what stage of your career planning you’re at, having a mentor to discuss your ideas with is very helpful! Many of the mentors are Exeter alumni so they have been in our position and made the leap from a degree to the job market. Your mentor can provide insight into your subject sector or give you advice on applications, it is really up to you and what you want to get out of the scheme – some mentors can even help you find work experience or networking opportunities. I would say that the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

There are mentors from all different sectors and working all around the world on the scheme, so there is most likely one in the field you’re interested in! Going on the scheme improves your employability as you can show you have been proactive in sourcing a 6-month mentorship and taken the initiative to improve your transferable skills. This means the scheme is a great thing to talk about at interviews or put on your CV.

What is the application process like?

It is first-come first-served. All the mentors have profiles on Handshake with information about their job, qualifications and skills they can offer to a mentee (such as mock interviews or work experience). Once you have found the mentor you would like to apply for there is a link to a Microsoft Form. There are four main questions to answer to apply, which relate to careers research, suitability and what you’d like to get out of the partnership. I would recommend writing your answers to these in a word document as it’s easier to check the spelling and grammar. It’s really useful to add lots of detail and examples in your application to demonstrate any points that you make.

Using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) technique is really important in your application, and is great practice at mastering the technique ahead of job applications. Employers love this way of writing an application as it gives specific examples and sets out in detail what steps you took to overcome a problem or achieve something. The more detail you can add about this the better! The Career Zone has workshops such as Effective Application skills if you decide you need some help on writing your application. Your mentor is sent your application so it is important to tailor it to their profile, as you would with a job. This may sound like quite time-consuming but it took me around 45 minutes to apply, which is something you could do in between lectures or over lunch.

“If you have any questions about the application process or the Career Mentor Scheme in general, the team who run it are really helpful and always welcome any emails, so don’t be afraid to reach out.”

Once you and your mentor are given contact details, you are expected to take the lead in contacting them and organizing your first meeting where you can get to know one another. The scheme is definitely worth the time spent applying as it can open a lot of opportunities! If you have any questions about the application process or the scheme in general, the team who run it are really helpful and always welcome any emails, so don’t be afraid to reach out. Their email address is: .

Applications for the new scheme are open now. I hope that I have shown you how great the scheme is and why you should apply! Remember to look on Handshake and get your application in early so you don’t miss out!

You can find out all the details about the Career Mentor Scheme here: https://www.exeter.ac.uk/careers/employability-schemes/careermentorscheme/

Celebrating International Women’s Day 2022, Helen Thomas, Senior Executive Producer, BBC Studios

For International Women’s Day 2022 we’re celebrating the career of Helen Thomas, who graduated from the University of Exeter with Physics with Medical Physics, 1982.

Helen is currently Senior Executive Producer for BBC Studios, specialising in science broadcasting, working with Sir David Attenborough, Brian Cox and many more. Find out how her time at Exeter helped shaped her passion for science communication.

Helen Thomas, Senior Executive Producer, BBC Studios and Exeter alumn

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

I joined the BBC as an Audio Assistant after leaving University and worked as a sound engineer in television, film and radio – in studios and on location. It was such varied work: from boom op on dramas such as ‘Casualty’ to fitting radio mics on TV shows from Sunday night favourites such as ‘Antiques Roadshow’. I worked as a Spot Effects Op for documentary films – creating footsteps alongside a myriad of other sound effects on cue. I assisted with the sound recording of music programmes on Radio 2 and 3 and current affairs, drama and poetry programmes on Radio 4.

“I have been responsible for a wide range of science programming for the BBC and International Broadcasters from live series such as ‘Stargazing Live with Brian Cox and Dara Ó Briain’, to hard-hitting, journalistically rigorous films such as BAFTA nominated ‘Extinction: The Facts’ with Sir David Attenborough, and ‘Coronavirus: A Horizon Special’.”

However after a few years of working on the technical side of broadcasting I found I missed Science and decided to change the direction of my career and move into Production. I started as a trainee Assistant Producer in the Science Unit, working on live TV programmes such as ‘Tomorrow’s World’. I then moved into making long-form documentary and science films as a Producer and Director.

After working as a Series Producer (making series of programmes, rather than individual films) I became an Executive Producer in 2010. Since then I have been responsible for a wide range of science programming for the BBC and International Broadcasters from live series such as ‘Stargazing Live with Brian Cox and Dara Ó Briain’, to hard-hitting, journalistically rigorous films such as BAFTA nominated ‘Extinction: The Facts’ with Sir David Attenborough; ‘Greta Thunberg: A Year To Change The World’, and ‘Coronavirus: A Horizon Special’.

“I feel incredibly lucky to have such a stimulating career. I am relentlessly curious about the world and how it works and my job allows me to explore topics as wide ranging as space travel, medicine and climate change.”

I have made expedition series such as ‘Journey to Fire Mountain’ with Kate Humble and competition series such as BBC2’s ‘Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes’ headed by Astronaut Chris Hadfield.

My credits also include emotionally charged medical documentaries such as ‘Your Life in Their Hands’ and ‘Countdown to Life’. At the moment I’m making a programme that hasn’t yet been announced so I’m afraid I can’t mention what it’s about or who it’s being presented by – but it involves shooting in a Virtual Studio set up which has been really exciting as it’s the first time it’s been attempted in this way for a documentary.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I’ve always loved music – which is what drew me to the role of a sound engineer. After a few years, however, I began to miss Science and decided that I wanted to combine Broadcasting with Science – and that’s when I became an Assistant Producer in the Science Unit. I feel incredibly lucky to have such a stimulating career. I am relentlessly curious about the world and how it works and my job allows me to explore topics as wide ranging as space travel, medicine and climate change. I enjoy helping to tell people’s stories as well as having the opportunity to meet and work with incredibly interesting, diverse programme contributors.

“I studied alongside people who challenged my views and opinions which was invaluable. I learned how to assimilate new information quickly, how to work as part of a team and how to present written and spoken arguments – which has been useful ever since.”

I work with fantastic, creative teams and make series which I really hope inform and entertain audiences. No two days are the same and the problems I have to solve are endlessly varied. My work is a wonderful creative outlet as I can develop ideas, write scripts, work with on-screen talent and head complex productions on locations and in the studio. I can’t single out one particular aspect as it is this variety which makes it so rewarding.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

Studying Physics was extremely useful for both Sound Engineering and Science Journalism. The course helped me turn my curiosity into an ability to research thoroughly and it enabled me to hone my analytical skills. I studied alongside people who challenged my views and opinions which was invaluable. I learned how to assimilate new information quickly, how to work as part of a team and how to present written and spoken arguments – which has been useful ever since. I believe gaining a Physics degree enabled me to pursue my career in broadcasting.

“I believe gaining a Physics degree enabled me to pursue my career in broadcasting.”

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

If you are studying for a Science degree consider one of the MSc courses available in the UK in Science Communication. In my experience they are a very good stepping stone towards a career in Science Broadcast Journalism. Follow the Science news stories, discuss with friends, form opinions, but also watch films and television and analyse what works well and what doesn’t and why. Try to gain experience whilst you are studying by joining a relevant society such as a film, TV or radio society. Consider which stories you think are important and you really want to tell – perhaps you can make a short film – perhaps shot on your mobile phone to demonstrate your interest.

What are your plans for the future?

I so enjoy making science-based television programmes that I plan to continue doing that. In a world that has become prey to so much disinformation, I believe there has never been a more important time for us make programmes that are factually accurate, accessible and stimulating.

Alumni Profile – Kristen Fader, Master of Art Conservation Candidate, Queen’s University, Ontario

Kristen Fader, current Master of Art Conservation Candidate specialising in Japanese and Chinese wood block prints, lithographic prints, papyrus, and sustainability in conservation at Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada.

Kristen Fader is a current Master of Art Conservation Candidate, at Queen’s University, Ontario, Canada. Her specialism is in Japanese and Chinese wood block prints, lithographic prints, papyrus, and sustainability in conservation. She graduated from the University of Exeter with a Masters in Classics and Ancient History in 2020, before returning to her home country.

What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?

I have recently begun my Masters of Art Conservation with a specialisation in paper and photographic objects. This is the only program in Canada, and I am one of three students accepted into my stream, so it has been such a ride to preparing for the program, being accepted, and finally being here in the thick of it all. To prepare for applying to this program, I volunteered as a conservation assistant at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter while completing a Masters of Classics and Ancient History. I may have never discovered this career path without attending the University of Exeter, so I am so grateful to my time spent in Devon.

Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?

I choose this career path because I have always loved history. In fact, my undergraduate degree was in Political Science, but I decided to pursue my passion of Ancient History at Exeter. I thought I would go on to do a PhD, but it just wasn’t practical enough for me; fast forward a few months into my M.A. at Exeter and I discovered Art Conservation was something I could do. It combines science (mainly organic chemistry), art history, and practical hands-on art conservation skills. This three-legged stool is something I enjoy most about my career because my expertise is quite multi-disciplinary, something I have always valued throughout my educational path.

What did you enjoy most about your programme at Exeter, and what was the biggest highlight?

I really enjoyed how you could narrow in on your own interests. After discovering art conservation, I began to look at how I could tailor my degree to focus a bit more on art history and conservation ethics since I had mostly been focusing on mythology at that point. I was able to look at the ethics of removing layers of cartonnage from Egyptian mummies, and my thesis focused on concepts of originality and authenticity of Roman “copies” of Greek “originals.” The beginning of the year in 2020 was when COVID became very serious in England, and so I had to return to Canada, but I never would have been able to continue my studies if it wasn’t for the amazing support from everyone in the program.

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

Being flexible/resilient and building up a good knowledge base. Art conservation a lot of the time is almost like a riddle. You have to figure out what the object is, what it is made up of, and then figure out how to conserve it from there. Sometimes things works, and sometimes they really don’t. It is in these times that you have to be confident in what you have studied outside of the lab, and also be resilient to go back in and try something else.

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Do you chemistry classes! Unfortunately I had to take a year to take organic chemistry because I did not have all of my requirements for applying. Chemistry is such a vital component of this field, and it has been so great beginning to see how chemistry can be applied in an art conservation context.

What are your plans for the future?

For my program, I have two internships to complete in the summer after studies each year. My plan is to complete one at the British Museum, or possibly the British Library, next summer. I hope to set up my professional career in either England or Europe, and so having already lived in England, I am very grateful that I now know how to go through that process.

The Career Zone – Helping you Reach your Career Goals

Our range of services can really help you gain crucial experience, and boost your careers confidence. Even if you’re studying at Exeter for a year, we can help you maximise your time at University, and help you on your way to a bright future. We talked to Anda about her experience of using the Career Zone, and how we’re helping her with her career path.

Anda, please tell me a little about your background, you are a European student studying social science at postgraduate level at Exeter – why did you choose Exeter?

I am a European student and a Criminology and Psychology graduate. I study MSc in Social and Organisational Psychology at the University of Exeter. I have chosen to study for my Master’s at Exeter for a few reasons. Firstly, I chose Exeter because it is a Russel Group university and a leading university for research and teaching. I specifically liked the research culture within the Psychology department. Second, I wanted to study Social Psychology, and Exeter is one of the few universities that offer this specialisation in the UK. I really liked the practical aspect of my course, for example, we had an extended research project module and we got to learn and practice advance statistics which I believe is a great skill to have for employability.

Anda, current MSc in Social and Organisational Psychology student at the University of Exeter

“After the one year I have spent at the University of Exeter I can say that the career advice and support I have received at the University were one of the best opportunities for my career.”

In your time at Exeter what was particularly useful to you about the services the University offered?

While I expected to really enjoy my course, I did not expect the Career Zone and employment opportunities to be so good. Now, after the one year I have spent at the University of Exeter I can say that the career advice and support I have received at the University were one of the best opportunities for my career, as it really helped me develop the skills for searching, applying and securing jobs but also offered me the opportunity to apply for internships within the University and get the essential work experience I needed.

You told us that you used Handshake and our webpages to apply for five jobs in the year and actually took four of those jobs on – four jobs in one year! Tell me about that please, how was the application process, how important were the jobs to your career development?

Yes, I have used Handshake and I have applied and worked on two Student Campus Partnerships (SCP) jobs in current research undertaken at the University, one marketing internship through the Pathways to Marketing scheme where I worked as a Data Analyst within a marketing company, and I worked as a Student Ambassador.

I found the Handshake site very useful. When I was looking for jobs, I would write in the keywords I was looking such as ‘research’, and I would check it periodically to find new opportunities. I found it very useful that underneath each job posting the Career Zone attaches a short advice list that summaries all the things you need to consider when writing an application (such as information about how to write a cover letter). All the University internships come with a standardised application form which makes it very easy to structure your answers and learn what employers are looking for at each stage. Therefore, the process of applying to jobs at the University of Exeter is easy because it is streamlined and organised.

The jobs were very important to my career development. Before coming to Exeter, I only had one relevant job experience (for the career that I want) and some volunteering experience. Now, I have three other extremely relevant positions on my CV and I have learned so many useful skills that have helped me develop professionally and bolstered my confidence.

“The jobs were very important to my career development. Before coming to Exeter, I only had one relevant job experience and some volunteering experience. Now, I have three other extremely relevant positions on my CV and I have learned so many useful skills that have helped me develop professionally and bolstered my confidence.”

Could you tell me about some of the workshops and sessions run by the Career Zone that you undertook?  

Before I started applying to jobs, I went on Handshake and booked many sessions that could help me improve my employability skills. I have attended sessions on writing your CV, cover letter and interview skills. I have also attended employers’ events and meetings, LinkedIn workshops, and a workshop about building resilience and confidence. I have also used an interview tool provided by the University which simulated a trial interview with pre-made questions and a video recording option.

I also had the opportunity to be appointed to a mentor through the Career Mentor Scheme and I have received valuable career advice from my mentor.

Lastly, I have applied for and was awarded the Exeter Award which is an acknowledgement from the University of all the extra-curricular activities I have participated in such as training and jobs.

You had also done some online self-evaluation, to assess your strengths and weaknesses, how did that help you?

Yes, I did. I feel like the evaluation tools mostly confirmed what I already knew but I have taken into consideration my results and used the identified strengths in my CV, while I started to work on my limitations in order to surpass them.

“I believe that my course and amazing lectures and as well as the Career Zone workshops and work experience have helped me develop personally and professionally and offered me the tools to reach my career and academic goals.”

You mentioned to us that doing all of this extra-curricular activity gave you extra confidence, that’s great, how do you think this will help your plans for the future?

I gained a lot of confidence in the last year as before coming to Exeter, I found job applications daunting and I was very pessimistic about my employment opportunities. However, once I gained the right skills through the sessions I have attended through the career service and I started to apply for positions that I was actually appointed to I felt better and better about my capabilities, knowledge and future prospects. As a result, prior to finishing my Masters, I started applying for PhD positions because I have always wanted to work in research and academia.

After a few applications, I have been awarded a funded PhD position for the project I was most interested in. I have worked very hard for both my academic and extra-curricular achievements but I am also very grateful for all the help I have received here at the University of Exeter. I believe that my course and amazing lectures and as well as the Career Zone workshops and work experience have helped me develop personally and professionally and offered me the tools to reach my career and academic goals.

We’d love to help you with your career planning, come in and see us in the Forum, Streatham Campus, or in the Exchange, Penryn Campus.

Or you can live chat with us on our website

email careers@exeter.ac.uk

call us 01392 724493 9am – 5pm

Monday to Friday, including Vacations 

Wribhu Ghosh – My Career in Renewable Energy Engineering

Wribhu Ghosh graduated from the University of Exeter, Camborne School of Mines, Penryn, with an MSc Renewable Energy Engineering, 2020. He’s currently a Data Analyst with Celtic Sea Power. 

Before my MSc I was a mechanical engineer, and had a career in the auto industry in India. I was a regional service manager overseeing the business and operation in seven states, with a team in the excess of four hundred people reporting to me directly or indirectly.

Then I started growing a conscience. I feel the term ‘saving the planet’ is massively arrogant and the fight is actually for saving humanity, and is the biggest threat humanity has ever faced and everyone is obliged to contribute to this fight in whatever capacity possible.

“I started growing a conscience. I feel the term ‘saving the planet’ is massively arrogant and the fight is actually for saving humanity… everyone is obliged to contribute to this fight in whatever capacity possible.”

Wribhu Ghosh, MSc Renewable Energy Engineering, and current Data Analyst with Celtic Sea Power

What did you enjoy most about your time at Exeter, and what was the biggest highlight?

Academia and seeking knowledge and qualification was the first step for me. The course was initially intimidating after coming back to education post a twelve-year hiatus, but the University and the curriculum, the faculty, and the staff were extremely friendly, supportive, and encouraging that I have never felt this inspired in my life. The course is very expensive for someone coming from a weaker economy, but it was absolutely worth it.

The course was full-on and I wanted to invest every ounce of my energy to learn as much. This became my life and I didn’t have time for any distraction, and I enjoyed every second of it.

The thoughtful design of the curriculum, how it was kept open and left to the students to pursue their interest, and how the institution and the faculty provided every kind of support to go into as much detail with it. ‘Uncle Kev’ – as we would call Doctor Kev Hughes – always said, “knowledge is cheap and easily available, but it’s the skills that are worth its weight in gold”. I think that’s the biggest takeaway, and also the biggest difference from the previous education system I am coming from where I struggled to keep my motivation at times.

“The course was initially intimidating after coming back to education post a twelve-year hiatus, but the University and the curriculum, the faculty, and the staff were extremely friendly, supportive, and encouraging that I have never felt this inspired in my life.”

What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?

In the second term, I took one module called Sustainable Architecture, the main reason for taking it was the module leader Adam, and I just wanted to work with him. His enthusiasm energy and honesty were infectious. I didn’t have any other expectations from that module initially and focussed my attention on the other more engineering focussed modules. But in my previous job designing solutions to make domestic properties energy efficient and cutting their carbon footprint, the knowledge I acquired in that module has proven invaluable.

After my MSc I was employed by ZLC Energy Limited as a Renewable Energy Design Engineer.

My role included

  • Designing and delivering renewable energy solutions including Solar PV, Solar Thermal, Heat Pumps as well as develop skills in Wind, Hydro, and Combined Heat and Power.
  • Developing initial as well as detailed designs, performance calculations, installation specifications, system drawings, and schematics.
  • Project support by developing detailed project planning, procurement of necessary materials and equipment, method statements, and risk analysis.
  • Tracking of jobs, including cost and schedule analysis as well as securing third party approvals like planning, and grid connection
  • Monitoring and evaluation of individual and alternative sustainable technologies specifically all aspects of microgeneration, energy efficiency, off-grid autonomy, water harvesting, and recycling
  • Developing integration solution including control system engineering as well as evaluation and monitoring of product suppliers

What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?

Keep an open mind, and never get intimidated by anything. There are wonderful people around to help with it, but you must make the first step towards it. Never feel shy to reach out.

“Keep an open mind, and never get intimidated by anything. There are wonderful people around to help with it, but you must make the first step towards it. Never feel shy to reach out.”

What are your plans for the future?

I am currently working as a Data Analyst for Celtic Sea Power, and offshore wind has always captured my imagination. I do have aspirations of teaching young minds and in a few years will probably come back to academia. I also want to do something meaningful for my home country India, whose taxpayer money subsidized my first degree and helped me be where I am today.