My Placement with Helston Climate Action

Chloe with the leaflets she helped design for Helston Climate Action

MSc Sustainable Development student, Chloe Lawson, recently undertook a placement with Helston Climate Action Group as part of the optional Independent Work-Based Learning module on the MSc programme. 

“The module lead presented us with a number of potential projects to get involved with, and the one with Helston Climate Action stood out the most to me. This is for a number of reasons, mainly though because whilst I felt I had skills aligned with this project there was also the opportunity to get involved with things I had never done before, and that challenge particularly drew me to this placement. I also strongly believed in the project aims, and supported the cause of the organisation as a whole.

“My advice to anyone pursuing a placement is to utilise the existing teams that are there to help you! This includes tutors, module leads, the Career Zone and of course the Placements team.”

Throughout my placement I was involved with a variety of work, from researching barriers for people engaging with climate change, to designing and analysing surveys to understand how much locals knew about and engaged with climate change. As well as this I helped promote the project using a variety of platforms, and created blog posts about how to join the project. Additionally I helped design leaflets to advertise this project and then helped deliver these leaflets to locals across Helston (in line with COVID-19 guidelines). The pandemic significantly affected my placement. All our meetings took place online, we had to halt leafleting when a lockdown was announced and as we couldn’t talk to a lot of people in person there was a very low sign up rate to the project.

However, despite COVID-19 I had a very positive experience in undertaking a placement, and I am so glad I choose that module, so thank you for everyone who had that possible! I also managed to get another internship as a result of one of the team members on my placement sending me the role and then providing a glowing recommendation. So there are endless possibilities of what a placement could lead to – even during a pandemic!

“…there are endless possibilities of what a placement could lead to – even during a pandemic!”

My advice to anyone pursuing a placement is to utilise the existing teams that are there to help you! This includes tutors, module leads, the Career Zone and of course the Placements team. I wouldn’t have found my placement without them. However, I would also say never be afraid to get in touch with companies yourself, remember you are a valuable asset and companies also gain something by having you there.”

Alumni Profile – Matthew Grover, Interim Wheelchair Talent Pathway Manager, Lawn Tennis Association

Matthew Grover, Exeter Alumn, and current Interim Wheelchair Talent Pathway Manager, Lawn Tennis Association

Matthew Grover is Interim Wheelchair Talent Pathway Manager, Lawn Tennis Association (LTA). He Graduated from the University of Exeter, St Luke’s Campus, in MSc Sport and Health Sciences, 2017. Read about how he uses his experience to make difference, and where his ambitions will take him in the future.

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

Since leaving Exeter I have gone on to work at two organisations, Tennis Foundation and now, the LTA. Within the Tennis Foundation I was Disability Development Coordinator where I was responsible for the following:

  • Held to account for all general and specialist enquiries for inclusion and accessibility involving disabled people.
  • Trained LTA Services Team that increased confidence with disability enquiries, reducing personal engagement of ‘general’ enquiries by 57%.
  • Monitored and evaluated national participation metrics, producing integral reports outlining findings by increasing validity and reliability. Developed an effective monitoring plan for venues, resulting in discrepancies reducing by 44%.
  • Led on daily invoicing and monitoring of expenditure in line with budget expectations c. £451k.
  • Delivered stringent and bespoke disability workshops and events that educated venues on reasonable adjustments for disabled people to be included in sessions and developed opportunities.
  • Key stakeholder management with national and regional partners, such as: British Blind Sport and Enable Leisure and Culture that impacted in positive change of increased participation for disabled people.

Through my time at the Tennis Foundation, one of my biggest achievements was working within a team that collectively engaged over 12,600 people with a disability playing tennis at least once a month across wheelchair, visual impairment, learning disability, deaf or hard of hearing and mental health categories. As a result, the Open Court disability development programme is one of the largest disability specific development sport programmes in the UK.

“Through my time at the Tennis Foundation, one of my biggest achievements was working within a team that collectively engaged over 12,600 people with a disability playing tennis at least once a month across wheelchair, visual impairment, learning disability, deaf or hard of hearing and mental health categories.”

During my time at the Tennis Foundation and coming towards the end of my first year we were notified of a merge of activities between the Tennis Foundation and LTA to unify tennis, which ultimately resulted in my role being made redundant. At this time, I therefore had to go through the stage of reapplying for a position within a new team, new structure and a new organisation. I was unsure of my career path at this time as I lost a role I was passionate about given my personal and professional involvement in disability tennis. However, I looked ahead and saw the benefits that this will give for me to work in performance sport, as without understanding the landscape at grassroots; it is hard to transfer into elite through knowledge at every age and stage of the pathway. As a result, I was offered a role as LTA Support Assistant.

As part of this role, I succeeded in the following:

  • Held to account for co-ordination and customer support of all LTA Participation Directorate activities with aims of increasing fan engagement and opportunities to participate in tennis.
  • Management and co-ordination of LTA learning disability and visually impaired tennis festivals; working with colleagues, partners, clubs and charities with results displaying an 18% increase in participation.
  • Co-ordinate and operationalise the LTA Open Court disability tennis programme including; monitoring and evaluation, coach/venue workshops and providing legal advice that increases inclusion and accessibility for disabled people in tennis. Analysis has displayed a 16% increase in participation.
  • Experienced delivery of forums and workshops that drives opportunities and sharing ideas of best practice aligned to the LTA’s vision of Tennis Opened Up to increase engagement.

An exciting project I led on was an Inclusive Tennis Festival that was hosted at the world famous Queen’s Club, London. This festival created an environment to show that tennis can be played by anyone and break down barriers of tennis being seen as an ‘elitist sport’. Within this festival we had over 100 participants, a 44% increase from the previous year with participants from all disabilities of wheelchair, visual impairment, deaf, learning disabilities showing that tennis can be truly inclusive and diverse. Without this experience, I would not be in the role I am today as Wheelchair Pathway Manager. I have always worked in tennis and had the ambition of working in the elite level, so my current role within the LTA is perfect and an opportunity to progress my career where I would love to be a Performance Director.

“I have always worked in tennis and had the ambition of working in the elite level, so my current role within the LTA is perfect and an opportunity to progress my career where I would love to be a Performance Director.”

As part of my current role, I get to be heavily involved with players on the elite side of tennis, with responsibilities including the following:

  • Leading on delivery of Regional and National-Age Group programmes for high potential junior athletes.
  • Leading on annual (evidence-based) talent selection policies and processes for Regional and National-Age Group programmes.
  • Ensure new talent selection policies and processes comply with current and future classification eligibility requirements for Paralympic Games and Grand Slams.
  • Support the production and consistent implementation of a wheelchair player development curriculum.
  • Leading on evidence-based quarterly review of Talent Programme players’ progress against their Individual Development Plans (IDPs).
  • Collaborate and work in partnership with the LTA Participation Team, Sport England, UK Sport and BPA to lead the design and delivery of innovative talent attraction campaigns to attract juniors into tennis.

The attributes and responsibilities above really excite me to progress in my career to find our next Grand Slam and Paralympic champions.

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

I chose this career as I have always been involved in sport from a very young age, especially tennis. Having that personal experience from watching tennis live at Wimbledon really gave me a buzz to continue in the sport that has given so much to me as a person. What I enjoy most about my work is no day is the same. Through my role I get to work across many departments which people do not realise. For example on the performance side, I work closely with strength and conditioning coaches to ensure players have an appropriate programme to compete at the highest level, physios to ensure athletes are always healthy and fit, and psychologists to help them in their right frame of mind to compete at the highest level. Other areas that I get to be involved with is finance from managing budgets, marketing with a focus around campaigns and major events in managing a players programme and competition schedule. Finally, one of the massive benefits of my role is I get to travel nationally and internationally. For example, I have been very fortunate to travel to Australia to support the players and team at the Australian Open and warm-up events prior to this.

“I work closely with strength and conditioning coaches to ensure players have an appropriate programme to compete at the highest level, physios to ensure athletes are always healthy and fit, and psychologists to help them in their right frame of mind to compete at the highest level.”

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

The thing I most enjoyed about the course was the opportunities to get involved in different projects with my friends. Also, the support I received during my time there from fellow students, PhD students, tutors and lecturers. All together opened up avenues for me to progress in my personal and professional development which resulted in me achieving my biggest highlight which was gaining my Masters Degree, with Merit.

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

In conjunction with my Masters studies, I was University Tennis Coordinator where I looked after the development and student programme for Exeter University Tennis Club. I would say the biggest skill I learned during this time was time management. Being able to manage work and study was critical in achieving my degree and positive improvements of the student programme where tennis participation increased by 5% over two years. Other skills I learned that were directly impacted by my studies where I have now transferred them into my current role are research methods through analysis of work, psychology – working closely with our sports psychologist and strength and conditioning to manage players’ programmes.

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

The biggest advice I would give is to get involved with as many things as possible from grassroots to professional sport. Doing this will expand your knowledge and stand you out from other candidates that may be applying for the same position.

“The biggest advice I would give is to get involved with as many things as possible from grassroots to professional sport. Doing this will expand your knowledge and stand you out from other candidates that may be applying for the same position.”

What are your plans for the future?

My plans are to now develop a comprehensive wheelchair pathway strategy for the next two Paralympic cycles of Paris 2024 and LA 2028. This is to ensure we are the leading nation in elite wheelchair tennis creating a pathway for champions, which makes Wheelchair Tennis relevant, accessible and welcoming to high potential athletes. Ultimately the end goal is to become a Performance Director at a leading NGB in the UK or globally.

Module Choice – Learning for Teaching

Hi, my name is Connor Thompson, and I am currently undertaking a PGCE at the University of Exeter. I completed my undergraduate degree at Exeter studying Exercise and Sports Science. 

Connor Thompson, current PGCE student at the University of Exeter

With teaching as a possible career choice, the “Learning for Teaching” module certainly stood out as a “must pick”. The “Learning for Teaching” module gave me the opportunity to observe and experience quality teaching in a local school of my choice. Alongside this, the learning for teaching module provided me with critical research practice and exposed educational theories that shape school policies, teaching practices and the curriculum today. This module gave me insight into the expectations of educational writing styles and this has helped me throughout my PGCE assignments. Picking this module supported my decision in choosing a Primary PGCE because it gave me the practice and experience I needed.

“Picking this module supported my decision in choosing a Primary PGCE because it gave me the practice and experience I needed.”

The “Learning for Teaching” module helped me to find out what I wanted in my teaching career. Before starting the module, I was convinced that I would be a Secondary school PE teacher with all my focus on that. However, deciding to gain some experience in a Primary school completely shifted my focus and truly broadened my perspective of what teaching and learning can be. My placement in a Primary school played a vital role in deciding how my future would look, and helped me in my decision to embark on a Primary PGCE.

“I built up the confidence to read to the class, I learnt how to manage low level disruptive behaviour and I developed a competent level of understanding around phonics.”

My “Learning for Teaching” placement, for me, was the most valuable part of the module. Although this may sound insignificant at first, having the opportunity to be an adult at the front of the class really opened my eyes to the role I could play in society and the local community. I built up the confidence to read to the class, I learnt how to manage low level disruptive behaviour and I developed a competent level of understanding around phonics. Most importantly, I experienced having a professional relationship with other members of staff and having a professional role within the classroom. In terms of subject knowledge, I was exposed to the National Curriculum and the fraction of it that was taught during my placement. This small exposure to the content, for me, was only an insight compared to the wealth of knowledge I am now gaining during my PGCE. However, this small exposure was eye-opening and one of the reasons why I chose to do a primary PGCE.

“The University lecturers on the “Learning for Teaching” module are overwhelmingly supportive and truly strive for you to be an amazing teacher one day.”

Within the module there were a range of topics covered including the Purpose of Education, Social Disadvantage, Dialogic Teaching, EAL, SEND, Assessment, Using Technology in the Classroom and Reflective Practice. I valued these modules because they exposed me to information about education that you never normally think about. However, the standout topic for me was English as an Additional Language. The EAL topic especially, has helped me during my placement in considering alternative ways to teach and develop my planning for an EAL pupil.

The University lecturers on the “Learning for Teaching” module are overwhelmingly supportive and truly strive for you to be an amazing teacher one day. Choosing to do a PGCE at the University of Exeter continued my professional and supportive relationship with the university staff, thus ensuring no student is isolated during the start of their teaching career.

“My career aspirations are to be a class teacher at first and then progress to be a co-ordinator of an academy trust or equivalent, then potentially one day to be a head-teacher.”

I am currently on my first placement completing a primary PGCE with mathematics at the University of Exeter. I am now teaching upper KS2 across the National Curriculum from Maths and English to Art and History plus many more subjects. I am currently planning, delivering, marking and reflecting on my practice every day and this is now a part of who I am. An additional part of the PGCE course is giving me the opportunity to complete two M-level assignments. This is currently helping me critically evaluate research literature and educational theories. The studies I have completed so far have influenced my pedagogical knowledge and the way I teach, specifically creatively.

My career aspirations are to be a class teacher at first and then progress to be a co-ordinator of an academy trust or equivalent, then potentially one day to be a head-teacher.

Find out more about the Learning for Teaching module https://socialsciences.exeter.ac.uk/education/study/teachingexperience/

For info and advice about all Online Module Selection options https://www.exeter.ac.uk/students/infopoints/yourinfopointservices/oms/

Dom Walter, Assistant Producer, BBC Natural History Unit

Dom Walter, Exeter Alumn and current Assistant Producer, BBC Natural History Unit

Dom Walter graduated from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus in BSC Biological Sciences with Study Abroad 2013, followed by MSC Conservation and Biodiversity 2014. He’s currently an Assistant Producer with the BBC Natural History Unit. 

Tell us about your career, and the exciting things you’ve been working on…

Since leaving Exeter I have been working in the film industry, specifically making scientific and natural history documentaries. Scientific documentaries are a great source of knowledge; they have always inspired me to explore and learn more about the complex world we live in. A major reason why I decided to venture into scientific film is that, during my time at University, the dissemination of scientific findings and the challenge of putting them into a relatable context via means of visual presentations was the most enjoyable aspect of my course. Television is a powerful medium for communicating scientific research to the public; it uniquely transports people into a world, which would otherwise be inaccessible. It also captures events at a specific time and space, making them accessible for generations to come.

“I’ve dined on the border of North Korea, hung out with astronauts, flown in helicopters over glaciers in Alaska, and touched a Tyrannosaurus rex as it was being exposed for the first time in sixty six million years!”

Television creates a window through which future generations can witness all the weird and wonderful flora and fauna which, due to the recent elevated extinction rates, they may not have had the opportunity to observe first hand. One of the best things about working in this industry is by far the unparalleled access to places and people you get. Over the last couple of years, I’ve dined on the border of North Korea, hung out with astronauts, flown in helicopters over glaciers in Alaska, and touched a Tyrannosaurus rex as it was being exposed for the first time in sixty six million years!

What advice would you give anyone interested in getting into natural history broadcasting?

Grab a camera, an iPhone will do, and practice visual storytelling. Find something that captures your imagination and run with it – make a film! Could be on anything from understanding the iridescence of neck plumage of a pigeon on campus, to flying out to Borneo and capturing the mellifluous love songs gibbon pairs perform every morning!

Speak to as many people in the industry as possible. Call up and email production companies and try book in some work experience with them. You will get a lot of rejection but don’t worry, it only takes one acceptance to get your foot in the door so be tenacious.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to direct a BBC landmark series with the man himself, Sir DA!

Ayesha Tandon – Climate Science Communicator, UK Met Office

Ayesha Tandon Graduated in MSci Natural Sciences, 2019. She’s currently a Climate Science Communicator at the UK Met office. Find out the steps she took to get into this exciting career. 

Ayesha Tandon, Exeter Alumn and Climate Science Communicator at the UK Met office

I work as a Climate Science Communicator at the UK Met Office, where my job involves helping members of the government and general public to easily understand important aspects of climate science. I started my career at the Met Office as in intern in the summer of 2018 and loved it! I continued to work part-time at the Met Office throughout my Masters year, and this experience helped me to get an internship at the climate journalism group Carbon Brief during the summer of 2019, where I was focusing on improving my writing. Following this internship, I began to work for the Met Office full-time. Climate change is a hugely pressing issue; human activity is already causing large-scale changes to the climate system that are likely to cause more severe impacts in the coming years.

The Met Office Hadley Centre produces world-leading research on climate science, but this is often highly technical and can be difficult to understand. This is where Climate Science Communicators come in! We write paper summaries, produce briefings for government, draft text for the Met Office website, and design infographics to explain climate research more easily, allowing people without a scientific background to understand important pieces of science. It is very difficult for anyone to care about something that they cannot fully understand it, so this work is crucial for bridging the gap between scientists and policy makers.

“The Met Office produces world-leading research on climate science, but this is often highly technical and can be difficult to understand. This is where Climate Science Communicators come in! We write paper summaries, produce briefings for government, draft text for the Met Office website, and design infographics to explain climate research more easily, allowing people without a scientific background to understand important pieces of science.”

Finding this job was a very happy accident. When I started my degree in Natural Sciences in 2015, I was completely clueless about which area of science I might want to pursue. I was drawn to a range of different topics throughout my degree, but climate science turned my head in third year and that was the one that stuck. I also enjoyed writing and editing for university newspapers and journals throughout my degree, and was always on the lookout for some elusive job that could combine these two interests. My application for an internship at the Met Office in Climate Science Communication was very last minute. Some of my friends were finishing off their applications, and I thought ‘Why not?’ I did not think that it would come to anything, and was torn between which of the multiple internships I should apply for. In hindsight, I feel very lucky that I picked the right internship, because I have loved my work at the Met Office!

My favourite part of the job, as cheesy as it sounds, is that it allows me to share my love of climate science with people! This job allows me to talk to world-leading scientists about cutting-edge research, and then think of creative, informative ways to share their work with the rest of the world. The first thing that I do whenever I start a project is to read whatever I can on the subject, and talk to the scientists leading the research, so my knowledge of climate science has ballooned over the past two years! I am usually working on multiple projects at one time, and a single project can take anywhere from hours to years to complete!

“I feel very fortunate that I chose to study at Exeter because it is such an international hub of climate science research and expertise.”

I feel very fortunate that I chose to study at Exeter because it is such an international hub of climate science research and expertise. I did not have any interest in climate science when I first joined the University, but I was surrounded by so much incredible research at Exeter that climate science quickly became my favourite topic. Plenty of the lecturers at the University have links with the Met Office, and many of the third year group projects were strongly linked to Met Office science and research. I even attended the James Lovelock Climate Science conference “a three day event that attracted people from around the world” on the Exeter University campus!

When I joined the University, I had no idea about which area of science I might be interested in, and so I really appreciated that this course allowed me to take my time to explore my options. The first year was an intensive year studying all sciences, maths, and computer science to get us up to scratch, so that by the time we reached second year, there was a huge choice of modules available to us. Those who knew what they wanted to study were able to specialise straight away, but others (like me) were able to spend a couple of years exploring different options. I started off my degree with an interest in nanotechnology, and came out of it specialising in climate science! I can’t think of many other courses that would have allowed this.

“The most important skills that I learned at University were definitely the soft skills that you pick up without realising, rather than specific facts or equations learned in lectures.”

The most important skills that I learned at University were definitely the soft skills that you pick up without realising, rather than specific facts or equations learned in lectures. For example, every year throughout my degree, we did a group project. I will be the first to admit that I found group projects quite stressful, and that I did not always look forward them. However, they taught me a huge amount about organising a team of people, about adapting my working style to fit with my course mates, and about playing to everyone’s strengths to get the best possible outcome from a project. I now work in a very diverse team of people at the Met Office and really enjoy it!

It is difficult to jump straight into a career; it is much easier to do it in lots of little steps. So keep your eye open for exciting opportunities and get involved in everything that you can at University because these things will give you experience, introduce you to interesting people, and be great stepping stones towards the next stage of your career. I didn’t enjoy every single one of the stepping stones that I took, but each one gave me some experience that I could put towards my next stepping stone. These extra things are great to talk about in interviews, and can really set you apart from everyone else. I think that this advice is probably relevant for the vast majority of careers.

My stepping stones towards my current job were:

  1. Writing for the student newspaper Exepose, and the Exeter Undergraduate STEM Journal in my first two years of University. These were publications that any Exeter student could contribute to, and were a nice easy first step
  2. In my third year of University, I joined the board editors for both publications. Again, this was a fairly easy step because I had experience with the publications
  3. I started a personal blog to develop my writing style a bit more. I didn’t publicise it to anyone, and just used it to explore different topics and writing styles. I now really enjoy writing for this blog.
  4. Internship at the Met Office in the summer of my third year. This was probably the biggest step, but it helped that I had a lot of experience to draw on. This internship was amazing, and it taught me a lot about climate science and its communication. I was then invited to continue working part-time throughout my final year at university.
  5. Internship at Carbon brief in the summer of my graduation. I used a piece from my blog, and my knowledge from the Met Office in my application
  6. Full-time job at the Met Office

I hope that I will be able to stay at the Met Office for at least a few more years! I recently completed media training and have started giving interviews and talks, which I am really enjoying. I also want to do much more outreach at schools to engage children more with climate change, so I have also applied to be a STEM Ambassador! I’m not sure at the moment if I want to pursue communications with government, outreach with the general public or both! That said, I also do miss getting stuck into maths and science, so there definitely is a possibility that I might do a PhD in the future. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what I want to do in the future, but I love where I am at right now!

Getting into Marine Conservation

Celine Gamble graduated from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, with an MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity, 2017. She currently works as the Native Oyster Network Coordinator (UK & Ireland). 

Celine Gamble, Exeter alum, and current Native Oyster Network Coordinator (UK & Ireland)

After graduation I worked within the Engagement team of the British Science Association. During which I worked on the annual British Science Festival as a Festival Officer. More recently I have started working for the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in their Marine and Freshwater Department as a Project Coordinator for the newly formed Native Oyster Network (UK and Ireland). I’m very much enjoying the role so far, as it’s a good combination of conservation science and policy, networking, fieldwork and science communication.

I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in marine conservation, and during University I was drawn towards communicating science. Therefore a role where I can combine the two is perfect for me. The most enjoyable aspect of my current role is having the opportunity to visit native oyster restoration projects across the UK and Ireland, and be able to get out on the boat and assist with their fieldwork.

“My advice for anyone beginning a career within marine conservation would be to be persistent, and to be aware that it could take a few interviews and some time before landing your dream job.”

I enjoyed studying at the University of Exeter firstly due to the amazing location of the Penryn campus, with access to marine coastal habitat on its doorstep. And secondly due to the support and expertise of the lecturers in the Bioscience department.

I would say that being involved with extra-curricular opportunities, such as university societies and groups, helped build my independent working and confidence when delivering a project. I also found that modules such as Science in Society and Exploitation of the Sea, have been useful in terms of the science communication route that I’ve pursued.

The advice I would give to a current student, would be to throw yourself into extra-curricular opportunities and to research opportunities to volunteer for projects/ organisations that you’d hope to work for in the future. I would also say, don’t hold back from getting in touch with individuals who work in roles you’d like to see yourself in, as 9/10 times they will be more than happy to provide advice.

My current contract is for two years, after which I would hope to move into a manager role within a similar marine conservation project or organisation.

My advice for anyone beginning a career within marine conservation would be to be persistent, and to be aware that it could take a few interviews and some time before landing your “dream job”. But don’t let that put you off.

Amy Magee – Creative Enterprise

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

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

Where did it all start?

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

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

What have you been up to alongside your degree?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final thoughts:

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

Chance, Luck and Careers Fairs

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

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

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

This, however, set the trajectory of my career.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Growing a Sustainable Career

Abbie Banner graduated from the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, with BSc Zoology in 2018. She is currently GBP Campus Sustainability Project Coordinator (Cornwall). Go Green Week is happening on the Streatham Campus 18th – 22nd March. 

Abbie Banner, Exeter Alumn and current Campus Sustainability Project Coordinator (Cornwall)

My role is based in the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the Penryn Campus, and I work with all four institutions on the campus: the University of Exeter, Falmouth University, Falmouth Exeter Plus (shared campus service providers) and the Students’ Union (FXU).

I ensure that each of the organisations can support and contribute to making sustainability the norm on campus – this means something different most days. From data handling for creating a ‘sustainability dashboard’ for the campuses, to researching best practice for handling commercial food waste. Along with assisting with restructuring of our campuses’ sustainability governance, to ensuring practices are in line with the University’s biodiversity policy.

“..being immersed in life by the sea in Cornwall, based on a small, green campus away from the city life I was used to, strengthened my desire to be involved in sustainability within my career.”

The summer before beginning University I switched to a plant-based diet. It was my research through this change that opened my eyes to the damage that humans cause to the environment. My personality type is ‘advocate’ which means that I need to feel I’m making a difference to the world, including through my career, so sustainability is the perfect platform for this. Also, being immersed in life by the sea in Cornwall, based on a small, green campus away from the city life I was used to, strengthened my desire to be involved in sustainability within my career.

I honestly had almost zero extracurricular commitments for the first couple of years at University. It wasn’t until I gained some confidence at the end of my Second Year, when I became more involved and started to gain some relevant experience.

There are so many ways to be involved in sustainability on campus as a student. I dived into the deep end and ran for Environment and Ethics Officer in the Leadership Team of FXU. I was lucky enough to win this student-elected role, which was voluntary and part-time alongside my degree. I also participated in Grand Challenges: Food for Thought as well as the Green Consultants programme.

As Environment and Ethics Officer, I presented two ‘motions’ at FXU’s AGM. Both motions voted to pass, which included to ban all plastic straws on campus, and to halve the number of single-use plastic water bottles on campus.

Through the Green Consultants programme I had the opportunity to work with Fifteen Cornwall, Jamie Oliver’s restaurant at Watergate Bay with a “positive for the planet” ethos. My team completed a waste audit, analysing 3 years of bills to output infographics and suggested implementations. This felt like my first experience of “real life” work, and a year later I am on the other side Green Consultants acting as the client for several on-campus projects.

One piece of advice I would give to anyone wanting to be more sustainable:
Make more conscious decisions.
We lead habitual lives in which it’s easy to make subconscious unethical and unsustainable choices in our daily lives. I hold my hands up and admit that I am not perfect and believe each to their own personal journey towards a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle.

Here are some practical conscious decisions you can make as a consumer:

  • Find a zero-waste/ plastic-free shop near you for food like oats, pasta, rice, oil and sugar
  • Take your money out of fossil fuels and switch to a renewable energy supplier such as Ecotricity or Bulb
  • Choose vegetarian and vegan options more often to reduce your carbon and water footprint
  • Go to vintage, charity shops and clothes swaps for some cool second-hand clothing pieces
  • Recycle the pesky non-recyclables such as crisp packets, pens and toothpaste tubes at a local Terracycle point

“I believe there is only going to continue to be a rise in the number of jobs within this sector, with more organisations jumping on the green band-wagon.”

I believe there is only going to continue to be a rise in the number of jobs within this sector, with more organisations jumping on the green band-wagon. When my role comes to an end this summer I am eager to go back to the roots of the environmental movement for some time, looking at eco-living, minimalism and incorporating slow-living principles into my lifestyle.

Most importantly for me I am looking forwards to spending time with family and friends as well as some travelling before deciding on my next steps.

If Plan A doesn’t work out, there are 25 more letters in the alphabet…

Katie Thick graduated from the University of Exeter with a BA in Geography in 2017. Katie talked to us about life after University, applying for a Graduate Business Partnership, and how she plans to take her career forward.

You can read the magazine here Ex.ac.uk/itz or get a paper copy from The Career Zone. 

Katie Thick, Exeter alum and ‘In the Zone’ Editor

My time at Exeter was a rocky road and didn’t quite go to plan. During my final year I prioritised my academic studies and didn’t have a work-life balance. My mind-set was glued to studying, meaning I hardly had time to enjoy being a student, let alone think of career ideas. Unfortunately my health deteriorated and I had to take an interruption from my studies. At this point I thought I’d failed. Upon my return to Exeter, and having finally completed my degree, I reflected on how my time out from University had benefitted me massively.

For the past year I had dipped my toes into various retail and customer facing roles. I enjoyed working with my colleagues, however I struggled with the repetitive nature of the role and was eager to progress my career…

“I really enjoyed writing the magazine and adding my own wellbeing/holistic twist. The magazine features an array of student case studies and supportive services to help current students and recent graduates with any career-related challenges.”

My GBP role has been fantastic. I have a passion to work in Higher Education and wanted to learn about the behind the scenes work at the University. My placement was in the Career Zone where I was tasked to produce the latest edition of the ‘In the Zone’ magazine. I really enjoyed writing the magazine and adding my own wellbeing/holistic twist which I hope will bring comfort to those students who currently feel in limbo with career plans. The magazine features an array of student case studies and supportive services to help current students and recent graduates with any career-related challenges. I’ve used my own experience of a less ‘traditional’ University path to help guide anyone who may be feeling a little lost. Believe me, it’s okay to feel lost and it’s okay to take time to gain confidence and become more self-aware.

Initially I had applied for various roles in Higher Education across the South West before successfully applying for the GBP. I was fortunate to have been selected for various interviews, but struggled to take that final step and be successfully appointed to the role. Remaining resilient and eager to learn I asked for feedback from each and every employer, to which majority answered ‘lack of experience’. I was disheartened by the job rejections and felt employers were not willing to give me the experience I needed.

“I learnt it’s really important not to take things to heart, but in your stride. Knock backs are tests; we fall but come back stronger.”

During my placement I’ve continued to make use of the Career Zone as both an employee and as a graduate. Did you know that the Career Zone are there to support you up to three years after graduating? I decided to attend the Personal Resilience session as I had felt I needed to learn how to manage career stresses more effectively. I learnt it’s really important not to take things to heart, but in your stride. Knock backs are tests; we fall but come back stronger. So keep trying and keep persevering, make the most of each challenge or task you face, because one day it will be your day to succeed.