I’m Hannah and I’m a Second Year Applied Psychology student working part-time with the Create Your Future team.
What is Create Your Future?
Create Your Future is a compulsory, full day programme for all First Year students and is unique to the University of Exeter. The programme appears on students’ timetables, and they are emailed about the event in advance. The aim of the day is to stimulate thought about what future career you might want to pursue, and the steps you need to take to help you achieve your goal. Students are expected to attend three live online workshops, and complete online activities independently. These are discipline-specific and tailored to the stage of career planning you are at. During the day, students reflect on their values, motivations, and goals, learn what employers are looking for and cover important topics such as commercial awareness. Additionally, students are introduced to the support available from the Career Zone. Upon completing the programme, students should have a clearer idea about how to achieve their career aims and where they can find support if needed.
“The aim of the day is to stimulate thought about what future career you might want to pursue, and the steps you need to take to help you achieve your goal.”
What is Create Your Future like?
As I am a Second Year student, I completed the Psychology Create Your Future day back in October 2020. I remember feeling apprehensive when I saw the event on my timetable as thinking about my future career, when I had only just started University, felt like a massive and unnecessary step. However, as explained by the Create Your Future team, this is to give us time to explore lots of career options, and develop the skills needed for those careers. Once I started the online activities, I was glad that this was the case. It became clear that I needed a lot more work experience! This is because I learnt that for every skill an employer looks for, you need to provide evidence for having that skill. By completing the online activities, I was able to see which skills I had not yet developed through work experience.
For me, the key underdeveloped skills were basic IT and customer service. Therefore, doing the online activities narrowed my focus as to what kinds of work experience I should look for. I used the Career Zone website to which we were signposted in workshop three, to explore current job vacancies within the University and in the Exeter community. Coincidentally, this led me to see and apply for the job vacancy of Programme Assistant within the Create Your Future team. In this role, I provide practical support for students taking the programme. Therefore, the Create Your Future day was really influential in kick-starting my career planning. The programme made me reflect on how I could become more employable and encouraged me to progress and find work experience.
“The programme made me reflect on how I could become more employable and encouraged me to progress and find work experience.”
Another aspect of the Create Your Future programme which I found useful was exploring the jobs that Exeter Alumni have progressed to and how they achieved those jobs. When I did this activity, I listened to a Psychology graduate in events management. She emphasised the value of getting involved in a University society to help organise activities. Her understanding was that experience of organising events, large or small, was highly sought after by recruiters. Listening to these recordings is really helpful, as you can use the personal experience of Exeter Alumni to discover more about a career and how to prepare for it.
Another beneficial feature of the programme is that the online activities require a large amount of reflection. For example, one of the activities is a values exercise. This pushes you to think about what kind of working life you want to lead. Is it important for you to have a good work-life balance? Is it important for you to be highly paid? Is it important for you to have big responsibilities? Thinking about these things will be useful once I graduate, because I will be able to ensure that I am applying for jobs suitable for my aspirations.
“Thinking about these things will be useful once I graduate, because I will be able to ensure that I am applying for jobs suitable for my aspirations.”
I believe Create Your Future it is one of those things where the more you put in, the more you get out. I encourage students to attend their session with an open mind, and work through the online activities at their own pace, without rushing. You might just learn something useful!
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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:
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
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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).
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.
Grace Chan graduated in BSc Geography from the University of Exeter, Tremough Campus in 2015. She’s currently an 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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.