Flora Stewart – Community Wellbeing Champion

Flora Stewart is Community Wellbeing Champion for Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity. In 2016 she graduated from the University of Exeter in BA Sociology and Anthropology.

Flora Stewart, Community Wellbeing Champion for Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity.

Thinking about careers can sometimes feel overwhelming, so this week we’re partnering with our friends in Wellbeing to bring you a range of career-focused sessions on the topics you’ve told us are the most stressful.

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

I graduated from Exeter in 2016, and started working part time at Marks and Spencer’s whilst volunteering with Young Carers, and gaining IT certificates as I wasn’t confident with Excel and wanted to apply for administrative positions.

I then started paid employment at Carers in Bedfordshire in December 2018 as Dementia Services Activity Organiser within which I carried out administrative duties, events and activity organisation, hosted events and activities, facilitated and led therapeutic and social sessions for people living with dementia and their family/friend carers. There was a lot of communication and liaison with other local charities, organisations and services including Age UK, Fire Service, and Memory Assessment Service.

I started a new role in March 2022 as Community Wellbeing Champion, delivering Social Prescribing in Bedford. I work for the charity Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity (BedsRCC) and am the Social Prescriber for two local surgeries, taking referrals from GPs and other healthcare professionals to help support people in linking them to their local community to help them improve their health and wellbeing. I completed a Foundation Certificate in Psychodynamic Counselling in July 2022. 

“I wanted the opportunity to support people to connect to their community and its projects, groups, services so that they can live as well as possible.”

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

Studying Sociology and Anthropology helped develop my understanding of the wider determinants of health and wellbeing. I wanted the opportunity to support people to connect to their community and its projects, groups, services so that they can live as well as possible. I have seen friends and family been discharged from the more traditional health services and not be given further support other than medication. Social Prescribing acknowledges that other changes can be made in a person’s live to improve their health and I think this holistic approach is logical and the future of healthcare and I wanted to be involved. 

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

Anthropology modules were so eye-opening and helped expand mindsets and question perspectives consistently. I enjoyed most when we were challenged to think differently about our culture in relation to other cultures, particularly when these challenges broke down ideas of Western ‘superiority’ or the idea of Western culture as the norm vs just one of the many cultures.

There were great opportunities for discussion particularly within modules run by Anthropology lecturer named Hannah (Human-Animal Interactions, my dissertation tutor) and Tom (first year core Anthropology modules lecturer). The fieldtrip to Skanda Vale Ashram was brilliant. 

Why did you choose to study at Exeter? 

I made a list of my top 5 options and put a tick against categories such as ‘social life’, ‘course’, ‘location’, ‘entry requirements’ and Exeter came out as having the most positive marks, so I put it as my first choice. I felt confident in the quality of teaching I would receive and the overall experience I would have, partly because of its status and also because of positive reviews on review sites and league tables. The city was somewhere my family had lived before and I knew one or two people who had gone to the University and had a positive experience. 

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

Cultural awareness and sensitivity particularly from Anthropology modules which gave a rich and varied opportunity to look outwardly at cultures different to that which I had grown up within but with plenty of opportunity to reflect inwardly at my own perceptions and viewpoints that I had gathered throughout life so far.

This has been very helpful because I work in a culturally diverse town with service users from many different backgrounds and walks of life. I feel open to listening to everyone as an individual, and make time for reflecting on my own interactions with the situation to make sure I acknowledge what I am aware of and what I need to work on in terms of my learning.

“By getting involved in opportunities such as Grand Challenges and The Exeter Award, I developed my interpersonal skills and this has been really useful for confidence with connecting with colleagues throughout my career so far.”

I feel studying modules including Disability and Society which introduced concepts such as ‘people are not disabled, it is their environment that disables them’ has been an ongoing encouragement to consider different angles when it comes to other people and my own wellbeing. By getting involved in opportunities such as Grand Challenges and The Exeter Award, I developed my interpersonal skills and this has been really useful for confidence with connecting with colleagues throughout my career so far. 

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

Make the most of opportunities for discussion and reflective thought within your modules to make sure you’re challenging your viewpoints, as you will need to be able to be open to new perspectives and ways of seeing the world in any job that is focussed on working with and supporting others.

Attend extra talks and lectures that interest you. If someone has an interesting job, ask them how they got there. Make the most of online learning options to boost your skills and knowledge such as FutureLearn. If you have time, get volunteering – anything and anything that sounds remotely interesting to you can leave you with a wealth of experiences to draw from.

“Learning to balance life and ‘work’/study is so useful for your future and especially in a line of work where you are hearing a lot of people’s struggles and challenges, you must have space outside of work that is for you and keeps you well whilst you are supporting others.”

I recommend all students treating their week like a working week and studying wherever suits you best roughly between 9-5 with a good lunch and coffee break or two. Then make the most of evenings and weekends to socialise and explore the beautiful city and surrounding areas you’re in! You will not regret it. Learning to balance life and ‘work’/study is so useful for your future and especially in a line of work where you are hearing a lot of people’s struggles and challenges, you must have space outside of work that is for you and keeps you well whilst you are supporting others.

Get involved in as many societies as you are interested in – especially in first and second years when you might have more time than final years. This is so you have chance to mix with people outside of your course and accommodation, and try out different interests – as you will want to do this throughout life.  

What are your plans for the future? 

I would like to learn British Sign Language and gain a TEFL qualification so that I can steer my career towards helping others communicate. I would then consider either teaching BSL / TEFL to others or using these skills, combined with my other job experiences, to work in advocacy or accessible counselling. 

Ellie’s Guide to being a Postgrad Student at Exeter

Ellie, ex Postgrad student at Exeter, and Career Zone SCP.

Thinking of doing a Postgraduate course? Ellie takes a deep-dive into everything you need to know. 

My name is Ellie, and last year I completed my Masters in English Literary Studies with specialism in World and Postcolonial Cultures. For my Undergraduate degree I studied BA English, also here at Exeter.

When did you start thinking about become a postgraduate student, and why did you choose Exeter and that course? 

I was in the final year of my degree when I started thinking about going on to Postgraduate studies. Before this, I hadn’t really known what to do after my degree – I’ve always felt like the problem isn’t that I don’t know what I’m interested in, but that I’m interested in too many things! I guess this all changed when the pandemic hit.

In March 2020, I was in the second year of my degree, and COVID-19 arrived. I suddenly found myself back at home, my dog sat on my feet whilst I wrote my final deadlines and sat my last exams from the study. What I didn’t realise was how long the lockdowns and constant uncertainty would go on for, and at this moment in time I was so concentrated on just taking every day as it came, trying to focus on getting through my degree with COVID a constant threat, that I didn’t feel I could even begin to think about what I would do after Graduating.

“Whilst I was writing my dissertation I spent a long time thinking about my interests and where I should go next year (cue multiple existential crises). With the help of a 1:1 Careers Guidance appointment, and by attending a Career Zone event I decided that I definitely did want to go onto postgrad study.”

I returned to Exeter in September 2020, but ended up mainly studying from home for my final year after another lockdown was announced during Reading Week (all my seminars were held online for the year). Cut to early spring 2021, and I still didn’t have a plan for next year. It was during this time that I realised why I felt so under prepared for Graduating – I had only had half of a normal degree and University experience, and I felt cheated of the opportunity to be a student. I just felt that there was more for me at University. I also had not been able to gain any work experience like I had initially planned to help me decide what route I wanted to go down after Graduating. 

Whilst I was writing my dissertation I spent a long time thinking about my interests and where I should go next year (cue multiple existential crises). With the help of a 1:1 Careers Guidance appointment, and by attending a Career Zone event aimed at pre-graduation English and Film Students, I decided that I definitely did want to go onto Postgrad study. However, my interests fell into two clear paths: either I carried on with my more academic, English-based route, or I opted for a Postgrad qualification that gave me access to a healthcare role – something I’d always wondered about. Two of my main career interests have always been publishing and speech and language therapy, so I used Ask an Alum to set up zoom calls with Exeter alumni from each industry. This experience was invaluable, and I felt really lucky to have the opportunity to talk to two extremely interesting women about their careers.

During this time, I also used FindAMasters.com and the RCSLT (Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists) website to help me think about where I would go if I pursued either of these paths. I did a lot of Googling and found Russel Group university cities I thought I would like to live in, browsing the universities’ websites and contacting admissions and course convenors via email to find out if I would be a suitable applicant.

I had missed the date to apply for speech and language therapy, so would have to apply in Autumn 2022 for 2022/23 admissions if I was certain I wanted to go down this route. However, after so long of feeling in limbo during lockdown, I really wanted to have a plan for the next academic year, and I wasn’t sure with the current COVID situation what opportunities would be available to me if I opted for a gap year whilst I waited for the next Masters application window. I was also concerned that due to the pandemic I hadn’t been able to gain any work experience in this field, so thought that this would be a big commitment (in terms of career direction, time, and finances) if I didn’t enjoy the course from the offset.

“The 10% reduction on fees for returning Exeter students was also a big draw – studying at Postgrad level is a big financial commitment as ultimately it means more debt… Some Masters are extremely expensive, so it made sense to stay on at such a brilliant University for a fraction of the price of other courses.” 

This formed my decision to look further into a Masters in either publishing or English. I looked at lots of different courses at different universities, but I also reached out to my final year seminar leaders at Exeter who were convening both the brand-new Publishing Masters and the English Literary Studies Masters. I had various Teams calls with them so that I could ask more about the course and find out whether they thought I would be a good fit.

I was really encouraged by the fact that two of the best seminar leaders I have ever had were running each course, and this helped me decide that I wanted to stay at Exeter because I knew how brilliant the department were, so had complete faith that they would be excellent courses. The 10% reduction on fees for returning Exeter students was also a big draw – studying at Postgrad level is a big financial commitment as ultimately it means more debt, and you also don’t get a maintenance loan anymore, so I wanted to be smart about my choices. Some Masters are extremely expensive, so it made sense to stay on at such a brilliant University for a fraction of the price of other courses.  

Previously, whenever I had thought about doing a Masters, I had always thought I would take the opportunity to go somewhere new and study at a different university, but COVID meant that I had only been living in Exeter for just over half of my degree, and I felt that I had more to take from the city. I also knew that if we went into more lockdowns, I felt more secure in a city which I already knew, and where I already had a few friends.  

“…to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines, I would suggest you start thinking about whether you might like to pursue postgrad study the summer before final year begins.”

My next problem however was that I was torn between these two Masters, and really didn’t know which one to choose. In the end, I decided to apply for English Literary Studies, but to specialise in World and Postcolonial Cultures, which had become a clear area of interest for me since second year. You could opt for one of seven specialisms in the course (or pick an open, unspecialised pathway), and this one really stood out to me. I decided on this Masters over the Publishing Masters as I hadn’t managed to gain any publishing experience – I applied for a local publishing internship just before the pandemic, but unfortunately this opportunity folded as COVID erupted.

I had also applied for summer internships with both Penguin and Hachette, but hadn’t been one of the lucky few to be selected out of tens of thousands of applicants. Another thing that really swung it for me was that if I chose the ELS Masters, I was welcome to study a couple of modules from the Publishing Masters, so could still get a taste for the industry and have something relevant to refer to in any future interviews. I had a close friend who was also staying on at Exeter, and I applied as soon as I had finished my dissertation at the end of April.  

“…things can change whilst you’re doing final year – I didn’t start knowing I wanted to do a Masters, but I did end it knowing I wanted to.”

How did you write your Masters application/personal statement, and what was the process like? Do you have any tips for anyone thinking of postgraduate study? 

I really didn’t know how to write a Masters personal statement, but I used articles on Prospects and the Help with Applying for Postgraduate Study page on the Career Zone website to help me write a first draft. I also booked in for a 1:1 with a Careers Consultant who went through my application with me and suggested some minor tweaks (he also reassured me that he had never heard of an Exeter student being refused to stay on at Exeter for a Masters, which made me feel less nervous!).

The main things I tried to express were my passion for English and the specialism I was applying for, as well as the modules I had already taken at Exeter that had led me to discover my specialism. I had an advantage to students who had done their undergrad at different universities because I was able to pick out details from undergrad modules led by the MA convenors (who also knew me well) which I had really enjoyed. I also wrote about specific modules on the Masters programme that I would like to study, whilst expressing my enthusiasm to carry on in the English department at Exeter. My final application came in at around 1300 words. I pressed submit (… and then checked my emails constantly for the next few days!). I heard back within a week – I was really happy, and it felt like just the right step for me. Within a couple of weeks I was back in Exeter house hunting, and it all just fell into place from there. 

“…being a Postgrad student at Streatham is completely different to being an Undergrad… I knew it would be different, and I was hoping it would feel more adult, as opposed to feeling like I was 18 again.”

Because of COVID, things were a little bit different when I started thinking about Masters, but to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines, I would suggest you start thinking about whether you might like to pursue Postgrad study the summer before final year begins. This way you’ll have plenty of time to weigh up your different options, as a lot of courses have an application deadline early in the academic year (it varies on the course and the university). However, things can change whilst you’re doing final year – I didn’t start final year knowing I wanted to do a Masters, but I did end it knowing I wanted to. When I was looking into Masters within the English department at Exeter I was also met with constant reassurance that sometimes applications come in as late as a few weeks before the course starts, and they’re still just as likely to be accepted, so my seminar leaders were very clear in that there wasn’t a rush (however, this also depends on the size of the course and how many available spaces there are). 

“Something which is really nice about postgrad studies is that everyone really wants to be there, and you feel like you are treated in more of an adult manner, less like a student and more like an equal.”

What’s being a postgraduate at Streatham like? Is your course harder than your undergrad? What makes it so? Is there more work? 

It’s difficult to explain, but being a Postgrad student at Streatham is completely different to being an Undergrad, and I don’t think I really realised this before coming back to study for a Masters. I knew it would be different, and I was hoping it would feel more adult, as opposed to feeling like I was 18 again.

I’ve never had many contact hours for my course even during Undergrad, as English requires a huge amount of independent study, but this year I had only four contact hours a week (two two hour seminars). At Postgrad level you don’t have lectures, only small group seminars and very infrequent additional workshops or screenings. This didn’t feel like a big change, but I do think that during my Masters I have felt less immersed in the student experience and population, although I think that this was also caused by the onset of COVID.

I have also definitely found it harder to meet people at Postgrad level, and the amount of independent work (and the nature of most people working on quite different projects) means it can be quite isolating at times, so it’s really important to leave your laptop/books regularly! Another thing which is tricky is that almost all of my friends have now left Exeter, which can feel a bit odd when you’re still here, and definitely takes some getting used to, but you do get used to feeling more independent.  

My course is definitely harder than at Undergrad, but I also feel like I had a great foundation to start with going into it, compared to in first year where I felt thrown in at the deep end. At Postgrad level, you know what your interests are already and what they aren’t, which is just as important (this time round I knew to steer well clear of anything that smelt too Victorian!). The reading I’m required to do is a lot longer, but in my fourth year of being at University I know the systems that work for me, and also how to manage my workload – for the most part anyway!

Something which is really nice about Postgrad studies is that everyone really wants to be there, and you feel like you are treated in more of an adult manner, less like a student and more like an equal. There’s also more of a mix of ages at Postgrad level, whether students have had a year or two in between their undergrads and their Masters, or whether they are mature students who are coming back to education after decades away. I’ve really enjoyed meeting people from all walks of life who have bigger lives outside of University, and have found myself learning so much from not just my seminar leaders, but other students too. 

What’s your area of interest? 

My area of interest is my specialism: World and Postcolonial Cultures. When I started at University in first year, I really had no idea what I specifically enjoyed about English – I might have thought I did, but really there was so much more to learn than ever crossed my mind. From second year onwards I started to really connect with learning about literature from other parts of the world, loving deviating from the very white, male canon of privileged literature that has become so ingrained in our society. I quickly realised I would much rather read a short story collection about the refugee crisis by a Haitian author than read another Dickensian novel!  

Since my Modern History A Level, I have always had a huge interest in the British Empire and its shadow, and my specialism has given me the opportunity to explore postcolonial legacies and writing from minority cultures, something that has really broadened my understanding not just of literature, but of the world. I have also had the opportunity to take modules from the Publishing Masters and the Film Studies Masters, studying things as varied as the use of sound in films like Gravity, to BAME publishing initiatives in the UK, and novels by Korean, South African, and Kenyan authors. This specialism has allowed me to take my interest in different cultures to a new level, and has also led me to the topic of my Masters dissertation: the representation of race in British children’s literature. 

“There is no denying how difficult Postgrad study is… The deadlines are intense, with the heaviest end of module essays falling at the beginning of term, which means there’s never much opportunity to switch off over the Christmas/Easter holidays. It is also a much longer haul than undergrad academic years – I don’t finish until the very end of August.”

 Are you enjoying your Masters? 

It definitely took a bit of adjusting, but I have enjoyed this year – it’s taught me a lot about myself and what I enjoy and don’t enjoy. The course has been amazing, and the English department are incredibly supportive, down to earth, and so knowledgeable. I always describe my course and specialism as my favourite parts of my Undergrad rolled into one (without the less-fun bits!). I am really glad I chose this Masters – it’s been a really good stepping stone, and I have learnt so much more than I ever expected to. I also know that I can apply my new skills to the next stage of my life. There is no denying how difficult Postgrad study is however – you have to be 100% committed. The deadlines are intense, with the heaviest end of module essays falling at the beginning of term, which means there’s never much opportunity to switch off over the Christmas/Easter holidays.

It is also a much longer haul than Undergrad academic years – I don’t finish until the very end of August, so am only just starting to think about my dissertation when most Undergrads would have just submitted theirs. However, I think that studying at Postgrad level has really deepened and extended what my undergrad gave me, and I hope that this rigorous training will be noticed by any potential future employers. 

“I’ve worked as a part-time intern at the Career Zone… having a job is a brilliant way to structure your time into more manageable chunks. It also means that you know you’re going to have a certain amount of time every week where you don’t think about your own academic stresses”

Looking back, what advice would you give yourself before you started the process? 

Take things in your stride – whereas no academic year can be described as a sprint, if you thought an undergrad year was a marathon, a Masters is an ultramarathon. I was advised by a seminar leader to treat it like a 9-5 job – a little bit tricky if, like me, you also have a job, but good advice nonetheless! Another seminar leader told me it was two years’ worth of work squashed into one, which definitely summarises how full-on it is… Don’t worry about what other people are doing and what stage you’re at in comparison, just take it one step at a time, do your best, and you’ll get what you need from it.  

Even if you don’t have many contact hours, spend time on campus as it will make you feel less like you’re the only Postgrad student in the room! I’d also advise getting a job. This year I’ve worked as a part-time intern at the Career Zone, and although you will have more than enough to do without a job filling part of your week, having a job is a brilliant way to structure your time into more manageable chunks. It also means that you know you’re going to have a certain amount of time every week where you don’t think about your own academic stresses, and I always leave work feeling much fresher, and like everything has been put back into proportion. Plus, a Masters is expensive, and earning money whilst you study is not only helpful financially, but something which evidences your ability to manage your workload and juggle multiple commitments to future employers. 

“On a more practical note, studying can actually physically hurt… set timers on your phone to make sure you take regular tea breaks, and do some stretching while the kettle boils – it makes all the difference!”

On a more practical note, studying can actually physically hurt… set timers on your phone to make sure you take regular tea breaks, and do some stretching while the kettle boils – it makes all the difference! 

What’s next for you? 

I’m not sure what’s next for me yet. I’ve been so busy with my course this year that it’s been difficult to find the time to apply for jobs without sacrificing my deadlines, but I have been keeping an eye out on opportunities. I’m currently debating taking a gap year of sorts next year – organising some short-term work experience opportunities in different sectors, and maybe heading to Europe for a bit to au-pair. I’ve been in education for four years, so I think it’s time for a different experience. But first, come the end of August I’ll be having a big rest! 

Benjamin Woods, Head of Engineering, 10BE5 Ltd

Benjamin Woods, Head of Engineering for 10BE5. University of Exeter alumn and keen 5k runner.

Benjamin Woods is Head of Engineering  for 10Be5 Ltd He graduated from the University of Exeter with MPhys Physics in 2015.

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

After leaving Exeter in July 2015, I started a PhD at the University of York in Plasma Science and Fusion Energy. This involved some theoretical and computational physics, a lot of maths, and some machine learning. I submitted my thesis in August 2019.

Shortly after that, I began a brief postdoctoral position at the University of Leeds, working with machine learning algorithms.

My position ended in February 2020, and shortly after that I began working for The MathWorks as a Technical Writer, writing documentation for Parallel Computing Toolbox. While working at The MathWorks, I consulted for a legaltech startup, 10BE5 Ltd.

I left The MathWorks in 2021 to work full-time for 10BE5 as a Solution Architect, working in a Python / Node.js / React stack to provide tech solutions for law firms and other customers. 

“writing code is a much more of a creative process than many people think – for me, the creative part is as much of a draw as the technical side”

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

My career path lead me towards machine learning and computer science in the end. I feel that I always had a passion for computer science and data, and so this felt like a natural progression after my PhD. Although I am very much a physicist at heart, I love the design and thought processes that go into making code. From what I can tell, writing code is a much more of a creative process than many people think – for me, the creative part is as much of a draw as the technical side. 

“my year bonded together very well and looked out for each other… if anyone was struggling with lecture content, or finding it tough to revise, most people were happy to chip in and have a chat.”

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

Course wise, I loved the modules that were leaning more toward maths or theoretical physics. I was very much a fan of Analytical and Chaotic Dynamics (PHY2032), and Quantum Many Body Theory (PHYM013). Outside of the course content, for me the community was the best thing – I felt that my year bonded together very well and looked out for each other. For me at least, it seemed like if anyone was struggling with lecture content, or finding it tough to revise, most people were happy to chip in and have a chat. Being able to openly discuss tough parts of the course with other students in the year was an invaluable thing. (And to be honest, it’s quite a rare thing to find that level of support amongst peers in the outside world!) 

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

For me, the course itself really set me up well for my time in academia – even though I didn’t do any plasma physics in my course, I felt like I had a strong enough physics background to apply for a PhD outside of the area I specialized in for my Masters project (which was a bit of a gamble!) 

“Although it’s easy to get frustrated with your critics, don’t hate them. They’re very important. Your research grows stronger and more important with every critic to defeat. However, if you can’t justify the value of your research, you have to accept that they might be right.”

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

Coding: write plenty of code, read plenty of code, and talk with coders. Learning programming languages is like a real language – immersion is the fastest way to fluency. Academia: to succeed, you have to both do good research and sell that research. Although it’s easy to get frustrated with your critics, don’t hate them. They’re very important. Your research grows stronger and more important with every critic to defeat. However, if you can’t justify the value of your research, you have to accept that they might be right. Being stubborn will only get you so far. Many times, researchers have “settled” for simpler problems, and made entire careers out of what they initially thought was a fairly trivial problem… 

“…write plenty of code, read plenty of code, and talk with coders”

What are your plans for the future?  

I’d like to work on some more open source projects. I’d also like to get my 5k time a bit better… 

My Career in Translation – Wing Sze Hung

Wing Sze Hung Graduated from the University of Exeter in MA International Relations, 2016.

Wing Sze Hung University of Exeter Alumn, and Official Languages Officer for the Fire Services Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Government.

She’s currently Official Languages Officer for the Fire Services Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Government.

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

I joined FILA Hong Kong in Feb 2019 as a translator/interpreter for the Irish Design Director, then became an Official Languages Officer of the Hong Kong Government in Sep 2019 and have been working under the Fire Services Department until now.

My main duties include translating articles from Chinese to English and vice versa, vetting Chinese and English materials, and drafting Chinese apothegms/couplets. I also work for the Duty Lawyer Service after office hours to provide interpretation while foreign lawyers offer their legal advice to non-English speaking residents. 

“Although it may sound boring to keep translating/refining articles everyday, I can put my hands on different materials ranging from lighthearted promotional leaflets to professional operational manuals, so much fun indeed!”

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

I did my bachelor degree in translation in Hong Kong and I always enjoy working with languages. I worked for a private translation company before travelling to Exeter. I applied for the post of Official Languages Officer after graduation in Oct 2018.

I got an offer after passing a series of written test, sight translation test and interview. I enjoy the variety of jobs I am exposed to in my current position. Although it may sound boring to keep translating/refining articles everyday, I can put my hands on different materials ranging from lighthearted promotional leaflets to professional operational manuals, so much fun indeed! I also have two supportive supervisors and a team of superb colleagues. 

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

Back when I was doing my bachelor degree, study life was quite relaxing and stress-free. In contrast, doing a MA in International Relations was tough, especially in the first Term, when I found it hard to complete all the weekly readings but I had to do so or else I would not be able to join the class discussions.

That said, I enjoyed having to be so hard working, because it proved I had made a right decision to leave my family, travel such a long way and pay a relative high tuition fee to study abroad. The biggest highlight was that I was “trained” to be more expressive in classes. In Hong Kong the lecturer/professor was the main speaker and students would not even raise questions in class, but in Exeter the lecturer/professor was more like a moderator who facilitated class discussions and raised new insights/challenges to students.

I remember being the only non-European student in Dr. Alex Prichard’s “Power and Institution” (still not a compulsory course back then), he often invited me to share my views in class, which freaked me out because I could not really understand the reading materials and I was afraid that I would say something wrong. I want to thank Alex for probably unknowingly pushing me to be a better self, if he never had encouraged me to speak up, I would just remain silent in class and learn much less than I could.

Another highlight was the learning environment in class and after-class. I heard from my housemate that many of the students in the Business School were Chinese, but in the Politics departments, I was happily the minority and got a chance to submerge in a fully-English learning environment. My proficiency in English, no matter written or oral, has significantly increased, and it is a life-long benefit to my career development. My classmates are all very friendly. 

“The knowledge and theories in International Relations may not be directly related to my career today, but my writing, critical-thinking, communication and inter-personal skills have all advanced from my time in Exeter.”

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

The knowledge and theories in International Relations may not be directly related to my career today, but my writing, critical-thinking, communication and inter-personal skills have all advanced from my time in Exeter. The former two have been particularly useful for my career since my main duties are exactly to write and to improve other’s writing.

Having written a number of essays in Exeter and received constructive comments from my lecturers, I could spot out most of the problems in the articles handed over to us for our vetting, including unclear and illogical writing and bad English usage, then reorganise the ideas and put them back on the right track. As for the latter two, they are essential for me to maintain a close working relationship with my colleagues and communicate my ideas with officers from other divisions. 

“Nearly everyone in the translation field can write well, but not a lot are confident and skilled enough to interpret. It will definitely be a bonus if you can handle consecutive and even simultaneous interpretation.”

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

Strengthen your fundamental language skills, especially oral communication. Nearly everyone in the translation field can write well, but not a lot are confident and skilled enough to interpret. It will definitely be a bonus if you can handle consecutive and even simultaneous interpretation. Be prepared at all times. 

What are your plans for the future?  

I will remain serving the Fire Services Department for a year, then get posted to another Government Department. This appears to be a clear and reliable path for me but I am also trying to look for overseas job opportunities in face of the changing environment in Hong Kong. 

Josh Brown, Academy Analyst, Arsenal FC

Josh Brown, Exeter alumn and Academy Analyst, Arsenal FC.

Josh Brown graduated with BA (Hons) Politics, Philosophy and Economics in 2020. He’s currently Academy Analyst for Arsenal FC.*

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

Since leaving Exeter, I completed an MSc in Sports Performance Analysis at the University of Chichester alongside work at Millwall Football Club, before being recruited to join AFC Bournemouth as an Academy Analyst. My job essentially is to support academy footballers across the age groups by providing statistical and video analysis of fixtures and training, and with the full-time pros, helping to acclimatise them in an elite sporting environment by providing pre- and post-match analysis of opposition and fixtures.  

“I always loved sport, and I knew I wanted a job that was dynamic, fast-paced and rewarding – and football analysis matched this up with my academic strengths”

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

I always loved sport, and I knew I wanted a job that was dynamic, fast-paced and rewarding – and football analysis matched this up with my academic strengths, so seemed a natural progression from my undergraduate degree. I love the fact that my work involves such close contact with professional players and coaches – I find myself questioning a lot of what I assumed to be true about football after conversations at work – and as a result, that I can feel myself developing my knowledge of the elite game rapidly. In such a tight-knit environment, relationships with players is fundamental to any success, and I consider myself very fortunate that I’ve worked with brilliant sets of players across both clubs I’ve been at. 

“I find myself questioning a lot of what I assumed to be true about football after conversations at work – and as a result, that I can feel myself developing my knowledge of the elite game rapidly.”

Were a member of any societies, groups or sports clubs? 

I was part of Exeter University Men’s Cricket Club for two seasons, playing BUCS fixtures in the summer, and was also Sports Editor at Exeposé for two years. I was also fortunate enough to work for Exeter City FC in a voluntary media capacity, which was fantastic exposure into professional football and I was lucky enough to meet people at the Club who shaped my career ambitions.  

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

I enjoyed that I was able to study such a variety of modules – I studied everything from the Philosophy of the Body and Mind to the Changing Character of Warfare. It allowed me to pursue my own interests, and studying three academic perspectives simultaneously meant I developed an ability to understand topics through a multi-disciplinary approach – something I’ve found invaluable in my professional working life.  

 What did you enjoy most about studying at Exeter? 

The best thing for me about studying at Exeter was that I could get everything I wanted out of the University experience – the academic side was as challenging as I wanted it to be, but I also had the time to pursue my extra-curricular interests such as playing competitive sport. Being able to work in world-leading facilities on Streatham campus was an experience I won’t ever forget. 

“Being able to approach topics from a multi-disciplinary perspective has been essential in my work; being able to examine player development across a spectrum of spheres – from sports science, to coaching, to analysis and education – has given me a really well-rounded platform to for my job.”

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

Being able to approach topics from a multi-disciplinary perspective has been essential in my work; being able to examine player development across a spectrum of spheres – from sports science, to coaching, to analysis and education – has given me a really well-rounded platform to for my job. I also find the analytical process that my experience at Exeter helped develop has been important in helping me place football in the wider social sphere – it was a topic I explored in my dissertation, but find myself constantly referring to in debates about football. 

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

Firstly, get networking – LinkedIn is absolutely vital in accessing others in elite sport, who typically aren’t as publicly available as (for example) big firms in other industries, who likely have graduate schemes or other programmes that provide a pathway into employment. Football can be a very nepotistic industry to work in and without connections it’s almost impossible to get anywhere! Secondly, get writing – football analysis in particular is – for me – about being able to say 100 things about 1 team, not 1 thing about 100 teams. The best way to explore these ideas is longer-form writing, ideally integrating data, video and visuals into articles. I read a lot outside of my working hours, and I know staff at other clubs who have been hired off the back of their self-published work – so it’s the best way of getting noticed. Most of the time, it’s not necessarily about the argument you’re making, but how you make it. 

“Firstly, get networking – LinkedIn is absolutely vital in accessing others in elite sport. Football can be a very nepotistic industry to work in and without connections it’s almost impossible to get anywhere! Secondly, get writing – football analysis in particular is – for me – about being able to say 100 things about 1 team, not 1 thing about 100 teams.”

What are your plans for the future? 

I want to progress into working within an elite first-team environment in the Premier League, or another elite European league.

*At the time of writing this content Josh was working for AFC Bournemouth, but moved to Arsenal FC in September 2022. Congrats on your new job!

Get started with the Career Zone

Chloe Mabberley graduated from University of Exeter in July 2022 with a BA in History, she worked in the Career Zone as a SCP Career Zone Assistant in her final year. We spoke to Chloe about her internship experience and asked what advice she would give students thinking about their careers or considering an internship with the Career Zone and what skills she had learnt to take her into the workplace.

You were recently awarded a First in History. How did you find balancing your studies and an SCP role?

It’s all about time management and learning what to prioritise. Luckily, when you are an SCP or SBP, your employer knows that your studies will take priority sometimes and they are very flexible with shifts and if you need to change or swap shifts with someone. When you have a deadline looming, it’s often quite nice to come to work and think about something else for a few hours. I use planners to help me stay on track of daily and weekly goals, meaning that I never fell behind and could always find time to do university work. Making sure you have a good sleep schedule too. Having a 9am shift twice a week, meant I was up early, and once I had finished work at 1pm I still had lots of time to do essays in the afternoon.

What 3 things would you like to tell students now you have worked in the Career Zone?

“Use the Career Zone website, there is a vast amount of information on there that is incredibly useful. CV advice, Interview help, information about different job sectors, and personality tests to find out what kind of job might suit you if you are feeling lost!”

  1. Use the Career Zone website, there is a vast amount of information on there that is incredibly useful. CV advice, Interview help, information about different job sectors, and personality tests to find out what kind of job might suit you if you are feeling lost!
  2. Make a LinkedIn account early and start connecting with people you know. Make sure your profile is up to scratch and keep it professional. Recruiters often reach out to people directly on LinkedIn, so you never know what opportunities are out there for the taking.
  3. Start early! Trying to figure out what to do after university can be stressful, so the earlier you start gaining experience and looking at your options, the better.

“Start early! Trying to figure out what to do after university can be stressful, so the earlier you start gaining experience and looking at your options, the better.”

What have you learnt about yourself since working in the Career Zone and how has it helped you in your steps towards your future career?

It has helped me to identify my strengths and weaknesses in the workplace. It has taught me that I enjoy working with people and helping others in a role. It has also taught me that I love looking at CVs, applications, and that sort of thing, as I find it really interesting seeing how people sell themselves on paper.  It has given me more experience in customer service, problem solving, attention to detail, communication skills, project management, and many more skills that I can take into the workplace.

I now know that I want a job that involves working in a team and for an employer that values your opinion and input.

What have you enjoyed and gained from the experience as an SCP in the Career Zone?

As someone who has always struggled with not knowing what career path to take, I have really enjoyed helping students who are in a similar situation. When students come to see us in person, looking worried and a bit lost, it makes my day when I see them leave feeling much more confident about their career after I’ve given them lots of resources to look at, or booked them in for an appointment.

When students come to see us in person, looking worried and a bit lost, it makes my day when I see them leave feeling much more confident about their career.”

Have you received any career advice since you have been working at the Career Zone?

Yes, I recently had a CV review with an advisor, and it helped me massively. She showed me how to take my CV to the next level and really impress employers. She also showed me how going into more detail about my degree, achievements, and work experience can demonstrate to employers the skills I have, instead of just simply listing them on my CV. I would definitely recommend having a CV review at the Career Zone.

What advice would you give to students who are writing their CVs or cover letters now?

Use all the resources on the Career Zone website, there is a CV builder that will make your CV for you, an instant reviewer called CV360 that uses AI technology, example CVs, webinar recordings from Career Consultants, and loads more. If you still feel stuck, book in for a review appointment with one of the advisors!

Have you had any other appointments whilst at the Career Zone?

I had a Career Guidance appointment with a Careers Consultant, which was very useful. I had done some research on different sectors I was interested in, but she gave me some more expert knowledge about them and where I could look for opportunities and find out about potential qualifications I would need. I would encourage students to do their own research first before an appointment, as this means you can get much more out of the 30-minute slot and have more of an in-depth discussion with the consultant.

We understand that you are going to take some time out to travel, as you were unable to during the pandemic.  What are your thoughts about what you want to do with your career planning for your return and longer-term?

The plan at the moment is to apply for some graduate roles for the September 2023 intake and see how those applications go. If I’m unsuccessful or don’t find any roles I am interested in applying for then I would like to look for other opportunities in London. I’d like to live there for a few years for the experience, maybe in sectors such as HR or recruitment, but who knows, I’m open to lots of things!   I’d like to end up in a role that enables me to work with people and something that I genuinely enjoy. Seeing the work that Careers Consultants do has sparked an interest in potentially pursuing this line of work or working in a university setting in general.

What would you recommend to any student thinking of taking an internship with the Career Zone?

Apply! It has been great working for the Career Zone during my final year. The internships that the University offers are flexible, well-paid, look good on your CV, and can teach you loads of new skills to bring to the workplace after you finish your studies.

What is the best advice you have been given regarding your employability, career planning?

Do a job that you enjoy! If you’re going to be working for 30 years, you may as well do something you like.

What advice would you give to others who are thinking about their next steps in their career planning?

Start planning early, but if you haven’t don’t let it stress you out too much as it’s not worth it. See rejection as a sign of redirection, sometimes the job just wasn’t meant for you and means you could potentially land the perfect job at your next interview. If you are really struggling or don’t know where to start, contact the Career Zone who will be happy to help you out.

“Start planning early, but if you haven’t don’t let it stress you out too much as it’s not worth it. See rejection as a sign of redirection, sometimes the job just wasn’t meant for you and means you could potentially land the perfect job at your next interview. If you are really struggling or don’t know where to start, contact the Career Zone who will be happy to help you out. “

The Career Zone recruit SCPs in the Spring and sometimes the Autumn term. Find out how you can improve your employability and find SCP internships by visiting the Career Zone or by searching on Handshake.

 

10 ways to make the most of your summer as an international student

Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant for the University of Exeter Business School.

It certainly feels like summer in the UK right now with the longer days and the sun shining. For most of you, classes are over and it feels like you have some time on your hands. How can you make the most of it as an international student? 

1 Relax: You deserve it! After a hard year studying, it’s important to recharge your energy by resting. Catch up on your sleep. Read a book. Binge watch movies. If English is your second language, try and watch / read in English as this is a fantastic (and enjoyable) way to improve your skills. This is especially important if you want to work in the UK after your studies, as employers will expect you to have excellent written and spoken English. 

2 Explore the UK (or at least Devon and Cornwall!): You’ve explored Exeter but now you have some free time. Why not go a little further? The South West has so much to offer. This list from Go South West England has 30+ Awesome Places to Visit in South West England . While you soak up the British scenery, why not learn more about our culture too? Chat to people you encounter – you’ll find most people are very friendly. Even better, invite your UK course mates to accompany you. They can provide a brilliant insight into the typical habits and behaviours of the British including Cockneys, Brummies, Janners and Scousers (if you have no idea what I’m talking about, this list of all the best British regional nicknames will help!).

If you want to work in the UK after your studies, employers will want you to be familiar with UK culture, and be really comfortable interacting with local people. Even if you don’t plan to work in the UK, employers back home or anywhere else in the world will be impressed by your intercultural learning. 

3 Get more out of your part time job. If you are an undergraduate with a part time job, you can work more hours during the summer. These guidelines from International Student Support explain the visa rules. If you are a master’s student, you can work full time from the end of your  final term.  

You may think your part time job isn’t relevant for your future career. Maybe it isn’t right now- but could you make it more relevant? Could you create a learning opportunity for yourself? Mika, a Business Analytics master’s student did exactly this. She had a part-time job as a cashier at Primark, but knew they had a data team. As she was aiming for a data career, she asked her manager if she could shadow the data team for a week. They said yes, and Mika learned so much. She made the most of the experience by starting conversations about possible graduate opportunities. What opportunities could your part time employer offer you? 

4 Find work. The summer is a good time to find work if you would like some. Many hotels, restaurants, and other tourist-dependent businesses employ extra staff on a casual basis. You can find summer jobs on Handshake or other job sites, but often companies simply put notices in their windows and expect people to drop in and ask about jobs. You could create a part-time CV and print off some copies to take to employers. A part-time CV will follow quite a different style and focus to a CV for a graduate role though. Here’s an example of what a part time CV might look like, with a focus on relevant skills. Come and see us if you’d like help with your part time CV. 

Remember that part time work that is completely unrelated to the career area you want to go into after your studies, is useful. This is because employers in the UK love transferable skills, and part time jobs give you lots of them! Don’t work too hard though — you deserve a break after a year of study!

5 Find an internship or other work-based experience: Many international students would love an internship over the summer. The summer break feels like the perfect time to boost your CV while your studies are paused. Finding a summer internship might not be as straightforward as you’d like though, for a couple of reasons: 

  • Internships in the UK are not as plentiful as they are in some other countries. 
  • Many UK internships are advertised and filled well in advance of the summer, often during the autumn term.  
  • UK internships are often competitive with long and complex application processes. 

Don’t give up on the idea of doing an internship, there are still some options! You may still find some internships available – have a look on Handshake or simply search online for “internship” plus the type of internship you’d like- for example “internship banking”.  

At Exeter we run our own internships, our Student Campus Partnerships (internships on campus) and Student Business Partnerships (internships with local businesses). You can search for them on Handshake.   

You could also complete a virtual internship- one of the good things that came out of a global pandemic! Virtual internships are really flexible, can be done from your bedroom (or sunbed) and many large, well known employers are offering them through The Forage. 

6 Learn new skills  The University of Exeter has a premium subscription to LinkedIn Learning and all students can access it for free; just sign in using your University email address and password. Find out more about using LinkedIn learning to learn new skills. There are lots of super courses on LinkedIn that will supercharge your employability, on everything from data analytics to networking.  

FutureLearn partners with top international universities to offer a wide range of online courses. Most courses have an option to access content free for a limited period, and cover topics such as marketing or sustainable fashion.  

7 Explore your career ideas. During term time there’s a lot to think about. The summer is a great time to focus your mind on your career ideas. It’s worth doing this as an international student because jobs and job titles in your home country might not match jobs and job titles in the UK. You can find out more about the kinds of jobs Exeter graduates go into from your degree or find out more about a specific job role using the Prospects website.  

8 Get help from Career Zone. Many university staff are taking a well earned rest over the summer, but Career Zone is still open. You can book appointments, browse our workshops or look through our huge library of digital support.  

9 Have fun. The sun doesn’t always shine in the UK- make the most of this opportunity to enjoy it. After all, you have put a lot of time and effort into your studies at Exeter. You deserve some fun too.  

10 Having fun is so important, it’s also at number 10.  

We hope you enjoyed our list of 10 ways to make the most of your summer as an international student! Which one are you going to do first? 

 

Getting into Communications

Natasha Trendall graduated from the University of Exeter with BA History in 2003. She’s currently Communications and Engagement Manager, EY

Natasha Trendall, Exeter Alum and current Communications and Engagement Manager, EY

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

Since leaving Exeter I’ve built a career in communications. I started in a global PR agency, doing external communications and media relations for a range of financial services clients. I then moved to a large British bank to do employee communications, taking on a number of different internal comms roles over a six year period, before moving to a large global professional services company to do communications & engagement.

Employee communications is less well known than PR and it’s certainly not a job or career I was aware of when I graduated. My job involves engaging employees in the company strategy, helping them to do their jobs well by supporting collaboration, information sharing and best practice and, ultimately, driving business objectives by helping to build a workforce of happy, productive and engaged employees.

“I enjoy translating complex business ideas into clear, concise messages that employees can understand… there is lots of scope for creativity and writing.”

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

I fell into communications rather than choosing it, but I’ve stayed because I enjoy translating complex business ideas into clear, concise messages that employees can understand. I’m interested in being part of the machine that helps make work a better place for employees, and there is lots of scope for creativity and writing.

My job often involves working with the most senior leaders in an organisation (C-suite level), which is a privilege, and also demanding! The work is varied, from writing a message from the CEO to all employees, designing a campaign and running an event, to supporting a culture change programme.

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

Writing, interpreting and organising information, study discipline, reading, editing, proofing and developing relationships with people outside my previous experience.

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

There often aren’t many entry level roles in internal communications, but getting any kind of communications experience will be helpful, whether that’s in Marketing, PR, media relations, brand, events or even HR – these are all related disciplines that work closely with employee communications and require many of the same skills.

Good people skills and emotional intelligence are also vital – you need to be able to develop relationships at all levels of an organisation and have confidence when dealing with very senior people, so any experience that helps you build those influencing skills will be very helpful.

“As current students entering the workforce now you will bring a unique perspective and understanding of your generation to employers of an older generation who need to communicate with people like you.”

As current students entering the workforce now you will bring a unique perspective and understanding of your generation to employers of an older generation who need to communicate with people like you – so leverage that advantage and think about how you like to be communicated with and what you would like your experience at work to be!

What are your plans for the future?     

I’m currently studying part-time for an MSc in Psychology and interested in either pursuing that to become an occupational psychologist or moving into Human Resources – a role where I can be more directly involved in making the workplace better for people. I’m particularly interested in workplace mental health, wellbeing and belonging.

Alumni Profile – Issa Belmond Thullah, Research and Security Analyst, Office of National Security, Sierra Leone

Issa Belmond Thullah, Exeter Alumn and current Research and Security Analyst, Office of National Security, Sierra Leone.

Issa Belmond Thullah graduated from the University of Exeter in MA Applied Security and Strategy, 2020. He’s currently Research and Security Analyst, Office of National Security, Sierra Leone.

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

When I left Exeter, I returned home to work for the Office of National Security which is the main coordinating outfit within the security sector, and advises the President of the country on national security matters. Currently, I am contributing to the wider security sector efforts to prepare for, and respond effectively to, threats and hazards that impact on the peace and safety of communities in Sierra Leone. 

“I choose this career because of my past. Between 1991 and 2002, Sierra Leone suffered a brutal civil war that devastated the country to almost irreparable proportions. I was always striving to make a change in my country that will help to resuscitate the lives of those who were affected by the war and to ensure that such does not repeat itself.”

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

I choose this career because of my past. Between 1991 and 2002, Sierra Leone suffered a brutal civil war that devastated the country to almost irreparable proportions. The war left 50,000 dead and 20,000 mutilated, while three quarters of the population displaced. I witnessed my country crumbled and succumbed to the atrocities of the war. Lodged with this experience, I was always striving to make a change in my country that will help to resuscitate the lives of those who were affected by the war and to ensure that such does not repeat itself. This is why I decided to work in the security sector to help stabilize the country and create the enabling environment for peace and development to thrive. What I enjoyed most about my job is working with diverse people and changing society for the better. 

“The course is exceptional not just because of its rich academic package, but also the noteworthy field trips and experience sharing by practitioners, offered by external speakers.”

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

What I enjoyed most about the MA Applied Security and Strategy programme is the perfect dialogue between theory and practice. The course is exceptional not just because of its rich academic package, but also the noteworthy field trips and experience sharing by practitioners, offered by external speakers. Students are availed the opportunity to apply their knowledge in real life situations and get their career ready. My biggest highlight is the field trips to the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London and Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (ARRC) in Gloucestershire. 

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

The field of security and strategy is dynamic enough to accommodate a variety of skills and competencies. However, those I consider most useful are adaptability and problem solving, leadership and administration, innovation and strong work ethic, critical thinking, communication, organization and time-management, data analysis, project design and management.  

“Use your time at the University to engage as much as you can with materials and people to hone your skills and get your career ready.”

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

Chosen security and strategy is a great choice. Use your time at the University to engage as much as you can with materials and people to hone your skills and get your career ready. The field of security and strategy offers many career opportunities with satisfactory experience. One is assured of employment in the government, think-tanks, defence and intelligence industry, companies engaged in security research and analysis, non-profit organisations etc. There is so much prospect to grow and live your dreams. 

What are your plans for the future?  

In the long run, my goal is to move up the hierarchy of the national security sector architecture and be part of the highest bodies for the consideration and determination of matters of security and development in my country. Also, I intend to pursue an academic career as university professor. 

Introducing Ask An Alum

Ask An Alum

Emily Im is a final year student studying BA English at the University of Exeter. In 2020, she took part in Ask An Alum (previously eXepert) where University of Exeter students and recent graduates connect with University of Exeter alumni to ask questions about their careers.

What is Ask An Alum?

Ask An Alum is an information gathering employability programme connecting students and graduates with Exeter alumni.  AAA facilitates a short-term email exchange allowing students and graduates to ask questions and get advice. There are over 500 alumni available during term-time to contact from various sectors and organisations giving you a range of options.

Why did you apply for Ask An Alum?

During my first year, I was thinking of ways I could learn more about the publishing industry and I found information on Ask An Alum in a Careers newsletter. I didn’t have many contacts and only a little publishing experience at the time, so I thought this was a great opportunity to get advice from a professional.

“I didn’t have many contacts and only a little publishing experience at the time, so I thought this was a great opportunity to get advice from a professional.”

How did you apply?

I submitted an application form detailing my interests and which alumni I wanted to speak to and within a few days, I was connected to the Publishing Director of The Borough Press, which is a literary fiction imprint of HarperFiction. It was super quick and easy!

What kind of alum are available?

If you’re a student, you can access the Ask An Alum database via Handshake and on there, you’ll find people who work for Bloomsbury Publishing, Oxford University Press and Routledge to name a few companies. You can also see what they studied while they were at Exeter. I think it’s useful knowing so many alumni have degrees that aren’t directly related to their current jobs and there are multiple career paths you can go down no matter what you’ve done at university.

If you’re not interested in publishing, there are alum who work in law firms, healthcare companies, higher education, marketing, etc. There are so many different job titles—you can even get in touch with CEOs.

“Within a few days, I was connected to the Publishing Director of The Borough Press, which is a literary fiction imprint of HarperFiction.”

What did you ask your alum?

I had so many questions and luckily, she answered all of them. We talked about her career journey since her time at university, what work experience she did, things that I could do to stand out, her daily tasks, her work-life balance, HarperCollins’ blind recruitment process and much more! There’s a useful list of questions on the Ask An Alum website if you need some inspiration on what to ask.

We started emailing around the end of January and were still in contact when the pandemic hit so I was able to enquire about how the publishing industry was being impacted and what it meant for people seeking internships. I didn’t ask for an internship since that isn’t allowed but she did let me know publishing companies had no remote working opportunities available. Times have changed though!

How do you think Ask An Alum has helped you?

It was great gaining a more personal perspective of the publishing industry and learning about the journey she took to get in. She told me things a quick Google search can’t. It was also reassuring to know she didn’t have much experience when she left university and had multiple roles at different companies before she eventually landed at HarperCollins.

“She told me things a Google search can’t.”

What advice would you give to a student interested in applying to Ask An Alum?

Apply! There’s no pressure. Although it’s a professional connection, it feels like a relaxed conversation. The person you’re emailing wants to help you so don’t be afraid to ask hard questions too.

Would you use the scheme again?

Absolutely! I would still love to work in publishing but I’m also looking into other sectors. There’s an unlimited number of times you can apply, and even after you graduate, you can participate in Ask An Alum for up to three years so I know that when I need some guidance, I can come back to this programme.

Discover how you can get ahead with your career and make powerful connections, learn more about Ask an Alum