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. 

Returning Home and Impressing Employers with your Time in the UK

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

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

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

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

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

1 Stay connected to the job market in your home country

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

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

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

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

2 Don’t forget connections at home

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

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

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

3 Make the most of your time in the UK

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

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

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

4 Think about what makes you unique

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

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

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

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

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

5 Be prepared to describe your skills and learning

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

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

6 Get ready to describe the University of Exeter

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

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

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

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

8 Be realistic

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

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

9 Be prepared for reverse culture shock

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

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

10 Stay in touch

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

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

Should I stay or should I go?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what are your options?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your plans for the future?

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

The Career Zone – Helping you Reach your Career Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or you can live chat with us on our website

email careers@exeter.ac.uk

call us 01392 724493 9am – 5pm

Monday to Friday, including Vacations 

How to Use your Finance Degree to Pursue a Career in Jordan

Raniah Raed Talal Shawkat, University of Exeter alumn, and current Acting Credit Manager, Iiwwa Inc, Jordan

Raniah Raed Talal Shawkat graduated from the University of Exeter with an Msc in Finance and Management. She’s currently Acting Credit Manager, Iiwwa Inc, Jordan.

Where do you currently live and work? 

I now live and work in Jordan. After my studies in Exeter, I joined multiple internships then started working as credit officer for SMEs clients at liwwa, Inc. I’ve been with them for 3 years and 3 months, and recently promoted as Acting Credit Manager.

Why did you choose to pursue this career?

I chose this career as it needs analytical skills in addition to decision making, which I like. And I can use the knowledge and skills acquired during my studies to implement and develop through this career.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?

The first point as it is one of the top UK universities, the second thing is my interest in the programme I wanted to study and finally its location as I know some relatives and friends who studied there previously and could gave me ideas and advice about the city. I liked everything about Exeter: the city, the campus, the availability of resources at the library.

Why did you choose your particular degree subject?

I liked the programme and its modules. I also took into account recommendations form friends studied there before me.

How did your degree help you prepare for the position you are in now?

It taught me analytical thinking, quick problem solving, ownership, entrepreneurship, solidarity, agility, and active listening.

Please tell us about the application process for your graduate job, and how you prepared and/or managed this?

I found the job through LinkedIn, went through multiple interviews, the cover letter and a follow up email reflecting on the interview, expressing the interest, the skills and values that can be added had a good impact.

Did you use the Career Zone whilst at Exeter? If so, what especially helped?

I attended some job fairs at the campus which was helpful to get an idea and planning about the career.

What aspects of your UK university education worked in your favour during the application process?

I could sense the focus on developing analytical skills and strategic thinking. Also, living abroad alone for the first time in my life taught me a lot of things and made me a stronger person mentally.

What did you do at university that you think gave you a competitive advantage in the job market in your home-country?

The practical dissertation part of my degree. It gave me the opportunity to work on a real life cases, analyse the financial theories and practice forecasting and valuation which solidified all that I had learnt through the programme on a practical level. I also was a member of the Financial group.

What were the biggest obstacles in gaining a graduate job in your home-country?

There is almost no or very rare organizations that offer internships for graduates, this has a bad impact especially for people who didn’t gain much experience before getting their postgraduate degree.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were applying for opportunities?

The importance of continuous learning and obtaining professional qualifications.

What is your advice for any international student seeking a career in finance and wanting to follow a similar path to you?

I would encourage them to focus on their studies from the first day they join the school.

Our alumni networks in these countries are available to help you socially and professionally now and in the future. You can connect with them whilst you are a student to take advantage of their support when you are back home during holiday season, and of course, reach out to them when you graduate.

The Alumni Office organise regular virtual employability events, which are a useful resource both for graduates and current students. For a full listing of events, please click here and to watch historic records, please click here

Alumni Profile – André Luis Martins Filho, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Uello

André Luis Martins Filho studied Bsc Engineering and Management at the University of Exeter on a 1 year exchange program, Graduating in 2016. He is the Co-Founder and Head of Product at Uello

André Luis Martins Filho, University of Exeter alumni, and Co-Founder and Head of Product at Uello

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

As soon as I left Exeter, I came back to Brazil and co-founded Uello, a logistics tech startup. Going straight from the University to founding a startup is not your usual career path, and it has been very demanding. We began as a company of just 2 people sitting in a co-working space, validating the business model. Today we have over 90 employees, 10,000+registered drivers, and have delivered over 2 million packages in Brazil with an innovative business model revolving around the gig economy and technology. When you found a startup, you have to do a little bit of everything from carrying boxes in warehouses and delivering packages to modelling the business plan, planning budgets and building operational processes. Today, I lead the product division of the company and am responsible for identifying, prioritizing and delivering technology and product enhancements.

“When you found a startup, you have to do a little bit of everything from carrying boxes in warehouses and delivering packages to modelling the business plan, planning budgets and building operational processes.”

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

I always liked doing things differently than expected. At Exeter, for example, I sought out experiences that I would have never had in Brazil, such as being a part of the Rifle Club. Many of my friends and classmates from University were seeking out careers in banking, corporate or consulting, but I wanted a different experience. What I enjoy most about my work is how much ownership I have. I am a part of every major decision that the company makes and am involved in every step in a way it would take me years to achieve had I followed a more traditional career path. I also like the fact that I can look back and be proud of how much we built from scratch; it is very satisfying and keeps me going even in the hardest times.

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

I have always been a very practical person; I prefer to get my hands dirty and actually execute rather than just study. The Engineering and Management course provided me with several opportunities to visit actual companies and see our studies in action and being implemented. My final paper, which I wrote under the tutelage of Prof Voicu Ion Sucala, was a wonderful experience exactly for this reason. I got to work with a metal manufacturing company directly and simulate their processes in different scenarios. It was great to present my results and to know they would be used to generate positive results for a real company. I left wanting to experience that again with more intensity.

What did you enjoy most about studying here?

I enjoyed how international my experience in Exeter was. I got to meet people from all over the world, to live among them, and learn a lot from them. It expanded my horizons a lot.

“What I enjoy most about my work is how much ownership I have. I am a part of every major decision that the company makes and am involved in every step in a way it would take me years to achieve had I followed a more traditional career path.”

Why did you choose to study at Exeter?

The University of Exeter was one of the most prestigious and recognized universities available within the scholarship programme I was a part of. At the time, though I was studying engineering, I very much wanted to pursue a career in business. The Engineering and Management course seemed like a great fit for what I wanted, and my experience at Exeter and how it has influenced me since underscores how great that choice has been for me.

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

In an early stage startup everyone has to be generalist to some extent. There are just not enough people to have specialization. So I think that being able to navigate through most areas of a business whilst not necessarily being a specialist in any was invaluable. Courses like Business, Engineering and Management and others provide the necessary knowledge to become that generalist. For a startup, being tech savvy enough to communicate with and understand software engineers and other people in more technical fields is also critical. The rest is drive, dedication, and hard work.

“For a startup, being tech savvy enough to communicate with and understand software engineers and other people in more technical fields is also critical. The rest is drive, dedication, and hard work.”

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

Find a company with a mission and identity to which you connect completely. You are going to be working a lot and facing difficult odds, so there has to be a lot of drive, motivation, and eagerness to make this work. This only happens when there is fit between you and what the company represents. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks, especially in the beginning of your career because it only gets harder to take those risks later.

What are your plans for the future?

I fell in love with the startup and innovation environment. I plan to keep with it, either growing Uello beyond and beyond or helping other companies navigate through their journey.

How to Impress UK Employers as an International Student

Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant at the University of Exeter.

For many international students, understanding what UK employers are looking for can be difficult. In my experience, many UK students don’t understand it too well either. That’s why UK universities, including the University of Exeter, have qualified, experienced careers practitioners providing a wide range of information, advice and personalised guidance to help you with your future plans. We support you to present yourself in the very best light and really shine in your job applications.

Like many things in life, creating a career plan and implementing it is a much more complicated process than most people realise. The modern world of work is more complicated than it ever has been. The graduate job market is competitive with large numbers of students and graduates applying for opportunities. One of the challenging things about applying for graduate roles is that there are many misunderstandings or myths about what employers are looking for, and often students spend their time and energy on things that employers don’t value that much instead of focusing on what employers are actually interested in.

A ranking of the skills and attributes that employers say students do not have.

So what are UK employers looking for? 

The UK is fairly unique in that most graduate employers are not very interested in your degree subject. There are of course some exceptions, such as employers who look for engineering degrees or those seeking a graduate with a statistics based degree. But on the whole, the biggest proportion of graduate employers will welcome graduates from any subject/discipline.

This means that they are not looking for specific technical knowledge from a university course, but are instead looking for students who can be shaped and trained by the organisation, who have the potential to grow into a role. The way that they judge potential is to assess whether you have the skills that they think are important. You will know what skills each employer is looking for because they will tell you in the role description or job details. Each employer is looking for a slightly different set of skills so it’s very important for you to pay close attention to exactly what they are asking for.

What skills are important in the UK? 

In a recent 2021 report by the Institute of Student Employers, employers ranked the skills that they felt graduates were lacking. The lower the score the more concerned employers are about this skill.

Understanding what skills employers want, the skills they struggle to find in graduates and the specific skills needed in the career / industry or role you are applying for puts you in a great position to impress employers. The next step is where you can really create a brand for yourself as an international student, which will make you stand out.

Highlighting your skills as an International Student

You are a unique breed of student. You’re a risk taker, a pioneer, a brave adventurer and explorer of new worlds. This is wonderful! It’s important to be really clear with employers about the skills you’ve gained as an international student. Here’s a really great list to start you off by Study International 10 Reasons Why Employers Love Graduates Who Have Studied Abroad

Let’s think about the chart above and some of the skills that employers are struggling to find in graduates.

Career management. If leaving your home, family and friends to pursue an education which will lead to gainful employment isn’t good career management, I don’t know what is! You could provide even more evidence of your intentions for a strategic career plan by taking part in the Exeter Award or our Professional Pathways programme.

Commercial awareness. You can find out more about Commercial Awareness from Bright Network. (Top Tip – it is really helpful to search for a definition of any skills that employers are asking for- this will really help you to explain how you have that skill!). Essentially commercial awareness is your understanding of how the industry you are considering works, and how it is affected by what is going on in the world. As an international student, you are in a unique position to talk about an industry from a UK perspective but also from the viewpoint of your home country. You may not know much about it at the moment, but I bet you could call on friends or family members at home to help you find out more. This will allow you to impress employers with your international commercial awareness! We are experts on commercial awareness within Career Zone and can teach you how to improve yours (search for upcoming workshops on Handshake). Our Sector Research pages are also a great starting point.

Resilience

As an international student, you have a lot to cope with- living far from your loved ones, managing your finances, and navigating the visa regulations (don’t forget there is a lot of help available at Exeter from International Student Support). I am convinced you have the resilience of a rubber band (i.e. a lot!).

The reason you get rejected may not be the one you think 

I hope I have convinced you that you have brilliant skills- my final point is one that applies to all students, revealed by the Institute of Student Employers in 2021.

The most common reasons that stop students from getting the jobs that they apply for

This chart shows that it is not a lack of work experience, or your grades that lead to an application being rejected. It’s actually your ability to write an application in the style that UK employers are looking for. Just like learning to write in English, or learning how a UK essay is written, the process of writing a tailored UK job application is a technique. Very few people write in this style naturally. It’s an approach to writing that we can teach you. Once you understand how to do it, your success rate will increase. That’s why we run regular workshops on tailoring your applications (bookable via Handshake) provide online resources and also 1-2-1 appointments where you can get feedback on your application before you submit.

If you want to understand more about what UK employers want, why not get involved in the many opportunities we provide for you to meet them? Come along to a careers fair, employer-led event or form a more personal relationship with a professional through our Career Mentor scheme– these are brilliant ways to really gain understanding of how to impress UK employers as an international graduate.

Alumni Profile – Alla Alexeeva, Finance Controller, Chanel

Alla Alexeeva graduated from the University of Exeter with an MSc Accounting and Finance, 2010. She’s currently Finance Controller (Russia & CIS), Chanel 

Alla Alexeeva, University of Exeter alumn, and current Finance Controller (Russia & CIS), Chanel

Where do you currently live and work? 

I live in Russia. I started my career in the beauty industry when I joined L’Oreal as an Intern just after graduation and was promoted to the position of Budget Controller within a couple of months. Now, I am working as a Finance Controller within the biggest business divisions at Chanel Russia & CIS and managing a team of three finance analysts.

Why did you choose to pursue this career?

My current job is very business oriented. It requires a lot of communication skills. My colleagues not only work in Russia, but also in Paris, London and NYC.

And for those less familiar with the term, what is a Finance Controller?

A Finance Controller is a business-oriented role. A person in this position would be responsible for strategic planning and budgeting, reporting, business analysis and finance key performance indicators.

“My advice on becoming more employable would be to never stop believing in yourself… Being confident and hard-working got me to where I am.” 

 Why did you choose to study at the University of Exeter?

I chose to study at the University of Exeter as it was in the Top 10 rankings in the Times and the Guardian when I started to look for the right place to study. The University provided very comfortable accommodation for international students and the city had good infrastructure. I would definitely recommend a Masters at Exeter due to all the new knowledge I gained, the friendly atmosphere, great networking opportunities among alumni, and the wonderful experience of living abroad in a very cosy city with great history and many places to explore.

Why did you choose your particular degree subject?

I chose to study this subject because I enjoyed studying economics in my bachelors degree and the programme suited these skills.

 How did your degree help you prepare for the position you are in now?

The Business School gave me a lot of practice in building strong relationships with people from different countries who spoke other languages. This is a beneficial skill for all young professionals starting their career in any field.

“While studying at University, I attended numbers of career events, which helped me in the future to do my best during the interviews and throughout the application process.”

Please tell us about the application process for your graduate job, and how you prepared and/or managed this?

I started the process when I was writing my dissertation in the library. I initially planned to apply for an internship with L’Oreal UK, but there were no vacancies. So, I sent my CV to L’Oreal Russia. I finished my dissertation in the middle of September in Exeter and joined the L’Oreal office in Moscow starting from 1st of November. The whole of October was dedicated to interviews and assessment days.

Did you use the Career Zone whilst at Exeter? If so, what especially helped?

While studying at University, I attended numbers of career events, which helped me in the future to do my best during the interviews and throughout the application process.

 What aspects of your UK university education worked in your favour during the application process?

It is compulsory to have an in-depth understanding of all international accounting standards while working as a Finance Controller. The knowledge I gained at University was a solid basis to develop my skills in this field.

“Many employers are searching for candidates with previous work experience – even for entry level positions. Therefore, I highly recommend starting internships and part-time jobs as soon as possible to be the first on the list for the best vacancies after graduation.”

What did you do at university that you think gave you a competitive advantage in the job market in your home-country?

I believe that my communication skills are excellent because I spent 2 years in the UK (1 year studying a pre-masters course in London, 1 year doing a Masters in University of Exeter Business School). It also helped me improve my self-confidence and endurance under stress. I also developed fluency in English, a deep knowledge of IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) and a particularly good command of Excel.

What were the biggest obstacles in gaining a graduate job in your home-country?

Many employers are searching for candidates with previous work experience – even for entry level positions. Therefore, I highly recommend starting internships and part-time jobs as soon as possible to be the first on the list for the best vacancies after graduation.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were applying for opportunities?

My advice for students would be to remember that if you are accepted on a course, you become an asset to the University. It is your right to make your University greater by achieving excellent academic results and taking a breath-taking career path.

What is your advice for any international student seeking a career in finance and wanting to follow a similar path to you?

My advice on becoming more employable would be to never stop believing in yourself. If somebody had told me ten years ago that I would hold one of the top positions in Finance at Chanel Russia, I would never believe them. Being confident and hard-working got me to where I am.

Our alumni networks are available to help you socially and professionally now and in the future. You can connect with them whilst you are a student to take advantage of their support when you are back home during holiday season, and of course, reach out to them when you graduate.

 The Alumni Office organise regular virtual employability events, which are a useful resource both for graduates and current students. For a full listing of events, please click here, and to watch historic records, please click here.

5 Quick and Easy Employability Tips for International Students

If you make the effort to interact in and out of class with a range of people you will really reap the rewards. Imagine applying for graduate roles and being able to talk confidently about your cultural intelligence and diverse perspectives!

Claire Guy is an Employability and Careers Consultant working with postgraduates in the Business School. She is currently developing a range of resources and support specifically for international students.  

As an international student, there’s a lot to think about and lots to do. You’ve been saving, planning, and packing for as long as you can remember and now you’re far from home, adjusting to a new style of teaching, possibly even in a language that isn’t your native tongue. Wow – You deserve a huge round of applause for all you’ve achieved so far.

Perhaps you’re looking forward to things calming down with less on your mind, and the chance to focus on your studies. It might surprise you that we are already asking you to think about your future and to start preparing for a career after your studies. It might feel a little overwhelming! But what if I could give you 5 tips which won’t take a lot of effort, but will make a huge difference for your future success?

“What if you could focus your time on the 20% of possible actions that will give you 80% of the impact for career success?” 

You may have heard of the 80:20 rule, or the Pareto Principle. Developed by an economist in 1895, the rule demonstrates that 80% of your outcomes come from 20% of your time and effort. Let’s apply this to your time at Exeter and your future career. What if you could focus your time on the 20% of possible actions that will give you 80% of the impact for career success? Here are 5 simple things you can do that bring huge results!

1 Immerse yourself in cultural learning: Employers worldwide are realising that diverse workforces are great for business. They want to employ people who think differently and approach things from a range of perspectives. Diversity brings a huge range of benefits such as increased innovation, creativity, and happier employees. International students like you naturally bring culturally diverse perspectives but you can add even more impact, when you combine this with combine this with cultural intelligence. Cultural Intelligence is the ability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations. It’s about crossing cultural boundaries and thriving in multiple cultures. Someone who has cultural intelligence is not just an observer of different cultures – they are able to culturally adapt and work together with people across a variety of cultural contexts. This cultural intelligence will impress UK employers, employers in your home country and anywhere else in the world you choose to go! The University of Exeter is a proudly international institution, with staff and students from more than 130 countries giving you endless opportunities to interact with different cultures. We know that this can feel scary and that it can feel more comfortable to make friends with other students from your home country but if you make the effort to interact in and out of class with a range of people you will really reap the rewards. Imagine applying for graduate roles and being able to talk confidently about your cultural intelligence and diverse perspectives! Say yes to as many opportunities to mix with others as possible.

“The University of Exeter is a proudly international institution, with staff and students from more than 130 countries giving you endless opportunities to interact with different cultures.”

2 Develop skills outside of your studies: Whether you plan to work in the UK after your studies, or return home, employers will want to hear about the skills you have developed whilst you were a student at Exeter. In fact, if you plan to remain in the UK to work, it is important for you to know that many UK employers value skills over and above your academic achievements. In fact, growing numbers of graduate employers are removing academic grades from their entry requirements as they have found that skills are a much better predictor of a graduate’s ability to perform well in a job than their academic grade. Employers don’t mind where your skills come from so you have lots of options: pick from volunteeringjoining a societytaking part in a sport, getting a casual / part time job, or doing an internship. If you have limited time available, you might want to be strategic about which skills you need to develop and focus on activities which target those skills. Carrying out a “skills-gap analysis” will help you be strategic- a) study a career profile or search graduate vacancies that interest you and b) make a list of the skills needed. Then c) assess your own skills. Focus on developing the skills that you need for the career(s) / vacancies that interest you, but which aren’t very strong yet! Don’t forget to be mindful of your visa in terms of how many hours a week you can do certain activities. If you are considering taking up volunteering or unpaid work please refer to the International Student Support pages to check what is considered as volunteering or voluntary work.

“Whether you plan to work in the UK after your studies, or return home, employers will want to hear about the skills you have developed whilst you were a student at Exeter.”

3 Be informed: If you plan to stay in the UK after your studies to work, you will need to understand how the job market works in the UK. There are likely to be differences between the UK and how things are done back at home. For example, the graduate recruitment cycle in the UK starts early. This means that jobs which start in June / July or August open for applications in the previous September and close between Nov-Jan. So, if you want a place on a graduate scheme, you will need to be ready to apply almost a whole year before your course finishes. It may be that CVs, application letters, video interviews and other parts of the application process are different from what you may have experienced in your home country. That’s why Career Zone is available for you, with lots of virtual help as well as help in person. We can help teach you all about working in the UK, as well as helping on a practical level. You may find our bespoke programmes, India Career Ready or China Career Ready helpful too.

“If you plan to stay in the UK after your studies to work, you will need to understand how the job market works in the UK. There are likely to be differences between the UK and how things are done back at home.”

4 Build networks: If you follow the advice here so far, you will meet a lot of new people! Keep in touch with them, you never know when you may be able to help them or they may be able to help you. The people you meet now are the ones who are or will be in a position to help you out professionally in the future. You are connected through your shared experiences, which means they are much more likely to want to help you, especially if you have been helpful in the past.  Students often feel that they don’t have much to offer anyone at this early point in their career, yet doing small, helpful things can really have an impact for others. Promoting projects and events that other people are organising or involved in, introducing people to one another, or sharing your experiences can be so useful for your peers. Sharing that you were rejected for a role you really wanted because you didn’t complete an online test within the required 5-day period for example, might help someone else to avoid the same mistake. The more helpful you can be, the more you’ll be seen as a valuable connection. LinkedIn is a brilliant tool to keep in touch with your network.

“Students often feel that they don’t have much to offer anyone at this early point in their career, yet doing small, helpful things can really have an impact for others.”

5 Improve your English: If you follow tips 1-4, your English will already have improved a lot! It’s worth knowing that UK employers expect very good spoken English from international applicants, so if your English still needs some improving, INTO at Exeter offer lots of support.

Read more about the help we offer to International students or listen to our podcast