Ella Byng completed the Pathways to Charity & Development programme while in her final year studying Sociology. Ella writes about her experience completing the training and internship elements of the programme and how this has helped with deciding on a future career path.
As a Sociology student in my final year, the thought of deciding what I want to do for a career was a daunting one! With so many different options and possibilities, I felt quite overwhelmed and unsure (and I know a lot of other students tend to feel the same!) I decided to apply for the University’s Professional Pathways internship programme, in the hopes of getting some experience and a clearer idea of what kind of job I might like to do in the future. There were 4 different sectors to choose from: I applied to the ‘Pathways to Charity and Development’.
For me, working in the Charity sector was an interesting prospect (and it seemed to link in well with my personal and academic interests), but I didn’t know much about it, and I wasn’t sure what types of jobs were available to me within the Charity sector. After applying to Professional Pathways,
and being successful in the Assessment Centre, I secured a place on the scheme and was invited to attend a series of employer-led training sessions. Speakers from both local and national charities came in to discuss various topics (such as charity funding and fundraising, communications, volunteer management, and humanitarianism). The training week culminated in group presentations to a panel of employers, in response to different project briefs set by local charities. My group’s brief asked us to review, evaluate, and provide recommendations for Exeter City Community Trust’s social media channels. We were then rewarded with pizza, as well as a chance to network with employers!
After the training, I began my paid 35-hour internship. I was matched with Exeter City Community Trust (ECCT), as a Charity Development Assistant. During this internship, I have had the opportunity to learn about all the different roles within ECCT, as well as the programmes and activities that they offer for the community (focussing on sports, education, and wellbeing). A highlight for me [was helping] with the “social café”, which was set up during COVID to combat loneliness. ECCT’s social cafe is a place where people can go, once a week, to have a cup of tea and chat with others. From talking to some of the regular attendees, it was clear how important this was to their own wellbeing! It seemed like a real lifeline for older generations, and it was amazing to see that it has made such a difference.
“In terms of how my involvement in Pathways to Charity and Development has helped me in my career journey so far, I’ve gained valuable insight into what it might be like to work in the Charity sector.”
In terms of how my involvement in Pathways to Charity and Development has helped me in my career journey so far, I’ve gained valuable insight into what it might be like to work in the Charity sector. It’s also confirmed that this is a career I would love to go into; specifically, a role that centres around improving the wellbeing of communities. I cannot wait to see what my next career steps are, and I’m excited to take what I have learnt from the Professional Pathways programme forward into life as an Exeter graduate.
If you’d like to apply for Professional Pathways, applications are currently open via Handshake for our 2023 programmes! You can find further details on the 4 available Pathways and how to apply here. Applications will close at 1:00pm on Tuesday 17 January 2023.
Oliver Laity is the Careers Information and Systems Manager for the University of Exeter. As an experienced interviewer, and interviewee, he knows a lot about the peaks and pitfalls of interviews.
Knowing that you’ve got a job interview coming up can feel daunting. If you’re lucky you might have a relatively simple recruitment process to deal with; you fill in a form, or email your CV and letter, and then you’re called for interview. But you might have to navigate tests, gamified selection ‘rounds’, assessment centres, and in my case finding your interviewer starts talking to you in German after you mentioned you were studying it at A-Level (thankfully 19 year old me was telling the truth and successfully landed the role).
If you get to the interview stage, well done. Depending on the competitiveness of the role, you can consider yourself to be in the top 5% of applicants, which should give you loads of confidence. Whatever comes next, your application has been a relative success, I want to you remember that.
So, let’s think about what you can control, and the art of the possible.
“If you get to the interview stage, well done. Depending on the competitiveness of the role, you can consider yourself to be in the top 5% of applicants.”
Your task is to do yourself justice in the interview, by portraying your true self, your skills, your achievements, and experiences in the best way you possibly can, which is not always easy.
As someone who’s interviewed hundreds of students and graduates for many different roles, there are a few key elements that I always look for, things that make a candidate stick in my mind (in a positive way). I’m looking for someone who can do the job well, but who also fits into the organisation’s ethos, and has something ‘extra’ to add to the team dynamic.
Whilst there’s no guarantee of success in any interview, here are five ways to ensure that you’re in the best position to succeed and portray the best version of yourself to employers.
One – Prepare yourself
Undertake your company research
This can be done via Handshake, LinkedIn, or the organisation’s website. If the job advert offers an ‘informal discussion’ about the role, take it, but be prepared to ask sensible questions about the company and the role. Practice values matching; how do the values of the organisation match with your own? Will it make you proud to work there, and support the direction of growth that you’re looking for in your career?
In your company research, find out some killer stats about the organisation, the sector, and the external market within which they operate. If you aren’t directly asked a question about the context within which the company works, you’ll certainly have the opportunity to impress the interviewers by talking knowledgeably about the wider environment and circumstances affecting the company.
“As someone who’s interviewed hundreds of students and graduates for many different roles…I’m looking for someone who can do the job well, but who also fits into the organisation’s ethos, and has something ‘extra’ to add to the team dynamic.”
Fully understand the role
Read the job description and person specification fully. Check your understanding with trusted people around you so that there can be no misunderstandings, and if in doubt, contact the employer and ask for clarification.
Understand what’s likely to be assessed at interview. Not everything in the person specification will be ‘tested’ at interview. Traditionally your qualifications will have already been assessed at the application stage, so don’t expect to be quizzed on them. My tip would be to focus on the skills and experiences required, while demonstrating the personal attributes they’re asking for.
Two – Prepare yourself more
Once you’ve fully researched the role and the company, you need to start working on your answers.
Examples and possible responses
Consider answers for questions you could reliably predict. For example, if your company research uncovers an emphasis on teams, teamwork, team players, and talks about clients “as part of the team” along with a job description that cites similar, and an ‘essential’ related to teamwork in the person specification, then it’s very likely that this will come up at interview. You should think of at least two experience-based responses (commercially based if possible) in case one prepared response doesn’t exactly answer the question posed. Remember STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Result/Response and tell the panel what you achieved and what you learned from that experience.
Understand arrangements for the day itself
Make sure you understand the travel plans, dress code, and timings (how long is the interview? If there’s an assessment, how long do you have?). Demonstrating that you’ve planned well and are able to deliver professionally can go a long way to impressing your interviewers and creating a great first impression. If you haven’t been told how long the interview is, or you’re unsure about the dress code etc., ask the employer! No one wants to recruit a person who doesn’t ask questions or check their information is correct.
“If your company research uncovers an emphasis on teams, teamwork, team players, and talks about clients “as part of the team” along with a job description cites similar, and an ‘essential’ related to teamwork in the person specification, then it’s very likely that this will come up at interview.”
Three – Practice
Practice your interview with your friends (and help them with theirs), and with trusted people whose opinions you value. You can also ask your tutor, or other academic if they can listen to your answers. While not everyone will be able to say if you’re doing well, it’ll help you get some of your technique together.
Video interview practice can be very helpful. Within My Career Zone Digital, Interview 360 enables you to create your own practice video interviews based on a number of sectors, or approaches (i.e., strengths based, hypothetical, motivational interview questions and more).
Crucially, if you upload your CV to I360 not only do you get an instant CV review, you also get an interview based on the content of your CV. Because I360 uses AI similar to the kind that employers use, you’ll get feedback that includes criteria such as body language and other non-verbal communication.
At the Career Zone, we offer a great range of employer mock interviews throughout the year – this may be something you have to factor in, before you get invited to a formal job interview as part of your early career planning. There is genuinely nothing more valuable than getting feedback from an employer working within the sector that you’re interested in. Check Handshake for upcoming mock interview opportunities.
“Within My Career Zone Digital, Interview 360 enables you to create your own practice video interviews based on a number of sectors, or approaches.”
Four – Practice more
It’s time to refine your answers and practice the responses you’ve created to match the job description/person specification. Will these answers score points? Are they STAR? Are they too long/too short? You’ll likely have an hour or less for the whole interview, and the interviewer will typically ask at least ten questions, plus time at the beginning for welcome/instructions, and at the end of questions from you, and follow-up information including when you’re likely to hear if you’ve been successful.
Record yourself, score yourself, identify gaps where you can give more information.
My tip is to create cue-cards, but not write everything down to take into the interview – you need to be very well prepared but not over prepared to the extent where you can’t be yourself or deal with any curveballs professionally. This balance is key.
And finally prepare two to three good, insightful questions that you’d like to ask the organisation. This is another chance to demonstrate several things: Your motivation; the amount of research you’ve done; and your ability to fit into the team.
Five – Be confident, be yourself, smile 😊
So, you’ve researched, prepared and practiced (which is why we do these things again and again!). Following the first four steps above will enable you to be present, to concentrate on making connections and delivering your responses well. Remember, this is about doing yourself justice and showing the best of yourself.
Be genuine – don’t tell them you can speak German if you can’t. Let them see your personality. If it’s appropriate to mention hobbies or personal interests in responses, this can be powerful.
Whether you get this particular job or not, the end goal is to walk out of the interview room (or Zoom chat) with your head held high knowing you did the very best you could.
Claire Guy is Employability and Careers Consultant with the University of Exeter Business School.
CV writing is much harder than most people think. They are difficult to get right. UK students make lots of mistakes in their CVs. Creating a UK CV can be a challenge for international students, especially if you are used to your country’s CV or resume writing rules.
We see some common mistakes at the Career Zone in the CVs that international students write. Here’s our top 5:
1 Adding a photo to your CV
In the UK we have employment laws which are designed to protect people from discrimination. The laws stop employers from hiring people based on their gender, age, or nationality (as well as other things). Photographs reveal a lot of personal information (like gender, age and nationality) and can lead to discrimination. Research has shown that attractive people have an advantage when applying for jobs. The effects are not usually deliberate – interviewers don’t realise they are influenced by how someone looks. UK employment laws are designed to prevent these effects. This means that UK CVs do NOT include information such as nationality, marriage status, date of birth or age, and definitely not photos. The only reason to add your photo is if you are applying for a modelling or acting role!
2 Including a “declaration of truth”
Although common in some other countries, UK CVs do not contain a declaration of truth. Employers trust that you will only include information which is true, and not write anything which is false.
3 Spelling and grammar
I can imagine how hard it is to write a CV in a different language! Correct spelling and grammar is important. UK employers will reject a CV with spelling and grammar mistakes. This is because UK jobs require good English. You will be expected to write reports or communicate with colleagues and clients. A CV with bad spelling and grammar will make an employer question if you can do those things. Bad spelling and grammar show poor attention to detail (an important skill for many jobs). Bad spelling and grammar also imply that you didn’t try very hard to write a good CV and that you don’t really want the job. Use a spell-checker! You can also use CV360 – it will give you feedback on spelling and grammar, as well as other things.
4 Using the same CV for each job
In the UK, employers will tell you exactly what they want from the perfect candidate. Job adverts usually contain a list of skills that they want. You must look closely at the job advert, highlight each skill they ask for, and then include them in your CV. This means you must change your CV for EVERY job you apply for. It takes more time but is much more successful than sending the same CV each time. If you want to understand more about how to tailor your CV, book onto one of our regular CV workshops on Handshake.
5 Missing soft skills
In many countries, soft skills are not an important part of a CV. You may not have added soft skills to your CV before. Don’t simply add them to a bullet-point list. Instead, think about where you have used that skill. Was it during your studies? An internship? In the family business? Choose the most relevant part of your CV and add it into your description of that activity. For example:” Collaborated in a team of 5, to produce a presentation. Met weekly to plan content. Negotiated responsibility for tasks. Presented to an audience of 30 students and academics, developing strong team-working and communication skills”.
Top tip: It’s a really good idea to look up the definition of a soft skill – they are much more complicated than you think. Simply search online for the skill you are trying to include in your CV like this “communication skill definition” or “teamwork skill definition”. Reading a skill definition will also help you think about how to add it to your CV.
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!”
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.
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.
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. Theycan provide a brilliant insight intothe typical habits and behavioursof 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”.
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?
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
Kate Blackmore graduated from the University of Exeter with a BA Geography, 2015. She’s currently Trade Marketing Manager, Wella Company
What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?
After leaving Exeter I wanted to work for an FMCG company. I applied for a few graduate schemes but was unsuccessful, mostly because I struggled with the speed of the Numerical Reasoning Tests! I got a job in sales in Exeter and worked as an Account Manager for just under a year. With that experience I was able to join PepsiCo as a Sales Development Representative (the same job the graduate scheme starts on).
As an SDR my role was to visit 11 stores per day, speak with the manager and try to educate them about the best range to stock and how to display them, plus help merchandise the fixtures to maximise sales. It was a lot of hard work, and a lot of driving, but I loved working with the customers and it was nice to know that a lot of the leadership team at Pepsi had also come into the company through this role. I was promoted within the year to Trade Marketing Executive, based at PepsiCo Head Office.
“I had no experience in Trade Marketing at all, but PepsiCo supported me to learn the ropes. Trade Marketing is essentially the go-between for Marketing and Sales.”
I had no experience in Trade Marketing at all, but the company supported me to learn the ropes. Trade Marketing is essentially the go-between for Marketing and Sales. Brand Marketing create new campaigns and new launches, Trade Marketing work on the pricing, promotions, forecasts and targets, point of sale materials, planograms, sales presentations, briefing meetings and anything else needed to execute the launch, then sales sell it into customers.
After two years in role, I decided I wanted to take some time out to travel. I quit my job and started working for Topdeck Travel as a Trip Leader – essentially my role was to lead group tours around Europe. I would collect a group of up to 48 18-30 year olds in London, and travel with them around Europe, organising all the on-the-ground logistics and giving tours into the history and culture of each country. I did this for one ‘summer season’, then spent the winter backpacking in Latin America. Then Covid hit!
“I was pleased to know I could come back to my career at a higher level than before, and my employability hadn’t been destroyed by my year of travel!”
While travelling, I had lined up my next role in my Trade Marketing career, as a Trade Marketing Manager in the beauty industry. I was pleased to know I could come back to my career at a higher level than before, and my employability hadn’t been destroyed by my year of travel! I started working for Wella Company in their Gain/Grow team, developing plans to gain new customers to the business. After one year I was promoted to my current role, managing the execution of Colour campaigns (our biggest brands).
Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?
I got into Trade Marketing mostly at the suggestion of the management team at PepsiCo – when the role came up, they recommended me for it and felt it would suit my skill set. I hadn’t even heard of Trade Marketing when I was at university! I love that my work is closely linked to the execution of campaigns and has real tangible results – even just walking past a salon window and seeing POS I created. I also love how cross-functional Trade Marketing is as you really do work with all parts of the business – you work most closely with Sales and Marketing, but I also have to work with Supply Chain to ensure we have the right forecasts, with Finance to build the promotions and EComm to ensure the digital side of the business matches what we put out in person, with Category Management and Consumer Insights to ensure we get the messaging right and so much more!
“I wish I’d known, when I was at Uni, that there are a million different routes your career could take. There are different ways to achieve the same result – the career I have now is the same as if I had got onto the grad schemes.”
What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?
I think the biggest take-away from my time at Exeter was learning to put yourself out there and try new things.
What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?
I wish I’d known, when I was at Uni, that there are a million different routes your career could take. There are different ways to achieve the same result – the career I have now is the same as if I had got onto the grad schemes. There are pros and cons of each approach – grad schemes tend to offer additional support and can offer a faster pace of progression, but often at the expense of control over your career and you sometimes have to work stints in jobs you wouldn’t necessarily have chosen. It can be a bit harder (but not impossible) to progress at the same pace off the schemes, but you can absolutely work for the same companies, in the same roles, and you’ll have more choice over which moves you make internally. I was also so scared to take time out to travel, but I would recommend it to anyone!
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.
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.
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.
“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.
I’m Hannah and I’m a Second Year Applied Psychology student working part-time with the Create Your Future team.
What is Create Your Future?
Create Your Future is a compulsory, full day programme for all First Year students and is unique to the University of Exeter. The programme appears on students’ timetables, and they are emailed about the event in advance. The aim of the day is to stimulate thought about what future career you might want to pursue, and the steps you need to take to help you achieve your goal. Students are expected to attend three live online workshops, and complete online activities independently. These are discipline-specific and tailored to the stage of career planning you are at. During the day, students reflect on their values, motivations, and goals, learn what employers are looking for and cover important topics such as commercial awareness. Additionally, students are introduced to the support available from the Career Zone. Upon completing the programme, students should have a clearer idea about how to achieve their career aims and where they can find support if needed.
“The aim of the day is to stimulate thought about what future career you might want to pursue, and the steps you need to take to help you achieve your goal.”
What is Create Your Future like?
As I am a Second Year student, I completed the Psychology Create Your Future day back in October 2020. I remember feeling apprehensive when I saw the event on my timetable as thinking about my future career, when I had only just started University, felt like a massive and unnecessary step. However, as explained by the Create Your Future team, this is to give us time to explore lots of career options, and develop the skills needed for those careers. Once I started the online activities, I was glad that this was the case. It became clear that I needed a lot more work experience! This is because I learnt that for every skill an employer looks for, you need to provide evidence for having that skill. By completing the online activities, I was able to see which skills I had not yet developed through work experience.
For me, the key underdeveloped skills were basic IT and customer service. Therefore, doing the online activities narrowed my focus as to what kinds of work experience I should look for. I used the Career Zone website to which we were signposted in workshop three, to explore current job vacancies within the University and in the Exeter community. Coincidentally, this led me to see and apply for the job vacancy of Programme Assistant within the Create Your Future team. In this role, I provide practical support for students taking the programme. Therefore, the Create Your Future day was really influential in kick-starting my career planning. The programme made me reflect on how I could become more employable and encouraged me to progress and find work experience.
“The programme made me reflect on how I could become more employable and encouraged me to progress and find work experience.”
Another aspect of the Create Your Future programme which I found useful was exploring the jobs that Exeter Alumni have progressed to and how they achieved those jobs. When I did this activity, I listened to a Psychology graduate in events management. She emphasised the value of getting involved in a University society to help organise activities. Her understanding was that experience of organising events, large or small, was highly sought after by recruiters. Listening to these recordings is really helpful, as you can use the personal experience of Exeter Alumni to discover more about a career and how to prepare for it.
Another beneficial feature of the programme is that the online activities require a large amount of reflection. For example, one of the activities is a values exercise. This pushes you to think about what kind of working life you want to lead. Is it important for you to have a good work-life balance? Is it important for you to be highly paid? Is it important for you to have big responsibilities? Thinking about these things will be useful once I graduate, because I will be able to ensure that I am applying for jobs suitable for my aspirations.
“Thinking about these things will be useful once I graduate, because I will be able to ensure that I am applying for jobs suitable for my aspirations.”
I believe Create Your Future it is one of those things where the more you put in, the more you get out. I encourage students to attend their session with an open mind, and work through the online activities at their own pace, without rushing. You might just learn something useful!