1) Where and what did you study and when did you graduate?
I studied History at the University of Exeter, graduating in 2012. Those three years went by so quickly that I decided to stay for another year and I completed a Master’s degree in War and Society by the end of 2013.
2) Where do you live now?
After graduating, I moved to a small town on the edge of Dartmoor after being offered a job in a small children’s charity nestled in the moors. I am now back in Exeter, enjoying both a city(-ish) home life and my idyllic ‘middle of nowhere’ where I work, (having got used to not having phone signal!)
3) Tell us about your job...
After a year at the charity, I was promoted to Manager of one of the core teams. My team process and assess over a thousand referral applications each year for disadvantaged children from across the UK to come to one of the charity’s three retreats for a week long respite break. The job can be demanding, emotive, fast-paced and requires quick and difficult decisions, as well as being incredibly rewarding. Managing a team of five direct reports can be a lot to juggle, especially when everyone (from all levels) needs your time and attention, but I am comfortable knowing this is where my strengths lie and having the support of a positive team around me makes the days so enjoyable.
4) What did you want to be when you were younger?
Aged 9, I told my Dad “I’m going to be waitress when I’m older, but if I don’t get to do that then I’ll probably be a popstar.”… It’s amazing to think back to when you were younger and who you’ve become today. I soon forgot all about my dream to be a waitress (and my chart-topping back-up plan), but I have always had that sense that I wanted to do “something to help others” whatever that may be. Cheesy as it sounds, from a young age I wanted to ‘save the world’ and I knew I would one day play a part in that. University re-ignited this and I am so glad that I spent a lot of my time after my lectures gaining experience in the voluntary sector. My interest in the wider charity sector informed my MA dissertation and then almost all 45 of my job applications were to charities. In fact, I was very rarely attracted to a vacancy that was not on ‘Charity Job’.
5) What did you do immediately after leaving university?
Having nearly given up hope of working for a charity immediately after graduating, I sent off my forty-fifth application, this time choosing to forget about the huge London-based organisations and spotted a vacancy for a job in deepest Devon for a small charity. To my surprise, I was invited for interview and was asked to prepare a 30 minute presentation – in the week I was completing a 25,000 word dissertation, might I add – and again invited back for a second interview with yet another presentation. When I was offered the position a few days later, I knew I had hit gold – not because it was finally a ‘yes’ but I soon realised that starting my career in the charity sector did not mean I would have to move to the big city and work until the early hours and sit on the tube for most of life….. instead I could work in essentially a holiday location whilst gaining valuable experience. Two years later, I can see that this was in fact the best career decision, as I know I would never have been given such a promotion and first-hand, direct experience in charity management, if I had gone for the big graduate jobs, whose applications I had slaved over for so many months. (Besides, I still get to see ‘the big smoke’ as they call it here in Devon, and even met Prince Philip!)
Raring to go! I knew that I had worked hard and that it would pay off somehow. Of course I also felt totally clueless about the world of real work. I certainly had no idea I would be a Manager two years later, managing staff as old as my parents and I certainly didn’t learn how to do this at Uni!
7) If you could go back, what would you say to yourself on graduation day?
Don’t worry about which ‘path to take’. Most pathways crossover, turn back on themselves and merge into one if you want them to! I remember feeling frustrated with everyone asking me about what I was going to do after graduating and feeling worried that if I went down one route, that decision would be final and all other options would close off. But now I can see that I will be able to take an array of experiences with me to future jobs and I can definitely still change my mind and go in any direction at any point.
8) Would you have done anything different?
I would have spent less time applying for jobs that I didn’t even want. Sometimes it felt like I should apply for this or really ought to apply for that, but ultimately, it’s the jobs that really intrigue and inspire you that will lead you to writing a smashing covering letter for.
9) What inspires you?
People that keep on smiling no matter what. I met people like that at Uni but it is only in the world of work where I have experienced the power of a positive person to alter a whole organisation. Keeping a sense of fun and laughter throughout all the frustrating times that will inevitably pop up is difficult, but I am trying to harness that a bit more this year! It’s infectious!
10) What would you like to say to our graduates looking for inspiration?
Thinking big can meaning looking for something small. In my experience anyway, I wanted to be a manager in a charity – which is thinking big – but I got there by finding something small, a charity tucked away in the ‘middle of nowhere’ for example, which has given me so much more than I could have gained anywhere else. So I would suggest you think outside the box and creatively- yet always with your passion and dream in mind!
11) Your three favourite words
‘Concatenate’ (it’s one of my favourite Excel formulas)
‘Palaver’ (oh you’ll see a lot of those in your post graduate life!) and
‘YES’ (one word that can take you from average to awesome)!
If you are, or know, a potential 'inspirational graduate' please fill in the form on the right hand side of this blog post and we'll get back to you.