News, Events and Opportunities

News, Events and Opportunities
Working With Words panel events, 13-15 February 2024

In February 2024, DHPA collaborated with colleagues in LLMVC, Social Sciences, the Careers and Employability Service and Alumni Relations, holding two panel events in which Aberdeen alumni spoke about how their careers involve ‘working with words’. Support was generously provided by the Development Trust’s Student Experience Fund.

Our fantastic speakers were:

Rory Buccheri: Food and Drink Reporter for The Grocer and Freelance Journalist (MA English-History of Art, 2022).

Eloise Leeson-Smith: Strategic Linguistic Consultant (MA Language and Linguistics, 2013).

Hannah Nicholson: Writer, Library Assistant, Contributor to Speakin’ Weird (MLitt Creative Writing, 2017).

Tilda Nilsson: Programmes and Administrative Officer, Cease UK (MA Business Management-International Relations, 2020).

Rebecca Stewart: Centre Fundraising Organiser, Maggie’s Aberdeen (MA Psychology-Sociology, 2022).

Shane Strachan: Writer and Performer, Lecturer in Creative Writing (MA English-Language and Linguistics, 2010; MLitt Creative Writing, 2011; PhD English, 2015).

Our contributors discussed the range of ways in which they work with words on a regular basis, including creating website content (Eloise), academic teaching and assessing (Shane), devising corporate proposals (Rebecca), writing press articles (Rory), corresponding with MPs (Tilda) and advising library users (Hannah).

They spoke honestly about the importance of exploring opportunities while you’re a student, getting involved in societies, knocking on local doors and sourcing mentors. Careers events are a great way to network, and LinkedIn can also be a valuable tool for making connections and gaining insight into different professional pathways. The Careers and Employability Service currently offers two mini career courses on LinkedIn, to help you to build your profile, and expand your professional connections; more information can be found here.   

Our event booklet provides additional information on our speakers, together with further profiles of Aberdeen graduates who have gone on to succeed in multiple career sectors which involve working with words:

Where Can a DHPA Degree Take You? Degree-specific Skills, 22 March 2023

On 22 March 2023 we held our second DHPA event and welcomed three alumni from the School to share their career journeys and their top tips for students. Kieran and Liz both pursued a postgraduate Master's degree in Museum Studies after completing their undergraduate degrees in History and Art History-English respectively. They now work as curators, Kieran for the R&A World Golf Museum and Liz for the National Galleries of Scotland. The aim of this event was to highlight the many different paths a DHPA can take you and our third speaker, Aurora, demonstrated the transferability of her Religious Studies-International Relations degree to her job as a social worker.  

Kieran talked about the research and writing skills he gained from his undergraduate studies which he now uses when crafting publicity articles and interpretation copy for the collections he works with. Although his job title is ‘curator’, his job is multi-faceted and has included contributing to the refurbishment of the museum, care for the champion’s trophy at The Open, and being interviewed about an upcoming exhibition for a newspaper article. Liz, too, commented on the breadth of roles in museums work, with curation only making up one aspect. Just as important, she argued, are roles working on collections management, fundraising, learning programmes and outreach, public relations and digital engagement, to name a few examples. 

This varied element of the job was a highlight for both speakers. Kieran talked about the diversity that museum work offers, explaining that the variety between desk-based tasks (like researching and writing) and practical jobs within the museum or archive makes for a fantastically interesting day-to-day. With this exposure comes the need to be constantly curious, Liz explained. Her passion for museum work lies in the opportunity to keep learning and, at times, to build up knowledge about completely different topics out with the subject of her DHPA degree. 

Liz recommended that every student interested in a career in museums take time to understand their motivations. This is particularly important given the competitive nature of the sector, the tendency for low-paid jobs and the fact that availability of work can be dependent on funding, so many jobs are offered on short-term contracts only. Both speakers agreed that their Master’s course was beneficial in providing work experience, the exposure to lots of different topics and the opportunity to build a professional network. However, not all museum roles may require a postgraduate degree in Museum Studies, and there are alternative routes into the sector, such as programmes that focus on work-based learning.  

For those aiming to pursue a career in this sector, both Kieran and Liz agreed that gaining experience is essential but encouraged students to consider smaller museums and galleries alongside bigger ones. Your degree offers you the opportunity to develop research skills but volunteering outside the university can be an excellent way to get your foot in the door. Kieran and Liz recommended working for an organisation in person (where volunteering tasks are often things like cataloguing) or even looking for online volunteering opportunities. It can also be useful to think about how your existing skills relate to museum work. If you have a part-time job and it involves tasks like inventorying stock, for example, that experience can come in useful for museum work too. 

Our third speaker was Aurora, who began her career in consultancy in London, but latterly moved to social work back in Aberdeen. She spoke honestly about the pressure to get a ‘good’ job after graduation and the importance of realising when to make a change. The key takeaway from this experience, she explained, was knowing that you can work in different industries, for example science, technology, engineering or maths, without having a background in the area by nature of being a middleman (i.e. a consultant). Following the disruption of COVID-19 she reconsidered her next steps and completed a Master’s in Social Work at Robert Gordon University, for which she received funding from the Scottish Social Services Council. Now a fully qualified social worker in Children’s Services for Aberdeen City Council, she finds her day-to-day job more closely aligned with her values.  

When asked about the relevance of her degree, Aurora explained the intersection of religion with social work, both in the nature of the work and the fact that many social workers are motivated by their personal religious beliefs. Building on her undergraduate studies, she used her Master’s dissertation to explore the impact of faith and religion on social work practice. Understanding different religious practices is beneficial when working with people, as her awareness for traditional holidays and festivals means she can be sensitive to others’ priorities. She gave the example of working with a family currently fasting for Ramadan and the implications that has on her contact with them.  

Being able to relate her job back to her undergraduate degree is something that motivates Aurora, alongside working with people. Promoting social justice is a key part of what she does, especially in Children’s Services where she’s often making tough decisions on behalf of young children and even unborn babies. Being able to see the effect of her contribution is very rewarding, but the emotional impact of the work can be difficult to manage. However, she emphasised that she is part of an incredibly supportive team working hard to make a difference to people’s lives. During the session she shared lots of information on different types of social work and the variety of employers, which ranged from the government and local authorities to third sector organisations and regulatory bodies. The main takeaway from her presentation was to think broadly about where and how your DHPA degree could be relevant to your career aspirations, and to understand your personal values. 

Where Can a DHPA Degree Take You? Transferable Skills, 15 March 2023

On Wednesday 15 March 2023 we welcomed two alumni to an event highlighting careers with a DHPA degree. The first of two events in the semester, here we focused on the transferability of a DHPA degree to a number of sectors. We were delighted to be joined by Rebecca, who graduated with a degree in English and History and now works for the Civil Service in the Department for Education, and Lauren, an English-Art History graduate now working as a senior content marketing manager for a content performance and digital PR firm.  

Both speakers began by talking about their time at university, what they enjoyed about their degree and what they gained from their studies. Rebecca noted that her skills in reviewing evidence and discussing implications allowed her to write a domestic abuse strategy when working for a local council as part of the National Graduate Development Programme. From her History degree she was able to bring a new perspective to the team, specifically focusing on the use of culture to fill social care gaps. Lauren talked about the data handling skills she developed from Art History as well as the ability to remove emotion from decision making and view a project from a client perspective. Communication forms a huge part of her current job and she credits her time at university with teaching her not only how to adapt her communication skills but also how to appreciate the craftsmanship of others.  

Both Lauren and Rebecca talked about the general administration skills that you develop at university through managing your time, meeting deadline and managing a busy email inbox, aided by the extra-curricular activities they undertook alongside their academic programmes. Rebecca volunteered with different organisations whilst she was a student which allowed her to upskill in communication, critical review, information processing, teamwork and giving feedback, not to mention gaining an insight into working within charities. Lauren worked part-time throughout her degree which she credits with teaching her how to work efficiently and manage her time, be reliable and maintain resilience when working challenging shifts. Alongside that, she also worked to develop her personal brand, keeping a blog and upskilling with digital marketing courses to help her get a job after graduation. 

Rebecca and Lauren both worked in the InfoHub at the University of Aberdeen after they graduated, which they agreed gave them time to adjust to life after finishing their studies and gave them experience of working with people. Despite being settled in their current job roles, they each shared the unexpected twists and turns their career journeys had taken so far and the setbacks or tough decisions they had had to make. The key takeaway from these stories was to remember that everyone is on their own path in life. Try not to compare yourself to anyone else but be adaptable to changing circumstances and new opportunities.   

This advice was relevant to both sectors Rebecca and Lauren work in. Rebecca encouraged students to consider HEO or SEO roles in the Civil Service as an alternative to the Fast Stream and to look at communications as a starting point. Underpinning every element of policy development, a job in comms can expose you to many different areas of work across the entire government. Rebecca shared her top tips for working in the Civil Service, including looking beyond the Fast Stream, and to consider HEO or SEO roles. She also shared details of her recent trip to the Middle East, where she escorted educational representatives looking to forge partnerships with the Middle East, proving that there are opportunities to travel with work outside the Diplomatic Service. 

Lauren noted that it is easy to become complacent in a job role, so it’s important to keep learning, especially in digital marketing when you need to be on top of trends and using platforms/creating content in your own time. It is a commitment. She encouraged all students to know their worth, not to settle, to treat interviews as a conversation and to remember to have fun in a job. When applying for roles, Lauren encouraged students to not be intimidated by job titles, to break down the responsibilities and not undersell yourself.  

The last point made by both speakers concerned mentors and the importance of seeking support throughout your career journey, learning from others and taking time to work on professional development. A final message was to remember that everyone has something they can teach you, so be interested and ask questions.  

Aberdeen History Alumni Careers Event, May 2021

In May 2021 we welcomed six History graduates to a Careers event run in partnership with the Alumni History Chapter. The event was a chance for students to learn about different career paths and options with their degree subjects. Most of the speakers had completed joint honours degrees but all of them spoke about the value of the History degree and the transferable skills that come from studying in the humanities.  

First to share their career journey and answer student questions was Rachel, who had extensive experience in journalism and was currently working as a political reporter. She talked about how to pursue a career in journalism, noting that research skills and the ability to remember detail are essential in this field. She said these skills, along with storytelling and being interested in people, are all qualities you develop through completing a History degree.  

The concept of storytelling in a job was one that many of the speakers picked up on. Craig, an Archaeology and World Heritage Officer, explained that the History side of his degree taught him this skill, which translates into the world of work as communication and taking an original angle. Craig also praised the critical assessment skills he gained during his degree but mentioned that social media and photography skills are an asset in his line of work.  

Another alumna to mention social media skills was Rosemary, a Communications Officer working for an NGO in Brussels. She encouraged students to get involved in opportunities at university, to volunteer from the grassroots and to find your passionate. She explained that she had just hired a graduate to manage her social media channels across the organisation. The graduate was chosen, she said, owing to their role managing the social media presence of their university society.  

Although social media might not be for everyone, it can present a great opportunity to get your foot in the door of an organisation. Alice, an Interpretation Manager, explained how this was especially important for the heritage sector, where getting a job in a smaller site can be a great starting point for graduates. She also said that communication skills are vital in this area and credited her History degree with teaching her how to condense information. She encouraged students to put yourself forward for volunteering work and to be enthusiastic, willing and flexible.  

Similarly, Juan’s top tip was to take opportunities to get out of your comfort zone. Working as an EU Public Policy Manager, he encouraged students to use your existing networks and read up on your area of interest outside of academia. This research allows you to form your own opinions, a skill vital to all humanities degrees. He was realistic in noting that many jobs in this area are competitive, therefore it’s important to be resilient when applying for jobs. This skill can be honed by challenging yourself with new experiences and opportunities to grow.  

The importance of getting involved was something each of the Alumni agreed on. The final speaker, Christopher, a PhD student, talked about how volunteering within an archive was relevant experience that prepared him well for his current studies. He too mentioned the importance of storytelling skills and the role they will play in the completion of his PhD. This key skill was present across the board and highlighted the unique nature of a humanities degree.