The Careers and Employability Service, in conjunction with Careers Service Ambassadors from the school of Language, Literature, Music and Visual Culture were pleased to welcome eight speakers on to campus for their Beyond 2020 Vision: Exploring Careers with an LLMVC Degree event, which was generously supported by the University of Aberdeen Development Trust.
The aim of the evening was to demonstrate to students the breadth of opportunities available with an LLMVC degree and the steps you need to take in order to achieve your career goals. Each of the speakers had studied for a degree in this area, some at the University of Aberdeen and others further afield. Now working in various roles including teaching, IT, human resource management, media production, the third sector and publishing, the speakers shared some of their top tips to those present, before sitting down with smaller groups of students to answer questions in a more informal setting. There was a real buzz in the room, which continued after the official event had finished and we allowed some time at the end for additional networking and light refreshments.
The speakers who attended and their job roles and companies.
Reflecting on their career journeys, many of the speakers highlighted the pivotal role that undertaking work experience had played in helping them get to where they are now. I for one noted that I wouldn’t be in my current job as a Graduate Trainee at the University of Aberdeen Careers and Employability Service if it wasn’t for my experience on the BP Student Tutoring Scheme. I also made sure to stress the importance of work experience in the field you are interested in, in order to ensure it is where you want to work. Throughout my final year of University I was applying for publishing jobs, but it was only after completing a month of work experience in a publishing house that I realised it actually wasn’t what I wanted to do at all. Although the work was incredibly interesting, it was the dynamics of the job that did not suit me. Not content to sit at a desk all day, I realised that I wanted more variety in the working day, and less reading!
Similarly, Darren talked about the benefit of undertaking work experience, even in a job you do not wish to pursue. He commented that, whilst studying for his masters in HR, he noticed that the people who had previous work experience tended to do better on the course. His advice for finding experience was to aim for smaller companies which might offer more hands-on internships with less competitive spaces. On that note, he provided a sly tip for anyone currently considering work experience with a smaller firm: contact managers or CEOs directly to enquire about the possibility of an internship or work experience, rather than going through HR. If you would like to know how to do this, we will be running a Career Bite on making speculative applications the 12th March. You can sign up for it here.
"When looking for expeirence, aim for smaller companies which might offer more hands-on internships with less competitive spaces."
Darren also drew on his experience with Study Abroad, highlighting how spending a year in France as part of his degree gave him invaluable experience adapting to a new environment and undergoing a shift in both language and culture. Not only that, after graduating from his undergraduate degree in French and Modern Greek Studies, he took the opportunity to move back out to France and take a job as an English teacher, living with friends he had met when he was a student there. Not only did he develop key skills in this role, he now uses the knowledge he gained in his current job as a People and Organisation Advisor at Aberdeen City Council to help with the integration of new recruits. Grace, too, made a point of taking all the opportunities afforded you, in order to put yourself out there and new people. She commented on the types of societies she was in whilst at university, and emphasised the fact that, as a student, you are given so many opportunities to get out there and try different things.
Each speaker took some time at the beginning of the event to introduce themselves and talk about how they progressed from university into their current role.
Not only does putting yourself out there bring fresh possibilities, it also gives you the chance to develop new skills. Rebecca suggested you try anything you are interested in – what have you got to lose! For me trying something different gave me so much more than I originally thought it would. When I took part in the BP Student Tutoring Scheme I was completely out of my comfort zone taking on the role of tutor in a classroom full of teenagers. However, not only did I establish key skills when adapting to a new working environment, I also became aware of the role of the Careers Adviser, one I had never before considered as a career option for me.
Of course, opportunities are not limited to your university, and working outside of your degree will give you valuable experience too, not least in time management. Rebecca spent much of her time at University volunteering for external organisations, working in the youth council and in various other roles. With her drive to make a difference on a national and potentially global level, this initial experience set her up perfectly for her job as a Digital, Campaigns and Marketing Adviser for the Local Government Association. Similarly, Hannah worked full time during her degree, and not only was she able to pay all her expenses by herself, she also developed a range of skills she is able to draw on now in her role as an Assistant for Media and Communications with WWF Austria. Working during your studies also allows you to explore a range of job fields. Whilst studying at the University of Aberdeen, Andrew worked for Aberdeen Performing Arts, which led him to consider the potential of a career in the creative field.
"Not only does pushing yourself out of your comfort zone bring new possibilities, it also gives you the chance to develop new skills. You should try anything you are interested in – what have you got to lose!"
Sheryl, along with echoing the others in the importance of always saying ‘yes’ to opportunities in order to build upon your transferable skills, emphasised the fact that it’s ok not to know what you want to do after graduating. Studying German at University she was not taken by the prospect of a career in teaching, and instead decided to try different things to build up experience. Having grown her own company, Appetite for Business – for which she is now the Director, winning Female Leader of the year in 2018 and receiving the Business Success over 3 Years in Scotland award in 2019, she reassured students that they have plenty of time to find their way. She told them not to feel stressed about their future, and to instead open up to different opportunities. At that stage it can be limiting to focus all your energy on one career path, a fact I would have learned the hard way had I not had alternative options when I discovered I didn’t want to go into publishing. When you explore a range of career options, she said, you will find something that really clicks for you. Once you know exactly what you are interested in, then you work on making a career out of it.
Grace and Andrew certainly found their way into jobs following their interests. Grace’s passion of reading suits her very well in her job as an Editorial Assistant for DC Thompson, and Andrew’s love of books sees him now handing the physical copies through many stages of the production process as a Production Assistant for Canongate. Hannah, however, took a different path into her job. After researching her options, she found a company she wanted to work for so applied for a job with them, only when she went to interview she realised that it was for a completely different job! Her lesson to take away from this is that she benefited from wanting to work for the company above all else. It didn’t matter to her so much what she did, and she advised students to focus on the industry or company you want to work for, and not to get too caught up in the particular job; there may well be opportunities to move jobs internally once you are in. Darren echoed this view in mentioning that entry-level positions are a great way to get your foot in the door, and from there you can move up into the job you really want.
The event incorporated 'speed careering', where the speakers sat down with a smaller group of students to answer questions in an informal session.
Sheryl was keen to emphasise the fact that there can be a lot of pressure for students in their final years to know what they want to do after university but, be reassured, there is plenty of time to find your feet. As well as considering the company you want to work for and the job you want to do, it is very important to decide what you would like your working day to look like. Jamie talked about the creative freedom he is given in his job as a Music Teacher at Meldrum Academy. With the need to take both an educational and targeted approach, he is constantly adapting his teaching style to suit the needs of the pupils. Not only interested in teaching, he is involved with several of the school’s music groups and orchestras, and very much enjoys the variety that each day at work brings.
"There can be a lot of pressure for students in their final years to know what they want to do after university but, be reassured, there is plenty of time to find your feet."
Each speaker had followed their own path to their current jobs, demonstrating the fact that there is no ‘right’ way to go about finding employment after you graduate. Evidence to the fact that your degree can take you anywhere, only three out of the eight speakers work in jobs relevant to their undergraduate degrees. Where they all came into agreement, however, was on the topic of work experience and the number of doors it can open for you. The biggest takeaway from the event was that building on your skills and experience is crucial. Undertaking work experience can help you explore career options – finding out both what you like and dislike in a job – and prepare you for the world of work after University. Every one of the speakers noted that they absolutely love their job, and you know what they say: do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life!
If you have any questions or concerns regarding how to find work experience or if you would like to explore your career options, please book an appointment to speak to one of our Careers Advisers either online at abdn.targetconnect.net or in person at the Students’ Union Building.