1. What did you read at York and why?
– Sociology. Honestly? I think it’s because like many other people at the time, I didn’t feel like I had any idea what I wanted to do in terms of a career and quite frankly, everyone else was going too University so I did the same. I studied Sociology as I had done it as an A-Level and quite liked it. I should point out that, purely at my own fault, I didn’t do very well at A-Level. I got a C in General Studies (which we had to do and included formal classes), a D in Communication Studies and a D in Sociology! I’d also picked up an AS-Level in Business Studies after dropping Biology and managed to get an A in this. Thankfully, despite my grades I was still accepted.
2. What are your favourite memories from university?
– There are plenty of these! I loved the campus and I loved the fact that you got everything you would expect from a city, but condensed down into a much smaller footprint. York is a fantastic city and we spent a lot of time off campus. That’s another great thing, the university is within walking distance of the city so you get the best of both worlds. I still get a feeling of real nostalgia when I go back to the city, although since leaving I’ve never been back to the campus! There was a really close and inclusive atmosphere at the university, office staff as well as lecturers were approachable and friendly and there was a real sense of community. I still feel a real sense of pride of having been a student at York – it always impresses on a CV.
3.When did you graduate and who do you work for now?
– I graduated in 2002 with a 2:2 (again, I can’t claim to have deserved a 2:1). I returned to my hometown of Burnley but there was little opportunity for graduates. In hindsight I could and should have been more proactive and written to or called companies locally that I wanted to work for. In the end I went to a recruitment agency in Manchester and was placed with a company called 3M. It was essentially call handling and I was there for three months. I then moved on to the Crown Prosecution Service in Manchester where I was a Criminal Caseworker. Sounds moreglamorous than it was – it was an admin role but was working on a variety of cases, working with lawyers, barristers and police, attending court etc. All in all an interesting role and a great place to work. I got a promotion whilst I was there which involved working more on the cases and monitoring them to ensure they were ready to proceed at court when they got there. Getting fed up of the commute and always wanting to be philanthropic and do something positive for my hometown, I saw a job as Business Information Officer at my local Council. I managed to get the job and after a small promotion I am now a Business Support Officer.
4. What do you do on a day to day basis in your job?
-My role entails going out to see businesses of all sizes and types to see what support they require. This might be companies looking for financial assistance, relocating companies, helping with recruitment, or just hear what issues they have and how we can help. It’s a really varied job and I get to see all kinds of people and companies. It’s amazing what’s made here. Military aircraft missiles, reverse thruster engines for the airbus and the world’s most successful digital audio consoles used in abbey road studios and in every Hollywood blockbuster (Google AMS Neve – Emmy, Grammy and Oscar winning company).
5. What advice do you have for current York students looking to gain employment in your field/for your company?
– In terms of advice, not just to get into the Public Sector but to get into any job I would say get as much work experience as you can before you apply for your first full time role. Get a variety, do whatever you need to do to get it, do it for free if you have to. One of my employers looked at the application and qualifications and didn’t even know what I studied. He saw I had a degree as it was deemed “desirable” on the person spec, but he just saw that it was there and gave tit no more thought. I got my first job as it was pretty easy (only stipulation was that 3M only accepted Graduates), but what I consider my first real job at the CPS, I got because the work experience at my local Hospital whilst I was at uni was very similar to the role I went into. It had nothing to do with my degree. Everyone who worked there had a degree.
Other advice is don’t just rush into a post grad course. I started doing a lot of work withCommercial Property and as such, I asked if I could go back to Unito study. I completed an MSc in Commercial Property Management at Liverpool John Moore’s University. You might want a post grad qualification but don’t think if you don’t do it straight after your under grad that education is over! Most employers are willing to invest in their workforce and with the added bonus of it being something relevant to your career.
Try to research as many companies as possible. Quite literally 90% of jobs out there you will never have heard of. I didn’t know criminal caseworkers existed, I didn’t know business support officers existed. Pick a business park, a city block and find out who all the companies are. Research them a little and see what they do. Even ring them and ask what kinds of roles thereare at the company. In short, vocational degrees get you straight into careers that they relate to, non-vocational ones don’t. As such, those who studied things like Sociology, English, History etc need to work that bit harder as in reality, their degree shows at best that they are intelligent and can maybe do a bit of research.
Speak to business support agencies in the area/location you want to work. Each area will have a chamber of commerce or a Local Enterprise Partnership. Go and see them, ask them what kinds of companies are in the area and how you can get in touch with them.
Do something completely different on your CV. I recently wondered what I would do if I found myself looking for work again. If I emailed out a cv I’d put a web link to a YouTube video of me talking about myself, what I want to do and what my interests are. That way they can see who you are, what you like and get an idea of who you are beyond the paper copy.
Be realistic about the salary you want and why. I speak to companies in my local area andgraduates turn up with zero work experience expecting to have a really decent starting salary for the fact that they are graduates. Everyone is a graduate these days and if you’re going in at entry level to a company, someone who is bright and just left college is just as capable of doing the job as you for less money. I’m 31 now, I’m on £23,708 pa. The average salary in my town is about £22k. You do tend to get less money in the public sector. That said, I get 30 days holiday a year, flexi time and as things stand in today’s money, I will retire at 66 with a pension of £11k a year and about £65k as a lump sum. This will obviously increase with inflation.