It’s a common misconception that a person’s degree determines their career. A career path will never be a straightforward journey, least of all nowadays when people all over change not just jobs but whole careers multiple times a decade. Instead, it’s more likely to be a combination of compromises and deviations – and a degree doesn’t have to dictate that future. The recipient of a BA in Politics doesn’t have to work in Parliament; instead they could begin working for ITV Sport. A chemistry degree can lead not to a laboratory, but to becoming a barrister, and three years spent studying education could mean you end up as an HR Advisor for the government instead of in the classroom.
A career path will never be a straightforward journey.
Each of these examples is a real life example extracted from York Profiles and Mentors, an online database curated by the University’s Careers service and the York Alumni Association. The database includes over 760 profiles of former York students providing information on their jobs and career path. They also answer common questions and offer advice. New profiles are added regularly to the database, so it could be an informative and valuable resource for those panicking about life after graduation.
Sean graduated from York in 2009 with a BA in Politics and an MA in Political Philosophy. Two years later he had turned his hobby into his career; employed by ITV Sport, he combined his love of cricket with his practical experience in student journalism. “Being able to think logically and think through problems has helped me immensely,” he explains. “I can also apply an intellectual framework towards sport…which gives me a definite edge in my industry.”
It’s clear now more than ever that having a specific degree doesn’t mean a career in that specific field. Instead, even the most specialised degrees are likely to provide valuable transferrable skills which can be employed in a variety of careers.
The Profiles service not only offers information on various types of jobs and careers, but graduates also provide details about the process of their recruitment alongside general advice. Some display the specific companies they work for and even their salaries. English and Politics graduate Eleanor’s most important piece of advice is to “Persevere! It was disheartening at times spending lots of time applying for jobs and taking trips across the country for interviews, but keeping going with applications worked out.” Eleanor now works for Challenge Partners as a Project Coordinator.
Persevering, too, helped Scott secure his job as Entertainment Editor at Buzzfeed after graduating with a Politics degree in 2010. “You don’t need to have formal journalism training to get in,” he says. Scott has dyslexia, but has found that his attitude, experience and work ethic are more important than spelling and grammar. Not all of the profiles are by graduates; it also includes students who have undertaken work experience while still at university. These offer advice on how to get those all-important placements and internships which can make such a difference to a CV. Victoria studies Environmental Science and obtained an internship at the RSPB as a People Engagement Assistant. She fully believes in the importance of work experience, whether it’s voluntary or paid, because “you can pick up so much information, hints and tips that will be really beneficial for the future.”
Through these schemes, undergraduates can gain relevant skills as well as a greater understanding of a potential career path. There are also some really experienced experts who are veterans in their field. Richard is a Biology graduate from 1977 who is currently a self-employed PR Consultant with a wealth of knowledge in his industry. He stresses the importance of research in order to be sure of what you want to do, then, “go for it in a single-minded and tenacious manner”.
Like Eleanor, Richard is well aware that it’s not always an easy ride. “Be prepared for plenty of rejections along the way but stick with it,” he advises, along with ensuring to “network and use all the contacts you have”.More than 600 of the profiled experts are willing to answer specific questions through an online form. Naturally they have full and busy days so a little patience never goes amiss. For something more personal, one-third of those profiled also offer personal mentoring to students. This allows for more direct and structured contact. Mentoring could lead to CV and interview advice, or open the door to a network of potential contacts.
Be prepared for plenty of rejections along the way but stick with it.
The system is easily accessible through the Careers website. Once on the database different profiles are easily accessible through various search filters to find specific sectors and industries. Alternatively, profiles can be organised by degree, country or college.
Profiles cover employees from a vast number of regions and countries, and often those employed abroad can offer advice on both travel and visa requirements. There are also various profiles by international former students who are now working in the UK as well as abroad, to provide further insight into the different processes and opportunities available.
This is a particularly useful resource for anyone at any stage in their degree and includes a wealth of advice and support available. Simply scrolling through the various profiles can simply increase your awareness of where your degree could take you, particularly if you’re looking for new ideas or motivation.
Even if a career path remains evasive, the advice offered by these graduates is invaluable for job-hunting in any field. Eleanor’s advice on this matter can be true for all of us: “It sometimes takes a lot of time, and it can be a daunting process, but stay positive and keep going.” M