Category Archives: Careers advice

How I started a business during my placement year

Ashleigh Plummer, who is an Aston graduate, started a business in his placement year with the support of BSEEN. Ashleigh shares his story below. 

What did you do for your placement year?

For my placement year I started a company called Deusoft Web Development and Creative Studio. This is basically a creative web company that aimed to help small-to-medium-sized businesses showcase their brands in the best possible light. As we worked with multiple clients, the specifications were always different. Our job was to listen to our clients’ needs, break it down and then use an agile process to produce something that our clients were proud of.

How did BSEEN support you?

BSEEN helped by providing an office space at the innovation campus in Birmingham which gave us the professional outlook we needed, especially when meeting with clients. BSEEN also provided a grant which enabled me to purchase business equipment and software. They also provided a mentor who was able to clear some of my thoughts about the direction I was taking the business.

Tell us a bit about the process for applying to the BSEEN programme and the support offered during the year.

The process is very simple. At the end of the day, BSEEN are there to help you start and run a successful business. The process consists of filling in an application form and a panel interview to which you provide a presentation on your business idea.

Once you are accepted onto the programme, you have to attend a business boot camp which provides you with essential foundation knowledge of running a business i.e. Finance, Marketing, Sales, etc.

Over the year, BSEEN organise and advise you on a ton of different events that would be beneficial for your business. These events are great for meeting potential clients and creating new acquaintances.

Can you tell us a bit more about the business you ran?

The company was a web and mobile development studio based in Birmingham, which also offered additional services such as branding, social media marketing and SEO.

Main services included:
• Web development (HTML, PHP, JavaScript and CSS)
• Mobile App development (Android/Java, iOS)
• Branding (logo design, business cards and social media branding)
• Digital Marketing (SEO and social media marketing)

Deusoft was set up in the aim of bringing web solutions to small businesses and start-ups within the West Midlands.

Would you recommend the BSEEN programme to current 2nd year students?

I would, however, it is not your traditional placement scheme. You must have a lot of self-discipline and be a pro-active thinker. No one is going to tell you what to do: you must decide it all by yourself. So if you have a business idea that you are passionate about and you have a long term vision for it, then the programme is for you.

 

What was the highlight of your placement? Receiving my first payment for my creative skills.

What advice would you give those considering starting up their own business?

You need to know how to communicate what your business is as simply as possible. If your customers don’t understand what you’re selling, then they won’t buy from you. The way people see, hear and recognise your business is crucial. Know your audience, know your business.

Did Ashleigh’s story inspire you to start your own business during your placement year? Why not come and speak to BSEEN about the support they can offer you at our upcoming #FindYourPlacement event, which is taking place on 11th June? Spaces are limited, so book your place now!

My placement year at Shoosmiths

Aadil Qureshi is currently a final year student studying LL.B. Law. He completed his placement year at Shoosmiths last year as an Administration Assistant. Aadil shares his placement experience below. 

Sum up your placement experience in 3 words:

Insightful, fun, life-changing.

How did you secure your placement?

I managed to secure my placement by making sure, before everything, that I had a CV worth a second look. In the current market it’s imperative to have so much more than just academic achievements on your CV and my advice to those in years below me has always been to get stuck in with every opportunity that comes your way: you never know which may be the one that helps you stand out. In terms of this placement specifically, I had to complete a short phone interview and then a face-to-face interview which lasted about an hour.

What was your typical day?

My typical day would involve getting into work for 9am, and then commencing work on my to-do list for the day. As a case handler, my usual duties involved contacting customers of our clients who were in debt to the client and request payment of that debt. Should a customer refuse to pay or was unable to pay, it was my job to issue legal proceedings against them. This could involve anything from requesting a County Court Judgment against them to placing a Charging Order on their house or requesting a bailiff visit. Other than this, I also liaised with Courts and Counsel. As the Complaint Specialist, I also dealt with complaints made against us pursuant to FCA regulations.

What skills did you develop during your placement?

I developed various skills during my placement, predominantly case and time management. Effective case and time management was an integral part of my role and this has allowed me to obtain and develop skills which will, in turn, assist me in a career in a fast-paced environment. I also developed an advanced level of communication skills because I would be communicating with people of different levels of intelligence on a daily basis. This means I had to adapt how I communicated depending on whom I was speaking to.

What was your favourite placement moment?

I think my favourite placement moment was the Christmas Party at Shoosmiths. This was full-fledged, no-expense-spared extravaganza. It had the whole Great Gatsby grand party vibes about it. The party took place at the Northampton county cricket stadium and had a guest list of approx. 500 employees. The theme of the night was Bollywood and it was amazing to see everyone have such a great time, even certain managing partners who you see on a daily basis in a professional environment just forget everything and have a good time. The party went on into the early hours of the morning!

What would you say to students considering a placement?

I’d say do it! Whether you love it or not you will not regret it. The placement will either show you if the career you have picked for yourself or the type of work you will be doing is exactly right for you in which case, great. Or, it will show you that you don’t actually want that career or type of job in which case great too, because it is better to know before you have invested years and money into it just to find it isn’t for you. And apart from this, the generic skills you will obtain and develop will help you in all walks of life.

How has your placement affected your final year and future career plans?

It has definitely helped me have a more mature mindset in my final year. This in turn I think has helped me significantly with my modules and just in general understanding of the content. I think the maturity I have gained is also evident to my lecturers and I hope this will also be apparent to any prospective employers. With regards to career plans, for me, my placement showed me a legal career is exactly what I want and has motivated me to push further and ensure I reach the professional milestones I have set for myself.

I’ve got a job! The learning process of going from student to employee

In the next few months, many university students will be making that important move to the workplace. It can be a daunting first step to take…even for students who may have been working during their time in education, or who may have completed a placement as part of their course. As a student, it can be comforting to know that once the university vacation or placement year has ended, it is possible to leave that temporary job, internship or work placement and head back to the “safety” of a familiar campus environment. For many students however, the upcoming end of university means stepping out of a recognisable environment they have grown accustomed to over a number of years….and with no university to go back to in a few weeks’ time.

Many students have already gone through the lengthy and time consuming steps involved in writing applications and working through challenging recruitment selection processes to secure that first job. It would be easy to think that all the hard work is done, mission accomplished…course completed and job offer in the bag. However making that move from education into the workplace on a full-time basis involves significant change, and can mean much upheaval. The end of university marks the start of a new chapter of learning about how to move from student status to that of an employee/worker/member of staff.

Whether you are going to start on a graduate scheme, an entry level job, or even if you will be working in a role that is not your intended career path and/or still pondering what your next career step will be, you may find the following insights helpful to keep in mind as you move into the world of work:

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1. The learning process starts all over again

You’ve spent 3-4 years at university to get your degree, which marks that valuable first step in your career journey. Your learning won’t end at your graduation ceremony. Now comes the time to really start applying what you’ve learnt to the world of work, whether directly from your degree subject itself, or the wide range of skills that studying a degree has enabled you to build; independence, critical thinking, communication and teamwork, to name a few. This is why employers want graduates to recognise and actively develop themselves whilst at university. You can then start transferring your skills into your daily work when you start a job.

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2. Your mind set in the workplace is important

Whether you find yourself on a graduate scheme that you’ve always wanted, or working in a role as a stepping stone whilst you discover more about what you would like in your career, acting in positive ways and carrying yourself professionally in the workplace is important. Keep in mind that your outlook will be on show, from the way you talk to your colleagues through to your quality of work, and how you tackle even the most simple of tasks. Respecting colleagues, working with enthusiasm, and having a general positive attitude can really make a difference to your experiences and opportunities in the workplace. 

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3. Don’t expect all the exciting work/projects to come to you straight away

This one is very much linked to no. 2 in the list. With any job there is a period of adjustment, settling in and getting to grips with the basics. You may have achieved high academic grades at university, however when you start in any job, you need to prove yourself. Being able to integrate and work with others, carry out tasks to a high quality, and deliver work on time is vital, before progressing onto new and more complex and challenging work. Even if you find yourself working in a job that doesn’t align to your future career desires, still put in the work and effort, you never know how/when this could open up new opportunities or career routes within the organisation, and which you didn’t even know existed.

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4. Employers won’t really “spoon feed” their employees

Sure there is usually a period of training and an induction when you start a new job. Typically there are support mechanisms in place to help you as you navigate your way through your job tasks and duties. Do keep in mind that much of what you learn is done so “on-the-job.” You will learn a lot by trial and error, through trying, reflecting, asking questions, and adapting to improve for next time.

The same can be said for your professional development. You may start on a structured grad scheme but not all training and development opportunities may be handed to you on a plate.  As you find out more about your strengths and interests, learn to reflect and consider the areas where you could, and want to gain more experience, and further develop your skills. Speak with your management about this, it shows initiative, a commitment to your own development, and can only add to your future value in the workplace. Even if you find yourself working in a role that isn’t your ideal graduate career, consider if there are any internal training opportunities that you could take advantage of. This could really add value to your CV, and equip you with new skills for a future workplace.

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5. Work hard but don’t peak too soon

As a new graduate you should be working hard. There may be the temptation to throw yourself into a job so much that you say “yes” to everything that comes your way, but remember that “slow and steady wins the race.” Get to know the organisation you are working for, how it is structured, and speak to and get to know your work colleagues too. Embed and immerse yourself and learn the basics of your job and get that right before raising your hand to take on more complex projects. 

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6. The world of work is massively different to being a student

This may seem like a no-brainer and pretty obvious, but moving from the lifestyle of a student to that of a worker can still be a bit of a culture shock. It took me a good year to get my head round! Where late nights, late starts and missing the odd few lectures may be the norm at university, you will likely find that you have to adjust your daily body clock to accommodate structured working hours, for which you can’t just skip one day, and turn up the next. The culture of the workplace is different to university. From how you are expected to dress, through to telephone and email etiquette. Watch and learn, and give yourself a bit of time to adapt.

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7. There are learning opportunities by working in any type of job

More than ever, due to the changing nature of the workplace, it is highly unlikely that your first job after university will be your last. 

So whatever your first career step after university, even if you are working in a job and you have no idea of where your future lies, know that you are growing, maturing and acquiring valuable abilities, strengths and personal qualities that you will no doubt use at some point as you navigate your way along your career path.

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4 tips to a fruitful placement experience

Hello everyone, my name is James Chew. I am a third year International Business and Management student, currently undertaking a year-long placement as the Products and Affiliate Assistant at British Tourism Authority in London. Getting a placement is tough, ensuring that you learn and develop skills during your placement is tougher! Here are some tips to ensure that you get the most out of your placement year!

1.Management Style

Take the time and effort to understand the management style of your line manager. This is crucial as different managers have different ways of leadership. My manager loves to give us the ideal outcome and ask us to suggest solutions to achieve that. This gives us a lot of freedom and creativity space to find the ideal solutions. In addition, you should also learn how your manager processes information. My manager loves to view information in the most visually appealing way. Hence, I would usually do mock-up designs or add lots of diagrams and colours in my spreadsheets when I’m presenting to her. Happy Boss = Happy Me!

2.Office Culture

Every team, department and company has a different vibe. You should try to immerse yourself in this office vibe as much as possible. By immersing yourself in the office vibe, you will learn to better communicate with your colleagues even if you are not on the same team or department. Being able to communicate with people is an important skill to learn and it takes constant practice to perfect the art.

If you are an introvert like me, then you can always start with attending social events and just starting with “How’s your day been?”. Being friendly with your colleagues from other teams and departments don’t just create a vibrant office environment, it always makes collaboration easier.

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3.Time Management

Most people usually work for 8-9 hours a day with an hour of lunch in between. That may seem like a lot of hours for those who have never held a full-time job, but trust me it is never enough to get all the work done. Especially when you are an intern, there will be times when you are assigned multiple tasks from various colleagues or even managers. Here is a tip, always ask for the deadlines for every task or assignment that lands on your desk. This would allow you to manage your tasks better.

If you realised that you have too much on your plate, don’t be shy to voice out and ask for help. Learning to put your pride down and ask for help doesn’t make you weak, instead, it makes you stronger as an individual! As the saying goes, “Time is Precious”. Do not waste time on inefficient ways of doing things.

 

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4. Results & Achievement

Results and achievement may seem quite straightforward to most students. However, it is almost impossible to constantly deliver results and achievements in the work environment as the definition of it changes over time. Take note of your company’s management directions, this will guide you on what the management deems important which would then be classified as results and achievement.

Here is an example, the management has decided to focus on increasing revenue for the next 6 months but you were more focus on developing a new function which is not crucial to increasing revenue. Even if you had succeeded in getting the new function to work, it would not have been an achievement as it was not the management’s focus.

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As I reach the conclusion of this blog entry, I would like to tell students on internships/placements to not be afraid of failing, getting reprimanded or even shun away by your colleagues. We are all in this to learn and gain professional experiences which would contribute to our future career paths. How much you want to gain from your internship/placements is not in the hands of your company but in yours!

DREAM BIG, REACH HIGH and NEVER GIVE UP!

My graduate job in Careers+Placements

Hi all!

“Guess who’s back, back again,

Ali’s back, tell a friend,

Guess who’s back,

Guess who’s back,

Guess who’s back”…..

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For all those who don’t know me, my name is Ali! I’ve written blogs previously in the past for the Careers+Placements team as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist during my placement year. Now fast-tracking myself a few years later…and zap! I’ve landed myself a graduate job in the C+P team working as an Assistant Placement Coordinator!

So how did I get here? It’s a good question to ask, and if I’m entirely honest… I’m not sure myself either! During my time at Aston University, I always kept a go-getter mentality when presented with opportunities. Whether this was volunteer work in and around university or part-time casual, I always strived to get involved to do my part and make that difference! At the time whilst participating in all these opportunities, I had only assessed the benefits that I would’ve gained over the short term:

  • Successfully identifying and applying my strengths
  • Stimulating and promoting positive self-development
  • Developing a stronger insight into services provided by Aston University
  • Networking with academics and professionals alike.

However, through constant volunteering opportunities, I had the chance to further develop my networks and meet some really interesting people. As of such, my passion soon developed into a commitment and I found myself becoming a student ambassador for Aston University. It was through my perseverance, commitment and a helpful recommendation from the Learning Enhancement team that I was able to secure a temporary contract shortly after graduating. It was then, through continuous work during my role as a Student Support Assistant, was I able to progress into a Placement Coordinator role. Not only did this allow me to play on my key strengths but also gave me the opportunity to better prepare students for their upcoming placement year.

It soon dawned upon me that this role was starting to provide me insight into the careers and education sector. I was starting to draw the dots together between the services we provided to our students and the high level of graduate employability. Upon working as a Placement Coordinator, I had only realised how beneficial the Careers+Placements team were in developing and nurturing Aston University’s students in preparation for the working world!

Currently working full-time, I’m always finding ways to improve upon student engagement and delivering the best support service possible! I like to believe that when an opportunity presents itself, seize it at once. The experiences we gain now as graduates will only benefit us further and become critical in future decision-making and employability.

Whatever you do, just remember in life that there is no elevator to success; you have to take the stairs!

I finally plucked up the courage to apply for a government graduate scheme

 

I always wanted to work for the government but I ended up trying the supposed ‘silver bullets’ of career paths. After unsuccessful stints in the corporate world and startups (not for me) and a very positive experience in PR (my career spirit animal); I knew that I had to take the risk to apply and get my foot in the door. The National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) recruitment drive is an investment of your time regardless of what stage you get up to…my recruitment was almost a year’s process! Please do not think that graduate schemes are for fresh faced 21 year olds! I graduated with my BSc with a study abroad year almost 4 years ago. Since then, I have gone onto to complete my MA, tried different careers paths, lived in different cities, got lots of life experience and developed as a person before ending up in government. I have met those on the scheme who have completed PhD’s as well as stints in other industries! The more life experience and skill sets you can bring to this job, the better!

 

My advice for the recruitment process? Take it one step at a time. Try not to overthink it and do not second guess everything. The main thing to keep in mind when applying is ‘fit.’ How do you fit into local government? Why do you fit into local government? What area of local government do you fit into? Are you aware of the financial and community difficulties that lie ahead in a post-Brexit/Trump era? How can your soft and hard skills help local governments work together away from central government? All central funding is to be cut and local governments to be financially self-sufficient by 2019/2020.

A lot of my friends have successfully applied for various government graduate schemes with varying degrees of personal satisfaction and professional gratification. The key to local government is will the work at local government satisfy you? Non-statutory services and duty of care are not ‘sexy’ topics to discuss but play a central role in people’s lives. If services were to be removed or become inaccessible, then we would be failing our residents. In local government, you are on the front line. From library services being cut, rising adult social care costs and a booming young population, the pressure is on to balance the books while meeting our legal requirements before central government pulls our funding.

 
I am currently in my first placement on the scheme working with the stronger communities’ team and my second placement will be working for the Chief Executive herself. The content of the work is very enjoyable but working with different key stakeholders can be a challenge. There is a lot of overlap with my undergraduate degree, Politics with International Relations and my MA in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies. Your ability to mix your soft and hard skills are put to the test on a daily basis. While this can be challenging the support has been second to none. I have a dedicated team at my local authority to look after me, along with a mentor, my line manager of my current placement, those on my current cohort at my local authority and those across the country, the alumni network and the programme directors of the scheme itself. The NGDP also enrols you onto a professional qualification at the Institute of Leadership and Management. This has already helped me understand and navigate issues that I, as a future leader, am encountering. How to bring together an intergenerational workforce, what are the expectations of flexible working, how does this impact the service delivery of statutory and non-statutory services?

 
I highly recommend anyone to apply especially those, who like me, tried different career paths before heading down the road of government. If you need any more insight into the programme, I am happy to help. Please ask Careers+Placements for my contact details. I will most likely be replying back when I am not in back-to-back meetings and can access my emails! But I will get there! Pace yourselves and good luck!

Regards

Katrina Rattu

Career in Policy and Public Affairs

Sometimes I find it hard to describe what I do for a living. ‘Policy and public affairs’ isn’t a career path that everyone has heard of, or knows much about. But I think it’s probably one of the most interesting and rewarding careers going.

I loved ancient history and literature at school, and went on to study at the University of Birmingham. After graduating, I was sure that I wanted to work in the public sector, and to do something that used my skills – reading and absorbing information, seeing patterns and analysing situations, and setting out my arguments in writing. After a while tempting for the NHS in an admin role in London, I managed to get onto Birmingham City Council’s graduate programme.

During my time on the graduate programme I worked in several different roles which enabled me to get a sense of what I did – and definitely didn’t want to do in future. It was during a placement in a waste and recycling depot on the outskirts of Birmingham city centre, where I was researching and designing different ways to encourage Brummies to recycle more and throw away less, that I discovered my interest in public policy.

I made a sideways move from working directly in local government to working in higher education policy in London. I wasn’t working for the government department responsible for universities, but for a policy organisation that represents universities – so it was my job to try to influence policy from the outside. I started as a Policy Researcher, and within three and a half years worked my way up to become a Policy Analyst and then a Senior Policy Analyst, eventually managing my own Policy Researcher.

I’m now Aston University’s Policy Advisor. It’s my job to know what is going on in the political world outside, and work out how it might impact on Aston. It’s also my job to find ways of letting policymakers know about all of the excellent work that goes on in Aston. Life as a Policy Advisor is often varied and always interesting. One day I might be watching a parliamentary debate live online to see what the government Minister is saying about universities, the next I’ll be responding to a consultation on what Brexit will mean for the UK’s higher education sector, and another day I’ll be drafting letters to send to MPs about an exciting development at Aston University, or organising a roundtable discussion event.

One of the great things about policy as a career path is that you realise policy roles are all around you, and your skills are really transferrable. As well as the option of working within government or with a particular politician, pretty much any organisation that interacts with government in some way, whether in the public, private or charity sector, will need people to run their policy and public affairs operation.

If you have developed the right skills and experience – like being able to read and digest lengthy and complex reports, analyse what a government announcement will mean for a sector in practice, think how a politician might think, or write a persuasive letter – in a way it doesn’t matter what context you are working in. You can learn that detail of the job as you go along.

 

My advice for anyone thinking about a career in policy is:

  • When it comes to job hunting or looking for work experience, think outside the box – it’s not just government that has policy roles. Universities, charities of all kinds, political parties, think tanks and representative bodies do too. And it doesn’t have to be in London if that’s not your scene.
  • Your career can be incredibly varied, so don’t pigeon hole yourself into one area of policy. I moved straight from environmental policy to higher education policy so I know it can be done.
  • Do your research and keep up to date with current affairs. If you’re applying for a policy role, have a look at the organisation’s recent news releases or blogs, find out which government departments they interact with and which politicians are in charge, and read one of their recent speeches. This will impress recruiters and show that you have already thought about their policy challenges.

Lizzy Woodfield

Policy Advisor, Aston University

If students would like to talk to someone to gain some advice on how to break into a career in policy, or to discuss any other aspects of their career planning, do book an appointment with a careers consultant via Aston Futures (www.aston.ac.uk/careers

My advice…

Hi guys! 

I thought I would share with you some advice and tips to help you on your journey at Aston.

Being at Aston University is a very exciting experience, I know it was for me. Aston has so much to offer – you need to ensure you make the most out of your time here, take up new opportunities and get involved!

So here are some key tips from my experience at Aston…

Tip 1. Open your emails

I know being a student can get extremely busy, trying to manage lectures, studying, group-work, sleeping and socialising etc. And the last thing you want to do is to read through emails. However, always open university emails because they do contain a lot of important information and OPPORTUNITIES!

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Tip 2. Peer Mentoring Scheme

Sometimes as a student you want guidance from a friend who has already been in your shoes, experienced things before you, and just someone to tell you it’s all going to be OK. This is why the peer mentoring scheme is so helpful.

I have been involved in the peer mentoring scheme since my first year. Each year I was assigned to a mentor who was also doing the same course as me, who would guide and help me with anything and everything. It has been a great scheme to make friends, gain help and advice. I even took up the opportunity to become a mentor myself – to give something back to the university and the students.

Tip 3. Extra opportunities/jobs

I was always looking for new opportunities and things to get involved in. For example, on many occasions I got casual/part-time work as a university tour guide and helped with jobs over the holidays, and got paid! (Opportunities were found at the JobShop).

Tip 4. Join Societies

Again, make sure you join societies and clubs! They are a great way to socialise, make friends, gain experience and responsibility. I joined Aston’s Sikh Society and in my second year I was lucky enough to make it on to the committee as Events and Marketing Coordinator.

Tip 5. Careers+Placements

Now when it comes to looking for a placement, a lot of us leave it till last minute. However, do get in touch with Careers+Placements as soon as possible. They offer a range of services and resources in helping you find your placement. I visited the centre many times to get advice from the careers consultants, get my CV and cover letter checked, and attended their careers events. I used Aston Futures (Careers+Placements online platform to search for job vacancies and events) to apply for placements and eventually secured one through them as well!

Being proactive and getting involved has really boosted my CV and EMPLOYABILITY!

And so to some it all up, take advantage of what Aston has to offer and build an unforgettable and valuable experience for yourself.

Thanks for reading!

Kiran 😊

Joining the IT industry from a non-IT background

Maya Modi

 

 

I graduated in BSc English Language from Aston University in 2016 with the intention to study Medicine post-graduation. I’m now an I.T Consultant.

 
 

 

 

I know what you’re thinking and trust me, they are linked. In this blog post, I hope that my story inspires you to consider post-graduate career options that are out of the box. You’d be surprised how fitting your work and academic experience to date can be in an industry you had never seen yourself working in before.

 

I chose to study English Language in preparation to do a Masters in Speech Pathology after – something I’d wanted to do for a good seven years now. I was dedicated and was lucky enough to secure lots of placements to support my application later. I also worked for the NHS at the time, which gave me real-time clinical experience. Speech Pathology is a small but vital sector within the allied health professionals unit of the NHS, but being exposed to trauma and other departments in the hospital made me fall in love with general medicine. I spent a lot of time deliberating whether I should drop out of my course in second year and reapply to Medical school, as there was no point continuing with my degree if I knew I didn’t want to use it for a Masters, like I had originally planned to.

Placement year arrived and I chose to continue with my degree, as I had just secured once in a life time study abroad placements in Spain and Hong Kong. They were the best, most challenging but amazing days of my university experience. As scary as it was to live in a country where I wasn’t fluent in the local language, I got through it and my bravery sparked a new level of ambition within me – I was definitely going to apply to Medical school. I thought my placement year would change my mind about applying, but, if anything, seeing how other people live in the world made me want it more.

Final year came around and I was busy studying for my finals and studying for my Med school entry exams too. On top of everything, there was a strong possibility that I may not get into Med school, so I was applying for my Masters as a backup route and applying to graduate schemes just to explore all options. There was no guarantee that any of these options would work out on their own, which is why I applied to all at the same time to see what route worked out best. I’m very much someone who needs to have a forward plan and cannot rely on chance (I’ve learned that it’s OK to be this way), so I did everything I could to ensure that I was either doing a postgrad degree or working upon my pending graduation. In this time, I visited lots of careers fairs to chat with delegates and explore the “what if?” options. I had some interesting conversations and some that put me off post grad working life altogether. One careers fair stood out to me in particular – a careers fair aimed at females looking to go into I.T, but with career discussions over afternoon tea. It was the most interesting concept for a careers fair and the most valuable to me – as it’s where I started my relationship with my current employer (and I got free cake!).

The delegates from Capgemini reassured me that I didn’t need to have a technical background to join a technology consultancy firm. My people skills, ability to work under pressure and quick learning skills that I developed from working in health were all factors that are required when consulting. Consulting can either take the route of being functional or technical, whereas it’s thought to be mostly technical. I applied to Capgemini shortly after the careers fair and to my surprise, I got the job. I accepted with the intention to still take my medical entry exams, but the option of not studying for another four years and adding to my tuition debt seemed more and more viable.

Now, it may seem as if my decision to drop the Doctor dream was money influenced, but hear me out. I realised that as a technology consultant, I can influence medical technologies to the NHS and work on projects that help to restructure their current business models, leading to efficient strategies. This is crucial to the NHS in the current state and unfortunately, as a doctor, I wouldn’t have as much of an influence at a business level as I do now. A year on at Capgemini and a ton of learning under my belt, I’m finally moving onto projects that will allow me to carry this out.

Sometimes, you have to reroute your plans to achieve your goals. I may not be a doctor and I do miss the patient contact, but my consulting is ultimately going to save lives and this is the most satisfying thing to me.

My Mentor Changed My Life..

Whilst everyone begins gearing up to face exams over the next couple of months, I have been reflecting upon all I have achieved during my second year at Aston University, a university that continues to do a wonderful job of providing its students with opportunities to enhance their employability skills and to excel expectations.

Yesterday I was awarded “Most Progressed Mentee” by the Aston University Professional Mentoring scheme, all thanks to the unwavering support of my excellent mentor Chris Lewis. A member of the Aston University Alumni himself, Chris’s outstanding advice and guidance has been pivotal to me in achieving my goals throughout this academic year.

With his support, some of my proudest accomplishments of the year (in no particular order) include:

  • Being voted as “Most Progressed Mentee of the Year” on the Aston University Professional Mentoring scheme.
  • Securing interviews with several companies and obtaining an industrial placement with Grant Thornton, with a team I’m looking forward to working with and values I am proud to represent!
  • Making it to the penultimate stage of Enterprise-Rent-A-Car’s Management Undergraduate of the Year Award, out of hundreds of applicants!
  • Participating in the Aston University Carbon Journey, and being one of the minority of students awarded 10 bonus credits for completing all components of a module named “Developing a Low Carbon World”, in which I learned about many aspects of climate-change and sustainability, from carbon capture technology to health policy and corporate responsibility.
  • Being Project Leader for one of the three projects on the Aston University Enactus Team. Over the past year, The VOICE Project has created memories that my team and I will always cherish, and whist we never fully obtained all the outcomes we had hoped to achieve, every single second of the countless hours we spent on the project have been worthwhile. The many real-life business and life skills we have learned along the way have far surpassed theoretical learning.
  • Being voted as “Most Dedicated Member of the Team” by the Enactus Aston Team with respect for the work I put as Project Manager for The VOICE Project.
  • Attending “IT’s Not Just for the Boys!” a professional event promoting female participation in the IT industry, hosted by JPMorgan in Canary Wharf in conjunction with Target Jobs.
  • Being granted a place on the University of Cambridge Judge Business School’s “Introduction to Social Ventures” course. I am still awestruck by how what I learned in those 3 days has been relevant to such a wide range of experiences this year.
  • Participating in the fabulous UpRising Leadership Programme, where I have been able to experience a host of diverse activities, from meeting with politicians in Parliament, to networking with local professionals and entrepreneurs, to building an awareness of media skills from podcasts to PR, all whilst developing a social action campaign along the way! Our team was successful in presenting our pitch and winning the funding required to start up our campaign SIGNPOST Birmingham, and we are now working on implementation.
  • Attending the Annual Enactus UK Training Programme at Grantham, where I attended several training sessions, as well as being able to meet with hundreds of outstandingly talented young people from across the country.

My mentor Chris’s boundless positivity and can-do attitude has spurred me on throughout the year. He has been patient and understanding, all whilst helping me to explore new ideas, stay on-track with my goals, and even to set a few more for the next academic year (learning as much as I can about the industry I will be working in, learning to drive, building a stronger network, gaining relevant certified qualifications/skills, and becoming a mentor myself, among others).

I can’t begin to recommend the Aston University Professional Mentoring programme highly enough, and I hope that some of you reading this might feel inspired to try it out for yourselves next year. I am happy to say that, whist the programme is now over for this year, my mentee/mentor journey has just begun!