Graduate Q&A | Ellie Derbyshire

What were your initial career plans for life after University? 

Like many history students, I was not entirely sure what I wanted to do. I just knew I did not want to  be a history teacher (despite the instinctive response from family members when I speak to them  about what I want to do)! Also, like many students, I have been weighing up whether to do a panic  masters or get a graduate job. However, I am currently job hunting in the hope of finding something in consulting or property, although I am not entirely sure what to focus on yet. I received some  excellent advice, which was to look at what you want from a job and what different companies can  offer you. 

How did you find the experience of graduating?  

Like many, I found the experience very bittersweet given that I received my degree through the  post! Whilst I had a wonderful time celebrating with my family and boyfriend, I found the prospects  of graduating into such a difficult job market extremely daunting. Sometimes, it can be very easy to  forget how difficult university is in terms of how mentally taxing the work is and the alien  environment you are placed in at the start of the first year. 

Were there any hurdles you had to overcome getting to the point you are at now? 

Throughout university, I struggled with mental health issues – at one point it got so bad that I  considered dropping out. I also got diagnosed with a learning difficulty in the third year. Luckily, I  had lecturers at the University of Leicester that supported me through my studies in third year, and  some amazing friends and family! The accessibility department at the University of Leicester also  supported me a lot and gave fantastic advice on how to plan and write my essays. This advice will  definitely stick with me and I will apply it to any job field I am in! 

What aspects of your University experience have helped you reach the point you are at today? 

As I said before, I had some fantastic lecturers, who helped me with my academic writing,  applications and career goals. This allowed me to feel more confident and ambitious with my career  options. Whilst I may not have a specific career field in mind, I still feel more confident now in my  writing and communication skills, thanks to the confidence placed in me by my lecturers. 

If you could go back and tell yourself one thing at the start of University, knowing what you know  now, what would you say? 

I think the most important piece of advice is to make sure to ask for help. This may be the mental  health team, the careers team or your lecturers, but make sure you ask as it took me far too long to  realise that the university staff are very much on your side and not against you! Also, this is probably  the advice every person ever gives, and is constantly ignored, but make sure you put the work in, in  first year! I think you can gain valuable skills through work experience and understand the  foundations of your degree very well. Also setting a good routine is vital as it will help your work  ethic throughout university.

Do you have any advice to graduates who would want to go down a similar pathway? 

I am probably not the best person to advise, but I would say to take as many opportunities as you  can and try and take some work experience in any form. This could be with your local council or  work with your friend on their business. All companies look for transferrable skills and these skills  come in many forms! Also, make sure that your mental health always remains your priority, as it can  be really difficult to maintain good mental health at university; seek help if you need it and do not be  afraid to ask for help. 

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