- Course: Pyschology
- Year of graduation: 2013
- Job title: Digital Communications Officer
- Company: Homes England
I got into my current profession kind of by accident! When I graduated I spent a year working abroad at Walt Disney World in Florida as a Cultural Representative for the UK - This was a fantastic experience and built on the engagement skills my degree and previous customer service job at Leeds University Union had already equipped me with. I had also spent the summers of second and third year volunteering with a charity in Greece, mainly working on their PR and communications strategy, which was my first taste of marketing.
When I finished in Orlando I returned back to the UK and got a graduate job in Merchandising for a well-known high street jewelry store in their head office, however, the role was not what I expected! I thought that merchandising would involve assessing customer needs and tapping into which products would suit them, and deciding where the products would best fit in the market... Lots of psychology! It turns our merchandising is a very spreadsheet and numbers heavy job, with little room for creativity. I took a huge gamble and quit my new job a few weeks in, returning to waitressing.
I decided to start writing down everything I loved doing, storytelling... connecting with people... understanding what people need... using social media.... During this exercise, I put two and two together and realised that digital marketing/ engagement and social media management existed as a job! I applied for hundreds of jobs and luckily a small (but national) charity took a chance on me as their part time digital engagement officer. I spent 6 months working 7 days a week, 2 in London, and 5 waitressing at home, before eventually landing a full time position at the charity. It was a dual role, I was now not only responsible for digital engagement, social media and website management - In addition, I worked with the CEO to design, launch and grow the UKs first network for senior community nurses. I managed the network communications, admin and event organisation.
After almost 3 years at the charity I found myself ready to move on and applied for my current role at Homes England. I love my role and my profession, it is creative and varied and still involves human interaction even if that is through a screen. In my first 6 months at Homes England I was shortlisted for 2 company wide excellence awards, Rising star of the year and The Flying Start award - which I won. I won the flying start award for my work on staff engagement and implementation of social media strategy across the agency – working with staff to open their eyes to the value of social media and coaching them to use in their professional lives. My degree and experiences at university were invaluable when running the sessions which won me the award.
A degree from the School of Psychology has benefited me in the workplace as I took a number of marketing relevant modules whilst at the University of Leeds and during my year abroad at University of South Carolina, including the psychology of design, community psychology, individual differences, the psychology of racism and critical issues. All of these have helped me in every job I’ve had since, but particularly marketing which is all about understanding how to appeal to others and get them on side.
Studying psychology taught me to be empathetic to others and knowledgeable about the importance of individual difference, this was really heightened during my study abroad year, spending time with peers from a very different culture.
Psychology has helped me with the not so creative side of my role too… Marketing also involves lots of research, analysis and evaluation – The University of Leeds has a strong focus on research skills and my final year project involved lots of statistical analysis which has set me up to think critically in the workplace and have an evidence based mindset.
Studying psychology at Leeds also presented me with lots of opportunities to get involved with extracurricular activities and voluntary work including the psychology enterprise scheme which saw me helping to organise large scale school of medicine events, help re-design the University of Leeds website, volunteer as a mentor to other psychology students thinking of studying abroad, and volunteering with the local police force.
In South Carolina I volunteered with their study abroad office, joined a multicultural sorority, volunteering with them in the community, and took part in the ‘Thinking Globally’ scheme, presenting to younger US students about my experiences volunteering abroad and studying in the UK. I also took up the additional role of volunteering with a behavioural psychology lab group, It took more time out of my week but gave me invaluable experience ahead of my dissertation back at Leeds.
It was these experiences, alongside my degree, which really boosted my confidence (and my CV) when it came to interviewing and landing a job in a real workplace. It is through volunteer experiences and working alongside a diverse range of people that I picked up key skills like team work, emotional intelligence, organisational skills and problem solving.
If I could, the advice I would now give to myself whilst studying would be to get stuck in and keep a full record of everything you take part in, your role and your achievements. Looking back there were so many little things I got involved in or volunteered for which I can’t remember the details of now, you never know when they will come in handy!
Work hard but don’t forget to play hard too, take chances on programmes like study abroad and try to meet new people from diverse backgrounds whenever you can, even if it is within a social setting. You never know when friends and connections may come in handy further down the line – Add people on LinkedIn, not just Facebook and Instagram. I learnt just as much at uni from social experiences as I did from books (if not more!) the life lessons and cultural experiences are very important and will help shape you in the workplace.
Be smart about social media. It wasn’t as big as it is now when I was at university but these days almost everything you do online can be viewed by the public unless you keep settings very secure. It’s ok to be yourself and show personality on social, in fact I think it is important to do this, but be sensible about what you post and how you portray yourself on your own accounts and on others.
Use the time at uni to learn about different career routes and opportunities via the careers centre. Volunteer for clubs, societies and events related to the things you think you want to do when you graduate – it’s better to find out that you don’t like a certain profession before you waste time applying!
Develop yourself in your spare time – Take what you love doing and fancy as a career and practice early on, for example if you want to go into digital marketing think about setting up your own blog or Instagram account to practice techniques. If you want to go into clinical psychology volunteer at a local hospital or reach out to local professionals on linkedIn – offer to buy them a coffee in exchange for an hour of their time to ask questions about their work.
Take it all in and enjoy every second, the sense of nostalgia for Leeds and USC is still so strong 10 years on!