Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background.
I’m from a small working class town in Cheshire but I’ve lived in Leeds for 8 years now since coming here for University in 2009. I’ve been working full time for three years after graduating with a BA Sociology (International) (2009 – 2013), then an MA in Gender Studies (2013 – 2014).
What motivated you to apply to study your chosen course and why did you choose Leeds?
I was inspired by my teacher at Sixth Form and quickly decided on a sociology degree. I’ve always liked the humanities and became politicised as a teenager. I remember taking the UCAS process very seriously and attending numerous Open Days across the country – but I liked Leeds and was impressed by its international links and campus facilities. I knew that I wanted to try and study abroad and it was a natural fit.
How would you describe your experience at the University and what elements would you describe as the most enjoyable?
The time I spent at the University of California, Berkeley on exchange for two semesters in 2011 was very special to me. I couldn’t have dreamed that I would be able to access a world like that. I became the person I am today and I’m very thankful for it. I try and bring a bit of Californian confidence to whatever I’m doing.
What did you think of your course? How has this helped in your chosen career?
Sociology and Gender Studies have helped me to become the analytical researcher that I am today. A sociological understanding of oppression, systems and social conflict is central to my work.
What support did you receive when looking for a role after graduation?
The Careers Centre supported me to get a grip on the job market and hone my search for appropriate work as my MA came to an end. Through the centre, I found Leeds City Council’s Graduate Programme and quickly joined the local authority as a Project Support Officer in Children’s Services. The advisors at the centre really helped me with my application and taught me a lot about how to present my skills and experience to employers. This is a valuable taught skill that I use each time I apply for anything.
Please tell us about your development since graduating from the University and how do you think your time at Leeds has helped with this?
Because I spent five years at University doing all that I wanted to, I didn’t resent leaving it behind because I was ready to start my career. My degree led me to my work in the public and voluntary sectors. I had a large network of friends and peers in Leeds and knew that I needed a job focussed on public services and the people that need them.
Please tell us about your current role/research. What are your plans for the future?
I completed my Graduate Programme in local government and now work in the voluntary sector for an adult social care provider. I’m an Equality and Diversity manager with responsibility for client involvement and consultation. It’s a varied role but I’ve managed to make it my own. I was promoted earlier this year and continue to learn a lot on the job.
I’ve also spent the past four years working for Support After Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds (SARSVL) as a Trustee. Being part of the Rape Crisis movement is important to me and we’re a fantastically hard-working and independent local charity. My paid and unpaid roles are equally important to my professional development and wellbeing. I don’t distinguish between them.
I try to challenge myself and seek new opportunities wherever I find them to avoid complacency. I’ve finished my formal education for now but I won’t stop learning. I recently qualified as a group fitness instructor just for fun but I don’t teach any classes (yet).
What would be your top tips in terms of careers advice for current students?
Entering the world of work and starting a career is daunting and tiring and there will be set backs and disappointments and compromises. Try and seek work that fulfils you and be prepared to move on if it isn’t right. Stay true to your authentic self and remember that you are more accomplished and capable than you think you are!
You have to be in it to win it.