- Course: BSc Geography (Industrial)
- Nationality: Dual British and Irish
- Job title: Student Employability Alumni Volunteering Assistant
- Company: University of Leeds
What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?
I work for the University of Leeds in both the Alumni and Development Team and the Careers Centre. The University of Leeds is one of the UK’s leading institutes for Higher Education and is a research lead, Russell Group University.
What is your role within the company?
Half of my role sits within the Alumni and Development Team. This team is split into 4 smaller teams; Development, Campaigns and Footstep Fund, Alumni Engagement and Development Services. I sit within Alumni Engagement. Alumni Engagement is then further split into different roles including Communications, Events and Volunteering. My line manager and I hold the two Volunteering roles.
When an alum wants to get involved with the University in any way other than monetary donation, hence volunteering, my line manager and I facilitate this. This involves encouraging alumni to come back to campus a speak at events (e.g. Careers fairs) or present guest lectures, become part of a faculty mentoring scheme, offer work placements and internships, or simply provide students with advice by writing a case study or Leeds Network profile. We provide alumni with the information to get involved with all of the above and then log any volunteering activity, or offers for volunteering, in the alumni database, Raiser’s Edge.
The second half of my role involves promoting all of this alumni volunteering activity to students. This means I spend half of my time in the Mentoring Hub in the Careers Centre. Mentoring schemes are one of the main crossover areas between Alumni and Development and Careers. Hence, a large part of my role this year will be in helping to implement mentoring schemes across the University. Another crossover area is with the Leeds Network. This is an online resource where alumni create short profiles about their career progression since they left Leeds. Students can access these via ‘Leeds for Life’ and read ‘real-life’ examples of what Leeds graduates have gone on to do, which may give them some idea of the type of industry they might be interested in. Students can also email the alumni questions or ask for advice, if the particular alum has made their profile ‘contactable’. My role also includes promoting this resource to students by going into lectures across different faculties and demonstrating how to use it.
Can you please give me an insight into a typical day?
No two days are exactly the same but every day involves a lot of email communication with alumni, faculty members and members of the Alumni and Development Team or Careers Staff. Most days also involve logging volunteering activity for a number of alumni on the database. I tend to have various tasks or projects on the go at one time, some smaller than others, and these will dictate my workload for a few days or the week.
What do you enjoy the most and do you get involved with any interesting projects?
I love feeling like an integral part of the team and that my work has actually been a help to someone. Although I thought it was something I may struggle with at the beginning of the year, I really enjoy communicating with alumni, staff and students alike in a range of different ways. It is great to be able to see the results of your work for example, when a mentoring scheme I have worked on comes together and runs smoothly.
I have been involved with a number of interesting projects including the creation of a new mentoring scheme, eMentoring, which I had a big role in finding and contacting the potential mentors and then in matching them with the students. I have also had a role to play in two schemes of one mentoring scheme; the Alumni Leadership Mentoring Programme, years 2017/18 and 2018/19. I wrote the mentor bios for a few of the mentors for 2017/18 and all of the bios for 2018/19 and have been a key contact for the alumni mentors throughout the process.
Another project I get to play a big part in is the planning for the 2018 Volunteers Week, during which we thank all of our alumni volunteers over the last 12 months. This involves a lot of work to find out what each individual volunteer has done and what they should be thanked for in June.
I also play a role in a number of interesting projects across the University as members of staff will approach me for alumni contacts. For example, I have been involved in the Women in Leadership Society’s Empower Conference, the Leeds for Life Citizenship Awards and the LUU Recognise Scheme to name a few.
Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?
I wanted more experience as I hadn’t really done much work experience up until now. Having a degree is not enough to get a graduate job anymore; you must take measures to put yourself ahead of the competition and gain as much experience as you can. This can be difficult if, like me, you have been in full time education for most of your life, so the option to take a year in industry was an invaluable opportunity.
I didn’t feel I was prepared enough to be graduating at the end of this year so I wanted an extra year to gain some more experience before I became a graduate.
What do you think you have got out of this experience so far?
I think the biggest thing I have got out of this experience so far is the improvement in my confidence and my communication skills. These were both things that I felt were my weaker points before I started this placement year and the difference from when I started to where I am now is something I am proud of. I am also more aware of the opportunities available to me as a student, which is something I intend to make more use of next year.
Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?
Make the decision to undertake a year in industry early on in your second year and then start applying as early as you can. I only made the decision to do a year in industry at the end of November, which made the rest of my second year very stressful. I feel I was lucky to secure a placement as I was rejected by at least 16 other places beforehand. However, don’t rush your applications, get some advice and help from the careers centre and get them to read over your CV.