Ambitious Futures: Freaking out with a First Class Degree
Arts Grad: Sian Collins
Course: MA – English Literature (Graduated 2015)
Current Job: Communications Executive, Bauer Media
Less than a year into her job as a Communications Executive at Bauer Media, only three years out of university, Sian Collins found herself at Downing Street. Alongside her fellow #WheresYourHeadAt campaigners, Sian delivered 197K signatures to Parliament, calling on equal workplace support for mental and physical health.
Hailing from Northern Ireland, Sian originally wanted to study psychology, before allowing her passion for reading (and reluctance to pursue science) to guide her to English Literature.
“I can remember loving reading, especially the Great Gatsby, and I wanted the opportunity actually study this subject I loved.”
Although she’d never visited the University of Glasgow before the day she moved in, Sian had been guided by its good reputation.
“I heard through the grapevine that [Glasgow] was like Ireland, with a culture of friendly & welcoming people. I hoped it would be warm. Although, not literally. Obviously.”
During her studies, Sian managed to balance several extracurricular activities and waitressing to pay the bills, and still obtain a First-Class degree.
“Critical theory was a new skill, a different mindset. I dipped my toe in that aspect and, then, graduating was such a good feeling, after all the work I’d put in… it was one of the top moments of my life.”
What came first?
Forever proactive, Sian applied to Teach First UK a year and a half before graduating. Teach First UK is a two-year leadership programme that combines teacher training with educational outreach into the poorest parts of the country.
“I applied knowing I could defer for a year… I’m just one of those people who always needs to plan what I’m doing next and it seemed like a win-win: I could get a qualification and experience.”
But, halfway into the programme, Sian had to admit that teaching was not her calling.
“I have such respect for teachers who put their blood, sweat, and tears into [teaching], but It was very challenging. I had such high hopes and then I felt like a bit of a failure. I was so invested in the children; I didn’t want to let them down.
Sian continued completing her qualification while researching alternative career options.
“I knew I wanted to stay connected to education. I trolled the internet, particularly Jobs.ac.uk, and tried to find something where I could use my skills: public speaking, organization, and relationship-building.”
Her thorough research led to acceptance into – Ambitious Futures: a higher education management scheme available across the UK, including her beloved alma matter.
“Ambitious Futures is designed for leadership development, providing three diverse work placements across different areas of two universities. I got to learn how [higher education] works, what skills I could develop, and what I was better at.”
Sian supported both the Universities of Glasgow and of Dundee, expanding her natural talents and developing her managerial, organizational, and analytical skills through work in Business Intelligence (e.g. data analysis), Researcher Development (e.g. knowledge exchange and wellness activities), and, her new passion, Communications & Public Relations.
At the close of the 15-month programme, Sian had to decide on her next career move.
“There were things that I always enjoyed doing during university – I’m good at presenting work and, [through the Ambitious Futures scheme], I learned that I liked media relations and engaging with stakeholders”
Sian discovered that her Literature degree, combined with her diverse professional experience, made her a competitive candidate for employment and she was hired as a Communications Executive for Bauer Media, Europe’s largest privately-owned media group.
“I never would have got to where I am today without getting to work at the University of Glasgow with really experienced and amazing people… [Being a Communications Executive] is amazing: it’s fast-paced and no two days are the same.”
Whether she’s coordinating celebrity guests, supporting social initiatives, like #WheresYourHeadAt, and strategizing ways to generate revenue for major clients, every day Sian works to help develop organizational and brand narrative. Although life did not go to plan, it seems to have gone even better, another example of the enchanting “inexhaustible variety of life” available to Arts Graduates and Scott Fitzgerald characters alike.