Ally holding a video camera on a tube platform

It’s not the journey, it’s the destination: meeting Glasgow graduates on our career road trip

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Are you wondering just where exactly a degree in Arts will take you? Our graduates use the skills they gained during their time at Glasgow in a huge variety of careers.

Students Nicholas Keel and Alison Lloyd went on a road trip with production company Brand Calibre to make a video about our Glasgow Arts alumni across the UK and Europe.

They visited Helen who runs her own business, Sian who (after some time in teaching) is now doing something “different every day” in communications, Gavin who is grappling with issues of climate change in the energy sector, and Rosie, whose passion for studying abroad has led her to work for the EU Commission. Nicholas describes what it was like.

Throughout the trip, the transition from student to graduate was so much more immediate for me than it was for Alison. She is in her second year, whereas I’m going into my fourth year.

The Graduate Attributes lectures offered by the university were a great benefit, but the experience of talking to those who have already graduated really helped me imagine the possibilities. The range of opportunities for those with Arts degrees is as immense as the range of options when picking your courses!

Badvo: using Graduate Attributes to start a business

The trip began with Helen Stewart, a gin distiller from outside Pitlochry, who uses her degree to market and connect her own brand, Badvo.

She really stressed to me that in following her dream she didn’t give up on her degree. Instead she transferred her skills to a new industry. Skills like academic writing become so important in the workplace, even in a small business.

The other interviewees were all in larger scale industries, so Helen’s experience was an important example to me of a business created by someone who wasn’t necessarily obviously business minded.

Three people standing in a field with hills behind
With Helen in Pitlochry – imagine if this was your workplace??

The prompts and questions from the production crew of Brand Calibre helped me to consider the idea of opening a small business – something that I hadn’t really considered beforehand. You might not end up where you expected by the time you reach the end of your degree.

The journey down the M9, from a completely rural environment to the brick and steel maze of London, reflected the change from a small, family business in Pitlochry to the large scale organisations that the next two interviewees had in store for us.


Unexpected destinations: transferable skills

Sian Collins works for Bauer Media in London as a Senior Commercial Communications Executive. She explained to us that she had originally planned to go into teaching after her English Literature degree, but then after realising it wasn’t for her, had joined a graduate scheme that had shown her how much she enjoyed PR and communications work.

“I never thought I would have gone into media… The communication skills that I have developed during my degree are integral to what I do now”

Sian Collins, English Literature graduate and Communications Executive for Bauer Media

Gavin Lee works as an analyst for Drax Group, looking at future technologies for the energy industry and how the sector can reduce emissions while still providing us with heat, light and electricity. He emphasised to us that his ability to digest and summarise a lot of information, plus the skills in persuasion and argument he developed through his degree in French and History play a large part in his career success.

“Studying, I think, gave me the way to write documents and persuade people… because I’m writing about the future, right? It’s about rhetoric. It’s about taking lots of information, digesting it, and then trying to explain to people why it matters.”

Gavin Lee, Energy Analyst, Drax Group

The marketing and energy sectors were areas that I had known were open to Arts graduates, but I hadn’t known about the different routes you could potentially take to get there –demonstrated in both Sian and Gavin’s career journeys. The key for both Sian and Gavin was this idea of false starts, which reassured me.

Ally, Sian and Nicholas standing by Camden Lock
Meeting Sian near her workplace in Camden

Across the channel

Last, we travelled by train, bus, ferry, train and train again (!) to meet Rosie Birchard at the European Commission in Brussels.

Rosie works in communications on the Erasmus scheme, and her experience she’d had studying abroad while at Glasgow really stood out to Alison and I. Rosie originally planned to study Music at Glasgow, but the flexibility of the degree system in the College of Arts meant she graduated in French and Politics. This fitted with my own experiences. Studying Classics and Theology in first and second year helped me work out where my interests lay in third and fourth year History.

Communication skills

The experience of talking on camera in the middle of a crowded Camden was a new one for me but Brand Calibre never asked us to do anything that wasn’t natural, and I felt the interviews really flowed well.

In some ways, it was a lot like giving a presentation in a seminar, another thing I can thank my Arts background for giving me confidence in.

Crucial for all the interviewees was this focus on their degree giving them mastery of the written word and enabling them to clearly articulate themselves. They were all naturals on camera, something that they, like me, really stressed that seminars had given us confidence in.

Filming ‘Firsts’

The trip was also a series of firsts for me. It was my first time in Brussels, seeing the EU Commission, the first time I had been on camera and the first time taking the ferry from Dover.

Interestingly, as we travelled Europe, my mind no longer pictured the future as a set location but rather a place that could be anywhere or anything!

The Brand Calibre team were supremely helpful and (as well as Alison) an extremely pleasant travel group. It was clear that everyone involved wanted to make our first time on camera a positive one, and I think the amount we are smiling in our pictures really reflects that.

Nicholas and Ally standing in front of a train station in Lille
A quick stop in Lille on our way to meet Rosie in Brussels

Coming home and reflecting on the future

The conclusion of the trip was the flight back to Scotland where, after a week of considering the distant future, I allowed myself to focus on the more immediate future, my dissertation.

There is still a lot of work to do before I reach the point of the graduates we met, but when the time comes I will be well equipped for whatever life throws at me!

The University of Glasgow has Clearing vacancies for 2019. Join #TeamUofG this September.

Post Author: Stephanie Martin

Stephanie is Marketing and Conversion Intern at the College of Arts and studies English Literature at the University of Glasgow.

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