Degree: BA (Hons) International Relations & French
Year of graduation: 2013
Current place of work: Justice, Security & Peacebuilding at an international development consultancy
What did you do after you graduated?
After my undergraduate degree, I stayed on to study an MA in Applied Security Strategy at the university’s Strategy & Security Institute. After graduating, I went into the security and risk management sector and worked for a small company in London, focusing on political risk analysis, investigations and kidnap response. It was an enjoyable, challenging and eye-opening period where I was able to put a great deal of skills I’d learned at university into practice. After a year, I moved into international development consultancy to work on several security sector programmes in the Horn of Africa. On my very first day with the company I travelled downtown Mogadishu, body armour and all. Having made it back in once piece, I’ve since been travelling between London, Nairobi and Mogadishu regularly for the past two years.
What skills and knowledge did you develop which helped with your career prospects?
One of the biggest challenges we face in international development, particularly in ‘fragile’ environments is how to ensure that we and our work aren’t overtaken by the pace of events. How do we make sure what we do is still relevant? How can we reconcile competing priorities? How do we mitigate against significant risks before they manifest themselves? How can we bring this group on side? University prepares you well for working hard and for working with a range of people with diverse, and sometimes divergent, views. There are time pressures, work pressures and discovering a workable work-life balance is an integral part of making it through university unscathed. The world of work, especially in fast-paced and challenging environments, is much the same – for better or for worse! It might seem counter-intuitive not to discuss the degree itself when addressing this sort of question but university is just as much about discovering how you yourself tick, how you approach and solve issues, how you work with others and, ultimately, how you can complete everything to the best of your ability and still find time to enjoy life outside of work.
What advice would you give current students searching and applying for jobs?
As my time at Exeter was drawing to a close, I took the following approach:
Submit more job applications than you’d like to. Become familiar with job-hunting as an art rather than a science: find the job sites and sources which work for you; search existing roles until you start to corroborate your searching by finding the same jobs on different sites – that way you know that you’re not missing out too much. Get into the habit of writing bespoke cover letters and tailoring your CV for anything you feel suited to; make them complementary together – It really is worth your time. Apply to enough positions that you don’t feel as though you’re putting all your eggs in one basket. Rejection is part and parcel of job-hunting; try not to take it personally. Be yourself in interviews; practice a few key lines you can weave in at given opportunities but don’t be someone you’re not – you’ll either be found out or, even worse, you’ll be offered a job in a place where you don’t fit! Stick it out and go for what you think you’ll enjoy or what might give you a foot in the door to where you want to go.