Ash Green, BA History and Political Science 2014
Ash Green graduated with a BA in History and Political Science in 2014. He is now an NHS Policy Advisor at the Department of Health.
Ash says, ‘The most positive aspect of my degree was the ability to work independently; being in control of your own workload is both empowering and rewarding. The sheer choice of modules was also great and enabled me to study a huge range of topics and get a broad understanding of my subjects.’
Ash tells us how studying at the University helped prepare him for the working world, ‘People who say an Arts degree is useless in the ‘real world’ are completely wrong! History enables you to focus on important, specific information and to analyse efficiently, as well as to think effectively and apply knowledge – all very useful in the world of work.
‘My 2 years with Carnival RAG, one of the University’s many societies, undoubtedly gave me many skills and opportunities that have helped me develop into my current career path. I only graduated 6 months ago but I have already been singled out as a ‘rising talent’ amongst my team, so it’s nice to get that recognition. I’m also much better at early mornings now than when I was a student!
‘The fantastic Careers Network helped me get a 1-month placement at the end of my second year, which gave me some valuable work experience. Everything that happened during my time at University has helped me get to where I am now. I have no hesitation in saying that they were the best 3 years of my life, and if I could go back and do it all again, I’d jump at the chance.’
His advice for current students is, ‘‘Just say yes’. There are so many amazing chances and opportunities on offer at Birmingham and some of them may be like nothing you’ve ever done before – just go for it. You’ll meet some amazing people and have some incredible experiences on the way – you have to grab those years in both hands and throw yourself in to it as much as you can.’
Carl Stevenson, BA History 2012
Carl Stevenson graduated with a degree in History in 2012. He is now a Relationship Manager at Barclays Corporate Bank.
Carl says, “The most positive aspects of my degree were learning how to work independently. There are no textbooks to revise the answers from when under-taking a degree and nobody will make you do anything! Independent learning is a process you have to learn but when you do it’s so worthwhile.”
Carl tells us how the University has directly helped him in his career, “Studying here helped me in my career in many ways. I did an internship immediately after graduating at Unilever HQ in London. I then took a gap year - mainly working as Chalet Host in France and Switzerland but also travelling to South East Asia, Europe and America. Studying at University of Birmingham really helped to shape my CV to show what employers want.”
“A piece of advice for new students is don't let anyone tell you that your History degree won’t help you get a job. They're wrong! Those doing degrees that think employers will be impressed with solely their degree subject are wrong. All that business theory goes out the window as soon as you get to work. It's completely different. Make sure you get a 2.1, get as much work experience as you can, do as much extra-curricular activities as you can. This is what impresses employers - showing your work ethic and people skills!”
Emily Thomson, BA History and American Studies 2012
Emily Thomson graduated with a degree in History and American Studies in 2012. She has worked for the BBC in various roles and for the University of Birmingham Library Services. She is just about to embark on a new career with the Civil Service Fast Stream in the Highways Agency.
Emily speaks fondly of her degree studies,“The biggest stand-out aspect was definitely the part of my degree where I spent a year at the University of Iowa. The change of environment helped me grow academically and the challenges of moving abroad helped me to grow in confidence and independence. I did find it difficult at times but I really do look back on it as a life changing experience.”
Emily tells us of her transition from voluntary work to her new up-coming job in the civil service: “In my final year, I began volunteering with a charity called CSV. They run an Action Network that work in partnership with BBC Local Radio, and I became a regular visitor to BBC WM. When I graduated, I began working part-time on an Action Network campaign called “The Professionals”. I currently work on the BBC WM Breakfast Show 5 days a week, as a Team Assistant for the BBC English Regions Broadcast Support Centre, and work evening and weekend shifts in a supervisory role as a Senior Library Support Assistant. It is tiring, but I know how much I have developed as an employee even within the 18 months since graduating. I made the decision to allow myself as many different opportunities as possible, and am now incredibly excited to start a full-time job with the Civil Service in a few weeks’ time!
Her advice to current students at the University is:“Start thinking about your career early. I did very few extra-curricular activities in my first couple of years of university, and that definitely put me at a disadvantage. I think volunteering somewhere where you are in a working environment, or have responsibilities to answer to allows you to develop the confidence you need.”
Jennifer Gardner, BA History 2011
Jennifer Gardner completed her Modern and Medieval History degree in 2011. She is now a History Teacher and a Voluntary Police Officer.
Jenifer says, “I loved my time at the University of Birmingham. There was so much opportunity to explore and become the person that you want to be! The diversity was one of the things that I loved about the course as well. There was a lot of choice and it meant that we had a lot of control over what we wanted to study. This meant that when we specialised in certain areas, we were with other likeminded individuals who enjoy the same areas of history, which was a great way to meet new people. I chose to study history as a discipline as I loved the subject, and studying it for three years increased that passion, and I didn’t want to give it up. That’s when I decided to become a history teacher. That way I am still involved with my subject, and I get to hopefully inspire others to pursue it as well.
“Also whilst at Birmingham, I volunteered for the West Midlands Police. This was a great placement, and something that easily works alongside your studies as the time commitment isn’t huge. I am still volunteering for them now, even after finishing my degree. What I love about volunteering with them, and my current job, is the relationships. Whether this is with a Police Commissioner or homeless people on the street to fellow teachers or naughty children, the jobs give you a chance to meet and form relationships with such a wide range of people which I otherwise wouldn’t have had. I would definitely recommend volunteering whilst studying at University!”
Matt Cameron, BA History 2009
I graduated from Birmingham in October 2009 with a BA in History (2:1).
By finishing I was fortunate enough to have secured a role within Corporate Sales in London, with a firm recognised as the 3rd Fastest Growing Privately Owned business within the UK. The company is racing rapidly against the tide and doing incredibly well, the business is growing, we are recruiting and have last year we launched our office in Singapore which now staffs 10 people.
With a combination of determination, taking on board advice and delivery I have gone from strength to strength in my career so far which I believe would not have been possible without the skills equipped from my degree at Birmingham. I use the skills your degree developed in me every single day.
Aimee Postle, BA English and History, 2007
Aimee graduated in 2007 with a BA (Hons) in English and History and currently works as an account manager for Prova PR.
“Having a degree got me through the door and the fact it was in a subject which showed I could research and write articulately certainly helped. While studying in my second year at Birmingham University, I attended a session on careers in the media. Inspired by that session, I applied for work experience placements across a number of marketing and communications organisations. I was fortunate enough to be taken on for a six week placement with Kinetic Communications in Birmingham during my final year and was then offered a full-time role with the company. Throughout the next four years, I was heavily supported and helped to develop. Kinetic supported me through three qualifications with the Chartered Institutes of Public Relations and Marketing and I was promoted through the ranks to Account Manager.
After four years at Kinetic, it was time to move on and I’ve now spent just over a year as an Account Manager with Prova PR in Warwick. The best thing about working in PR is the variety of people you meet and areas of industry with which you get involved. For example, I’ve worked with lawyers and scrap merchants, rally drivers and shopping centre managers, biofuels producers and vehicle testers. Every day is different and the pace of life is exhilarating – albeit incredibly tiring at times!”
James Richards, BA (Hons) Medieval and Modern History, 2006 and Graduate Diploma in Law, 2007
James graduated in 2006 with a BA (Hons) in Medieval and Modern History before going on to complete a Graduate Diploma in Law in 2007. He is currently working as a Solicitor for Gateley.
“I work for Gateley as a solicitor. I specialise in real estate development and investment. My role involves helping property developers acquire land, secure funding and develop sites with the long term aim of either selling those sites or operating them as an income stream.
As I didn't complete a law degree I first took the Graduate Diploma in Law at the University before moving into the city centre to finish my training by doing the Legal Practice Course. Following University I trained with another national law firm in Birmingham and stayed there on qualification for almost two years. I joined Gateley in April 2012. Outside work I am heavily involved with an organisation called Birmingham Future which promotes and develops opportunities for young professionals working within the City.
I think having a degree from a University like Birmingham was in itself a major benefit [in securing my first job]. The University is well respected with employers and also provides a range of activities outside the lecture theatres and libraries that can make you more rounded. It goes without saying that a degree helps you get to grips with some of the key fundamentals that a working environment necessitates. You need to be able to time manage your workload, hit deadlines, carry out research, present your thoughts orally and in a written form. I'd say that my degree gave me a solid foundation to secure my first job and more importantly gave me a starter in some of the skills that I need to use on a daily basis.
I enjoyed the depth of learning that you get at University. At school you touch on some areas but never really get into the subject whereas at University, and indeed on a History degree, you can really dig a bit deeper.
My advice [to students today] would be to make the most of all the opportunities available to you. Focus on your degree of course but make sure you take advantage of all the other opportunities the University provides. Whether you play sport, raise money for charity or get involved with a society make sure you get involved. These experiences and the people you meet are fundamental when you start working as many of the people can end up forming part of your social and professional network as you grow up but more importantly they raise your awareness of different people and expose you to different situations.”
Robert Cade, BA Medieval and Modern History 2005
Robert Cade graduated with a degree in Modern and Medieval History in 2005. He is now a Managing Consultant specialising in Operating Model Design and Performance Improvement with Capgemini Consulting.
Robert talks fondly of his time at the University of Birmingham; “My history degree taught me to work independently and approach work with an analytical mind – one of the core capabilities for consultants. A high percentage of our employees are history graduates for this reason. I appreciated the opportunity to gain a perspective of a wide period of history and specialise in the areas that interested me the most.”
Robert enjoys the variety in his current role. He says, “I have worked at Marks and Spencer, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Burberry, Home Office, Transport for London, The Government of India, Royal Bank of Scotland, and the Department of Work and Pensions. On one day last week I was delivering training in Paris, the following day facilitating a meeting with the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Work and Pensions, and the following day creating a business plan with our executives in Telford!”
Robert tells us of the opportunities he took whilst studying for his degree; “I would not have had the opportunities available to me if it was not for my involvement with volunteering through the University of Birmingham. During my time at University, I was President of Local Leagues for 3 years, volunteered with Kids Adventure and set up a football tournament for local schools. This directly led to me being a finalist in the National Student Volunteer of the Year and provided me with my work experience at Sport England. Ultimately it also gave me the differentiator in my interview for Capgemini.”
“My advice to current undergraduates is to utilise the free time that studying history provides to get involved in other University activities. You will need a good degree but will require a differentiator to set you apart from the competition.”