"Psychology opens lots of doors and I feel it has helped me secure posts in HR, being such a people-centred department."
What first attracted you to study at Birmingham?
I came to the open day with a friend before I had started looking at universities properly myself and loved it, especially the atmosphere on campus. I later discovered that it was a really good university for my course, being accredited by the British Psychological Society. It’s also not too far, yet just far enough from my home town, with good train links. I looked around all my other choices just in case, but decided Birmingham was the best.
What has your career progression been like since graduation?
I initially worked in a hotel bar back home after graduating for around a year, with a couple of breaks for travelling. After that, I worked as an HR Assistant in the head office of a small business for six months. I left as I was offered a place on a two-year HR rotational graduate scheme with engineering firm Cummins. I joined in September 2015 and loved it, but unfortunately they had a huge drop in sales and I, along with other graduates and a large proportion of the workforce, was sadly made redundant. I then applied for the NHS HR graduate scheme, also a two-year rotational programme. I joined in September 2016 and am really enjoying it. It’s pretty full on working full-time and studying two postgraduate qualifications, but is great for my development.
I’m actually back studying at Birmingham now for one of my qualifications, the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson programme - a distance learning course run by the NHS Leadership Academy in partnership with the University, which leads to a PG Certificate in Healthcare Leadership. I have my old student number back which is quite nostalgic, but thankfully was able to take a new ID card photo!
How do you feel your studies have influenced or helped you in your career?
In general, having a degree shows employers many transferable skills such as organisation, time management, teamwork, self-motivation, research skills, commitment and so on, not to mention being a prerequisite for the graduate schemes. Having a psychology degree has definitely helped when working with people. It’s also interesting to see some of the phenomena we learned about play out in real life and understand why they happen. Psychology opens lots of doors and I feel it has helped me secure posts in HR, being such a people-centred department. I also have an interest in pursuing occupational psychology in the future, so the BPS accredited degree will be a key foundation for that. It’s also a good conversation starter at networking events and dinner parties, although having people who don’t know what psychology involves ask if you are psychoanalysing them/can read their mind does wear a little thin…!
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Gaining a place on not one but two graduate schemes felt like a great achievement. The Cummins scheme only took on one HR graduate and the NHS scheme had around 16,500 applications for 100 places (ten in HR), so I felt really fortunate to be chosen for both.
What did you enjoy most about your time at Birmingham? Any favourite memories of campus?
There was so much. Living in Selly Oak was really fun, it is a really friendly student neighbourhood. I miss being able to tell the time from just about anywhere by looking up at Old Joe! My part-time job at FixIT/Zest in the Guild was also fun and a great way to earn a few extra pounds between lectures. And of course, it’s got to be Fab.
What advice would you give to current or prospective University of Birmingham students?
When starting out with jobs and careers, I would definitely say don’t let setbacks, well, set you back. I joined a two-year graduate scheme with a well-respected UK top 300 graduate employer and thought I had the next few years of my career planned out. Suddenly, I was left back where I started looking for graduate jobs, with a rather odd-looking section on my CV to explain. However, I now work for a UK top ten graduate employer in a sector which actually suits me much better. So if your job, career path or idea doesn’t initially work out the way you want it to, don’t panic. Everything happens for a reason!
You can follow me on Twitter @fayesimNHS, and you can also read my graduate blog as I navigate life on the NHS graduate scheme.