Andrew Fong graduated from the University of Leeds in 2010 with a B.A. History degree, achieving a 2.1 grade. Here he tells his story of how he has recently obtained a graduate job.
I left University way back in 2010 and feel I have had some fairly unique experiences since my graduation that may help encourage those in their own current predicaments.
Having graduated back in 2010, I was one of the many individuals that simply didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do with my life. Overwhelmed by the various graduate schemes available and the numerous opportunities for post-grad study, combined with the inevitable and depressing move back home with the parents, I found myself a job as a bar tender in a local hotel chain whilst I considered my options. As I had taken a year abroad in Australia as part of my degree with Leeds Uni, I soon realised I would be unable to afford a Masters Degree, so I decided to check out the various graduate schemes.
Like many of my friends, I began churning out C.V’s for graduate jobs around my local area on the Merseyside (Not the way to do things – with job applications always remember quality over quantity!). With no real idea of what industry I wanted to go into, I considered pretty much everything and anything. This was certainly a testing time and I often found myself thinking, ‘I wish I was back in Australia’. Indeed, during my time in Newcastle, Australia on my exchange year between 2008-2009 I had met many brilliant friends and worked at a coffee shop by a beach whilst I studied. In addition, I met my Australian girlfriend.
As I was so unsure about my career prospects and found it extremely hard to be apart from my partner overseas, I decided to save up to fly back out to Australia on a working holiday visa. Saving enough money took around eight months working full time at a hotel chain in Bristol, where I was trained as an assistant manager – a job which gave me invaluable and broad experience in customer service, management and sales and marketing, amongst many other skills. In addition, moving to Bristol on my own was a character and confident building experience. The job allowed me to save and I soon found myself back on a 747 heading to Sydney!
Through the networks I had forged during my study abroad year through Leeds Uni, I was quickly offered help from my Aussie friends finding a number of jobs around the city of Newcastle, NSW. I took an open minded approach and eventually decided to train as a barista at a cafe I had previously worked at. After a year, we moved up the East Coast to a tiny surfer town called Yamba. Here, my experience and personality enabled me to secure a job as a hostel and restaurant/bar manager, where I was responsible for the night time operations of a busy backpacker hostel and restaurant. Through this job I met many good friends from all around the world and from all kinds of backgrounds.
Though I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in these roles, I always felt I could strive to achieve much greater things. Meeting so many people through my constant presence in the hostel, I would always ask everybody that checked in what they did back in their home countries! Through a year of doing so I managed to build up a better picture of what I really wanted to achieve in my own career. I would therefore definitely recommend actually talking to people at length about what they do – reading job descriptions on forums really isn’t the same! I found I especially admired those people that had trained with big organisations – it was also clear they were very well looked after in terms of their salaries too! I envied their career prospects so began thinking it was time to return to the UK. Thus, strangely, whilst in Australia, almost 3 years after having graduated, I contacted the Leeds University Careers Team, asking them if they could recommend any graduate schemes with companies that may suit my skill set and interests. They were extremely helpful. I felt my best strengths were my interpersonal skills and management experience – and they used this information and gave me a short list of roles to look into.
When I did return to the UK in June of this year, I had a much clearer idea of what I wanted to do. I was much more focused than when I had returned home after my graduation in 2010! Excitingly, I took the daunting step of applying for a role with a big4 firm – KPMG. The role I applied for was a Graduate Risk Consultant in the Advisory Sector. I had to pass online tests, gruelling phone interviews, a 9-5 assessment day, then finally conduct a presentation during a final interview with a partner in their Canary Wharf office in London. I had constantly worried throughout the process that they would not like my work experience, nor my age (I’m 25 now – even have a few grey hairs coming through!). However, this wasn’t the case. Rather, the partner really appreciated my diverse work experience and varied background. I truly feel without my time away I wouldn’t have the confidence to get so far in the recruitment stages.
Last Tuesday I was offered a graduate position with KPMG. They are consistently voted within the top 5 graduate employers every year, so I know this could be a life changing job for me. I am beginning to feel that my strange choices have all somehow worked out in the end! My final words of advice are, for those people who are unsure about their job prospects following graduation, don’t succumb to despondency and go for the first job you see – spend the time taking into account your many options – and use the Leeds University Careers Centre, it’s free and available to all graduates and alumni!
Andrew has made the most of networking and talking to people since graduation but you can start doing this now and during your time at university to help you get a job sooner. Check out our website if you need help with networking or finding a job or pop in to our drop-in for advice.