How my first year at uni helped my career ideas


Student blogger Rebekah Billingham reflects on her first year of university

With my first year under my belt, it’s a time to reflect on what I’ve achieved and how I’ve developed regarding careers and where my degree will take me beyond university.

When embarking on some new endeavor in life, we all have a picture in our head of how we think it’ll turn out – but the reality is always, to varying degrees, different in one way or another. The biggest thing I have learned from being a fresher is not to expect too much from yourself when just starting out. Yes, it’s good to aim high, but if you put too much pressure on yourself to reach a certain level by a certain time, you may feel disappointed in yourself if you’re not able, in reality, to become the embodiment of high-flying success you imagined yourself becoming. I know I was, in a way, but looking back now I can see that I did come a long way even if it does look a little bit different from the image I had of myself at first.

Here’s some of the steps of progress I’ve made since arriving at Leeds:

I confirmed what I really wanted to do

Before I started, I knew I was interested in a career in marketing and advertising. But after attending the graduate employment fairs and alumni talks, and researching job descriptions and opportunities available, I had more of a clearly informed idea of what that would look like and how to approach it. After writing for the student newspaper and this blog, I realised I wanted to pursue writing as a hobby, perhaps as a freelancer on the side, as well as blogging for my personal enjoyment.

I gained valuable experience

My vision of this was getting involved in union stuff from day one, constantly to be found smiling behind fundraising stalls, starting my own society and doing all kinds of amazing charity work, but really, there was a limited amount of things I was able to juggle alongside my course. This included initiating a couple of my own interview pieces for the paper (which didn’t always go like clockwork), developing my written communication skills further by carrying out my own article ideas and processing feedback from essays in a completely unfamiliar system. I also experienced being interviewed for positions of responsibility I had applied for, such as features editor and charity shop marketing co-ordinator. These were unsuccessful, but were a valuable experience nevertheless. Another major advantage was becoming familiar with job applications when applying for internships.

I made some useful contacts

Even though I was turned down for a lot of positions, I applied for for one reason and another, some companies told me they would consider me in future, which I think will be an advantage when it’s time to apply for a year in industry and graduate jobs.

Instead of getting an internship for the summer as planned, I was offered a 0-hour contract from somebody I know at home in Manchester, which suits me perfectly, as I get to work flexibly. Also, it will involve marketing, which is fantastic! This will allow me time to do other things including developing my personal blog, learning to drive for the first time, and volunteering more at my awesome local church.

Though I didn’t exactly “make it” as I thought I would this year, I am more than happy with the outcome. I’ve learned to be content with starting small while at the same time staying ambitious. My advice to future freshers especially, and everyone wherever they are at in uni and beyond is to enjoy the process, and each of the mini-stages. Do not, under ANY circumstances despair when you get turned down for things you thought you were ideal for, because it’s only bringing you closer to your goal. Even if you think what you’re doing now is not enough, you will find it working for you in ways you wouldn’t have expected.

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Filed under Advice, Career fairs & events, Develop your employability, Work Experience

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