Monthly Archives: March 2019

Class of 2019: Confessions of an Arts Graduate



University of Leeds Arts Management graduate Victoria Williams reflects on the frustrations she initially felt applying for roles in a competitive field, and how broadening her search left her feeling more confident about achieving her goals in the long-run.


Career aspirations

I recently graduated from my Master’s degree in Arts Management and Heritage Studies, at which point I realised that I could’ve done a lot more job preparation over the course of the year! The arts sector is incredibly competitive, and I applied for many jobs in very varied roles, from Administrative Assistant to Exhibition Coordinator – I just simply wanted to get my foot in the door.

Broadening my job search

Whilst the feedback I received from my interviews was very positive, I lost out every time to someone with just “that little bit more” experience, which felt very frustrating. At that point I realised that my degree was not going to be enough, and learned that a lot of people working in the arts had done countless internships and volunteering positions to put them in the front of the queue when organisations were hiring. This was when I broadened my job search even further, applying for entry level roles in unfamiliar areas such as careers which I currently work in, where I’m able to tie my existing experiences and skills into the job.

Securing a job with Careers Centre support

I applied for my current role as Employability and Progression Intern, and also made an appointment with a Careers Consultant at the Careers Centre to check over my application beforehand. This paid off and I got invited to the Assessment Centre, for which I made another appointment just to be on the safe side. The advice I received was definitely beneficial, and I was offered a position as one of nine interns.  My role includes working in a team in addition to independent work, as well as project management which I’m really excited about. I’m hoping that these areas will strengthen my CV with valuable work experience, putting me in a stronger position to apply for more arts roles in the future.

My advice

I would tell anyone who has found themselves in a position of struggling to get a job in their chosen career field (like I had) to not give up, and strongly encourage them to think outside the box. Consider positions which you may never have thought of, but where your existing skills can be transferred. It’s also really important that the job description sounds interesting to you, or that you admire the work that the company does. There’s nothing worse than starting your first job after you graduate, hating it, and ending up back in the job hunt after your first week.

Another thing to reiterate is that the likelihood is you won’t be stuck in your first job forever, so absorb everything you can and take on every opportunity to make your CV amazing for your next role.

Read more about what is available to you as a member of the University of Leeds Class of 2019

And don’t forget you can continue to access the Careers Centre services once you graduate.



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Campus internship: What I’ve learned during my internship at the Cultural Institute 


Steph Bennett is a joint honours History and English student, currently undertaking a year in industry placement at the Cultural Institute. Now halfway through her campus placement year, she reflects on her experience to date.

This role is part of the campus internships- exclusive to University of Leeds students they are a fantastic way for undergraduates to secure paid work experience.  To find out how to register your interest and receive updates visit the Leeds Internship Programme page.

Why I applied

I was initially attracted to a placement year at the Cultural Institute because I wanted more experience in the cultural sector. My personal tutor had frequently recommended taking a year out between second and third year to either do an industrial placement or to go abroad, but at first I dismissed this idea in favour of continuing straight to third year. However, when on a whim I read the job description for the Cultural Institute internship, I was intrigued about the prospect of working with such influential arts organisations in the city like the Thackray Medical Museum, Henry Moore Institute and The Tetley. Financially, the idea was also attractive because I wanted to have a comfortable cushion which I could potentially use to fund a postgraduate course. I thought that gaining some experience would be valuable after graduation as I have grudgingly accepted that graduate roles are often difficult to obtain in the arts sector and are often poorly paid.

The interview

When I was invited to interview, I had to prepare a presentation about the cultural industries, which began to develop my thinking about the wider context of the sector from the start. I hadn’t been sure how relevant my experience as a History and English student would be to the role — I’ve volunteered for English Heritage and the West Yorkshire Archive Service for over a year and had a year-long internship with the School of History, but was unsure if this would be applicable to any role outside of an archive or heritage position. However, my previous experience was seen favourably by the panel because of its relevance to the wider cultural industries. I was delighted when I was offered the role, and began my internship in July 2018.

From nervous beginnings to dream work experience

Unbelievably, I am now six months in, or half way through my placement. At first, a placement year seemed daunting, and I was nervous about what might be expected of me in a professional setting after the flexibility of student life. I anticipated the stereotype of the intern: making cups of tea and photocopies. In reality however, my initial idea of the role has been transformed entirely. My colleagues at the Cultural Institute made it clear that the internship is a development role and really took my ambitions into account so that I had opportunities to flourish professionally. After mentioning my interest in gaining experience in a museum setting, they arranged for me to take a placement with Leeds Museums and Galleries.

Primarily working alongside the curator of Archaeology, Kat Baxter, I’ve developed skills in object-handling and analysis, preservation of materials, cataloguing and accessioning objects, and how also valuable experience of how exhibitions are planned and run. This placement will now continue until the end of my internship in June 2019, and I’m excited to work with Kat on the Egyptology and numismatics collections alongside the medieval objects that I have been focussing on until now. I am hoping to use this experience to delve further into the museum sector and eventually develop a career in a museum setting after graduation.

Understanding the sector

Crucially, through my role at the Cultural Institute I’ve deepened my understanding of the current problems facing the cultural and creative sector, and the strategies being implemented to combat them. For example, by researching news and strategy information and compiling monthly briefing reports for colleagues at the University, I’ve developed a strong understanding of the cultural landscape at the moment. I’ve reported to colleagues throughout the University, and prepared briefing materials for important meetings, supporting the team and ensuring that everyone is updated with the relevant information. However, I still feel there’s more to learn, and I’m looking forward to another six months at the Cultural Institute with new challenges.


As an English student, I have always prided myself on my writing ability, but the placement has so far offered new opportunities for writing for many different purposes and audiences. I’ve learned that clear communication is key to the running of such a small team, and I have a keener appreciation for the value of teamwork. I have learned how to write detailed shorthand notes and compose minutes for meetings in the chosen style of the University, but also adapted to the sense of style, tone and purpose for the Cultural Institute’s social media platforms and understood how to engage an audience through various methods to boost interaction. Building on journalism skills acquired through writing and editing for The Gryphon Arts, I’ve collaborated with DARE to publish blog posts to boost engagement on their site. I conducted a series of professional interviews with academics across the University about some of the programmes such as Leeds Creative Labs. These articles have been published on the DARE website and have helped to increase engagement and communication about the Leeds Creative Labs.

Workplace skills

My placement year has also developed crucial administrative skills, and I’ve enjoyed settling into a professional office environment. I employ these skills to support my team in the booking of venues, catering and managing attendees and guests. I have supported my team in the running a range of events, including Light Night 2018 and the launch of an Arts and Health network in collaboration with Leeds City Council, building my confidence with event management and project development. Training opportunities have boosted the breadth of my experience of finance and travel administration, so that I can confidently support my team with anything that they may require.

A highlight of my time so far is the opportunity to independently coordinate a project between Opera North and Leeds University Libraries’ Special Collections, where I have developed policies which will be used to assess which materials should be included in Opera North’s archive. I enjoyed researching material acquisition in archives and museums. This independent, desk-based research was a good way to become familiar with new topics and concepts, and I hope will be useful in my future studies. This project will eventually yield an archive collections policy for Opera North, creating a resource to enable practitioners to make decisions about Opera North’s history is retained and ultimately creating a lasting legacy that researchers and students can use.

Support from colleagues

Having worked on a range of projects, both long and short-term, I’ve successfully managed to build various skills that will be transferable after graduation and into my chosen career path. My goals for the future are clearer than they were previously, and I now know the wealth of opportunities and resources that are available to help with this endeavour. I didn’t expect to make such close friends with my colleagues at the Institute, but I’m incredibly grateful for their enduring support. Having such lovely co-workers is a comforting thought whenever I am unsure about anything and need to ask for help. It is a fantastic working environment; intelligent, diligent and witty, and I can confidently say that I have never had a more enjoyable role.

The next six months

I am keen to continue my professional development in the final six months of my role at the Cultural Institute, which I’m sure will pass swiftly. In the next few months, as well as continuing my placement at Leeds Museums and Galleries with Kat Baxter, I will be commencing a large joint project with colleagues at Student Services to compile a report on student opportunities in the cultural and creative sector. The data has never before been analysed and shared across the University, but is incredibly important when developing new modules and placements for students in Leeds, so I’m looking forward to leading a project that will have real impact.

My advice

I am really glad that I decided to apply for the role, it’s truly amazing what can happen. I’m eager to improve my skills so that by the time I graduate I can be confident when applying for roles in the cultural sector. To any students that are considering a placement year,  I really couldn’t recommend it highly enough. With passion and enthusiasm, you may just be surprised about how much you can achieve.

There are still campus internships available now- including placement year opportunities- but they are closing soon.  For more information and to apply visit the jobs section on the University of Leeds website

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How I got my job: Women in Business at PwC


Lucy Bonnett is a final year undergraduate student at the University of Leeds studying French and Mathematics.  She participated in the Women in Business Programme, a three day paid work experience programme with PwC.    Lucy was uncertain about her future career plans but took the opportunity to get an insight into professional services.   As a result Lucy has secured a place on their Assurance Graduate Scheme.  Read more about Lucy’s story.

Why I applied

My week at PwC turned out better than I could have imagined. To be completely honest, I applied for the Women In Business placement to find out more about professional services, mainly with a view to ruling it out as an area I didn’t want to work in. I had no idea what I wanted to do after university, so I had decided to do a few placements during my second and third years at uni to see what interested me.

Application experience

The fact that the application process for the placement is identical to that of a graduate scheme was useful – at every stage of the application I thought “Even if I don’t make it to the next stage, I’m gaining valuable experience and application skills”. These skills definitely came in handy when applying to year abroad placements, and my experience allowed me to be relaxed and confident in interview situations.

Gaining an insight into PwC

The week itself was very insightful. We started with a day of training and introductions, easing us into the working atmosphere. I felt at ease in the office straight away – everyone I met went out of their way to make me feel welcome and to explain their roles to me. This itself was interesting, as I hadn’t even heard of some of the jobs and departments that exist in a company as big as PwC, and it showed me that there is plenty of opportunity for growth and change once you’ve joined.


After the first introductory day, I was shadowing a director in the Assurance department, following her from meetings to conferences to phone calls and looking over her shoulder when she was working alone. Karen was brilliant in explaining everything she was doing, and was happy to answer any question, however seemingly obvious. I was also paired up with a recent graduate, who talked to me about the first few years of life at PwC: the training and exams, her day-to-day routines, the atmosphere in the office. I think speaking to women at such different stages in their careers was incredibly helpful, as it helped me to understand both where a graduate would start within the company and where they may end up.

Securing a position

Everyone on the program was offered an interview at the end of the week, either for a summer internship or a place on a graduate scheme depending on how far through your degree you were.  I was successful in my interview and was offered a place on the Assurance graduate scheme. This was so far from my original goal (ruling out professional services as something I didn’t want to go into after university) that I didn’t know what to think at first, and it seemed like a big scary decision to make about my future so early on in my degree. However, after some consideration of the offer and consulting friends/family/university advisors, I decided PwC is a fantastic place to start my career and I have subsequently accepted the offer. And, although I would in no way describe myself as a relaxed care-free fourth year student, I am able to concentrate on my studies and on achieving a classification that I will be proud of, rather than jetting off to assessment days every other week at the same time as striving for a grade that will make me attractive to employers.

My advice

I would recommend the placement to anyone: whether you have no idea what kind of career you would like post-university, or if you are looking to get a head-start on the application process!


Read more about the three day  Women in Business programme they are still advertising opportunities (including in the Leeds office) until remaining places fill.

And don’t forget if you want to discuss a career in the professional services sector or any other, the Careers Centre can help you explore your options  and support you in your applications- learn how here.


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