Harriet. Physics Graduate. University of Leicester.
1. Tell me how your career journey has gone since you graduated?
H: I think the first couple of years were particularly progressive somewhat; responsibility increase, salary increase. But the last year or so that has somewhat plateaued and I think there’s an expectation as I accelerated so quick you expect that to continue but it somewhat doesn’t. Apart from that I think it’s gone on the whole well.
D: can you explain the peaks and troughs, how it has progressed each year?
H: yeah so the biggest kind of opportunity that I got was the company that I started to work with, that you guys put me in, was acquired by an American corporate $20 billion company. That was a great opportunity in that sense to expand scope, work on projects and with people all over the globe, work for a multi-layered organisation to gain that kind of experience. But then with the whole integration, where even though it’s been a positive in many regards as far as an integration perspective goes, it is extremely difficult to integrate a small company into such a large organisation successfully. And that’s something that not only me as an individual but our whole team has been involved with in the last five years and that’s really difficult because you’ve really got to change your shift of thought. The way that you do business and the way that you work changes and you have more considerations for the rest of the organisation and that really has been, though a great opportunity, difficult to get your head around. But that’s just going from a family organisation to one that’s the opposite end of the spectrum.
D: Yeah so you have that to deal with as well and sort of work out where your career goes.
H: Yeah and with that it gives you a lot of scope but sometimes too much scope right, sometimes too many choices and I think that’s where I am at the minute. I’m ready for a move but I really enjoy my job but there’s a lot of different aspects of it and it’s deciding which one to go down.
2. What was your motivation for choosing this career?
H: Quite honestly there wasn’t one. I had this conversation with a guy that I play tennis with last night, his daughters are just coming out of university and I said to him you know what, when I left I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. I just picked and went for the first job that I got offered. I went for an interview and they offered me that job and I went for it. And I didn’t think about it, I just did it and I think that’s the contrary to people that, like friends of mine that wanted to be doctors or lawyers and its very kind of set this is what you do. For me it was open ended, luckily I ended up somewhere I did enjoy, it couldn’t have gone that other way. But just taking that risk even if you don’t enjoy it and it’s not for you means you can get a year or a couple years’ experience and soft skills from it.
D: yeah and you’re in a strong position aren’t you just by starting.
H: I was fortunate I enjoy the company that I work for most of the time, and I enjoy the field that I work in.
3. In the beginning did you use your degree knowledge and skillset you got from uni?
H: Not particularly, the course I was on was extremely academic driven which in one case is fine and actually when you look at the stats coming off that course the majority of them, and by majority a high percentage of them go into further education, get your PhD things like that or they go into research based roles lab technicians, you know what I mean that kind of academic business. For me that was never what I wanted to do, so I don’t think that the course specifically prepares you for real life. But it’s just the course, if I had gone and done engineering or economics rather than something generic like business.
H: Yeah! You’re going to get a lot more experience.
D: Sure I mean you got a lot of theory and you’re able to put it into practice and then now on the job you have learned lots of new skills I imagine [leads into next question]
4. What new skills have you developed?
H: Anywhere from commercial awareness, all of that side to project engineering, project management, customer negotiations. I do a lot more business that I do actual engineering.
5. At this stage are you where you’d hope to be in that time frame?
H: if you had asked me this question a year and a half ago, I would have said yes. You’re asking me today, yeah no I would not be. I do expect, the word isn’t disappointed, I would have hoped that I would be on my next step by now but that just hasn’t happened internally. It is now at the stage where I am looking external to move to a different company. So, I know that I need to do it and I’m working on that. But no if you’d have asked me that last year I’d probably think, yeah great it’s gone fine. But now I’m just ready for a change.
6. Did you have a career plan?
Not at all, Not at all.
7. How did you make it happen?
Well I enjoy what I do. I’m in a role where I’m good as it suits my natural skill set. And it’s about the team, the team that I work with and ok, some of them are a pain, but you know what I mean as a whole, it works and what’s really important is to create that team and look forward to seeing them on a Monday and tackling things together. That’s kind of my personality and now and again I work from home but wouldn’t want to do that full time, I wouldn’t want to be our “on the road” sales guy individually so it just depends what you’re like, some people would love that right that kind of lone wolf type work. That’s not for me and it’s just about kind of understanding that and putting yourself in the right position.
8. Job hunting strategy?
Not at all, I probably still don’t know.
9. Who did you take advice from?
Back then? My dad was successful in his position and my uncle. I’m quite lucky I come from a family and with friends who are professional people and have professional roles with a lot of experience in business. I would talk to them about things like CVs, interviews, you know what I mean all this kind of ‘what about this?’, ‘so you think this I a good opportunity?’ or ‘do you think it’s all chat and actually there’s nothing behind it?’ things like that.
10. What advice would you give a fresh graduate – a 20 something version of yourself?!
I would just suggest that you put yourself outside of your comfort zone, whether that is moving slightly away from home for instance. I came from a very small school into a very small university department and was one of a hundred graduates, something totally out of my comfort zone because what’s the worst that can happen? If you don’t pass you probation period or whatever I mean it’s not the end of the world.
11. Any challenges during the transition from uni to work?
H: No not particularly.
D: Not even relocating?
H: That was tough. That was tougher than I expected, you go to university and I was like oooh I have lived away from university before, it’s not a big problem, but actually the difference is at university everybody is in the same position. When you go to work, and I went as far as I possibly could from my family to the other end of the country, it’s lonely, it is lonely. I actually did it for a year. I relocated but to Leicester and again I couldn’t have done that if we hadn’t been acquired by that international company. So that has worked in my favour and now we are, because my husband is from Leicester, settled in Leicester. So for me that’s worked out well but it is lonely, not the same as when you go to university, people have their own lives, not that they don’t want to be, but they’re not going to be your friend. They’ve got to pick up their children from school and they have their own lives. It’s different; you’re not going to be best friends with the people you work with necessarily. Others may disagree with that, friends of mine that have gone into retail, merchandising or marketing find it very female led and very young female. I’m hanging around with middle age men at work so you have a bit of a different work environment. Therefore that gets pulled somewhat into your personal life as well.
12. Advice for first week and few months of a new job? (office etiquette, politics, etc.)
H: Mental isn’t it? Your head never rests. Well the first week in any job I mean just enjoy it because there’s no pressure on you in your first week. I think it’s just to make a good impression. Try and not only to listen to people but absorb what they say because they’re not just talking to you, and it might take two or three months but you can go ahh that’s what they meant when they said that! So just try and take it all in. It is difficult and your heads all over the place and you’re trying to remember every acronym under the sun and all of that so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
13. Anything you would do differently if you could start over?
I think I would be a little bit more, or let’s put it another way, a little less passive. Sometimes when I speak to people at work I’m not as direct as I probably should be, I surmise a lot, I skirt around the situation when actually I just want to say you know what this is what we are going to do. Direct I think is the word.
14. One final top tip?
Take any opportunity. Don’t be picky. You’ve got these people oh I only want to work for people who you see and all of that. Don’t be too precious and take any opportunity that comes your way.