“What do you do with a BA in English?” While laughing at a puppet sing about his life troubles post-graduation in the opening of Avenue Q during my third year at University it suddenly dawned on me, what exactly can you do with a BA in English, or for that matter a BA in History? When I applied for University I had chosen to study History as it was something I enjoyed, rather than it being because I had a particular career in mind. The fact was I didn’t have any sort of career in mind as making decisions isn’t a particular forte of mine. (My decision to study at The University of Manchester was made by a coin toss in a Debenhams café). So in my final year at University when my housemates were preparing for life after University I was a little bit stumped to say the least. Unlike my friends who were either studying vocational courses like medicine or would be in demand as physics graduates, like many other arts graduates, I had no idea what job I wanted to do. So I started with what I did know.
During my time at University I had fallen in love with Manchester, so I knew I wanted to stay in the city. I also knew that not being sure about a long term career path I could use this time to find out what I was good at and what I liked. I didn’t need to decide on a job that I would be doing for the rest of my life. On top of this, during the summer holidays while at university I had worked as a teaching assistant in my old secondary school, and also did some administrative work at a haulage company. I hadn’t done these jobs thinking they would help me after graduation; I had wanted to go traveling over the summer and needed the money. This summer work had fulfilled its purpose of enabling me to go abroad, but they also gave me the extra benefit of having some work experience to go on my CV.
I started looking for jobs in the Manchester area on the Careers Service website and found MGIP – the Manchester Graduate Internship Programme. This was perfect for me, jobs in Manchester that were 6 – 12 months long. I could apply for a short term role that would give me the experience and skills that I would need when I did know what I wanted to do. I applied to be the Personal Assistant to the Programme Manager of a University Research Institution, and was offered the position the day I graduated. I then spent a year doing a variety of tasks, from managing diaries, planning meetings, making cups of tea, taking minutes to organising international events, writing funding proposals and attending a conference in Barcelona! My first job after graduation was amazing and I’m extremely grateful for it – so it may not have been the most glamorous job in the world or the highest paid, but I had the opportunity to develop my skills and experience and figure out what I wanted to do in the professional world.
From my graduate internship I applied for a job at the University’s Careers Service organising careers events on campus, a job which I’m currently in now. In my previous role I had realised my skills lied in event management and I enjoyed working in higher education. Three years on from graduation and I still don’t know what I want to do long term, but that doesn’t matter, I’m still figuring out what I like, and still building up my CV. While in the Careers Service, I joined the marketing team, which has become my favourite part of the job, so now I’m doing a part-time marketing course in the evenings.
Not knowing what you want to do after University is scary, but scary because you have so many options, not because you’re limited and this is the thing to remember. “What can you do with a BA in English?” – anything you want. Definitely get to Barcelona!