Katie Leach

September 14, 2020, by Jackie Thompson

From graduation to the best job in the world!

By Katie Leach, UoN psychology alumna

We asked Katie to talk about her career path and what advice she would give students who are moving into their final year and our 2020 graduates who are not quite where they want to be.

The most extravagant recruitment process ever?

So, the best place to start would probably be graduation. I graduated from Nottingham in July 2016 with the job of equal opportunities and welfare officer role. This was one of the Students’ Union’s Officer positions I won the election to.

This definitely was the most extravagant job application process: creating a manifesto, slogan and delivering a campaign to persuade fellow students to vote for me. This role was a great opportunity to learn what it’s actually like to have a full-time job. My confidence over the year really improved and I wasn’t going (quite) as red when I got up in front of a crowd (a personal goal I’m always working on).

It’s not always easy..

I left the Students’ Union in July 2017 with no idea what I wanted to do or where to go next. I could feel my confidence dropping, my purpose disappearing and found myself missing the days of being a student with my friends five minutes walk away. I applied for lots of jobs that rejected me or just didn’t ever get back in touch with me. You’re definitely not alone if you struggle a little after graduating.

  • This is where my first piece of advice comes in: be kind to yourself during this time, the year after university can be tough. There will be lots of parts of university life you will miss and there will no doubt be jobs you don’t get, but you’re a Nottingham graduate with lots to offer! Whenever it feels overwhelming, just slow down and take time to think about what you actually enjoy (and seek support for the people offering it including the Careers and Employability Service). 

Finally, I got a job after three months…

I enjoyed being a part of the university community and so searched for opportunities within the University. I progressed from Student Services, onto the Careers and Employability Service and then onto Widening Participation. This is when I found what I loved, wellbeing and helping people.

I wanted to spend more of my day doing wellbeing stuff! I looked at wellbeing jobs across lots of sectors and found the role of staff wellbeing officer for the NHS. If you’re going to help others, why not those who spend their lives caring for people at their worse.

Support from Careers

On the note of supporting others, I wouldn’t be where I am today without the Careers team. I have received lots of support as a student and alumnus, from reviewing application forms and the great experiences of the Nottingham Advantage Award to interview preparation.

As an alumnus you can always reach out to this wonderful team to advise, help and guide you through your steps and I encourage everyone to make the most of their skills, experience and support.

Developmental opportunities

Each organisation I’ve worked for has offered in-house or external training – my favourite opportunity was the Mental Health First Aider training when I worked in the Careers team. This training has definitely helped me to be where I am today, working as a psychological wellbeing practitioner (PWP).

  • My advice: Make the most of whatever organisations offer.  There’s so much opportunity for development and if you’re like me, there’s always so much more to learn. Whatever job you’re in  if you feel there’s nothing more to learn, it’s time for a change.

Recruitment processes

The majority of the jobs I’ve applied for have involved an online application followed by an interview.  Find some strong examples of your experience demonstrating different competencies. Many employers want you to demonstrate skills such as leadership or teamwork.  You can then adapt your examples for different application forms, and the Careers team can help you with this.

  • My first piece advice for interviews is: you’re not expected to know everything. Whatever the job, you can learn how to do the job. Interviews are about you as a person, your interpersonal skills and whether you’ll fit into their team dynamic.
  • My second piece of interview advice is: how you feel when you leave the interview is also very important. You’ve met potentially your future colleagues and you need to think about how you would feel working with them, what their culture is like and what development opportunities are on offer.

Looking back over my time since leaving Nottingham

  • Advice to current students: Spend time volunteering and getting involved in projects and apply for internships to develop your experience. This will help you to identify things that you enjoy and importantly, the things you don’t enjoy. You probably won’t get your dream job when you graduate but be patient and get support to work out how you might get there.
  • Advice to alumni who are in the working world: if you’re not happy at work, try a different job. I don’t know where it comes from, but everyone seems to think it’s bad if you change jobs. If the job’s not right, try a different one. We spend so much time at work so trying different jobs allows you to identify the parts that you enjoy most so you can piece together what your favourite job might be. I’ve had six jobs in four years and am still getting employed.

Where I am now

I’m now training to be a psychological wellbeing practitioner – if you’re interested in supporting individuals with their mental health, definitely look it up! It’s the best job in the world (I may be slightly biased). I’m getting paid a salary while being trained on the job, carrying out clinical work and I’m studying for a postgraduate qualification, which is all paid for. It really is a phenomenal opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives.

Take the time to find out what you enjoy doing, there’s no rush, I’m 25 and just starting to figure it out and will probably continue throughout my whole career! Try not to compare yourself to your friends too much, everyone figures these things out in their own time.

There’s loads of great advice on our website to help you plan your next step and then talk to an adviser. If you’re a graduate, we can help you too – start with our alumni website.

Posted in Alumni StoriesChoosing Your Career