5 individuals sat on chairs in a circle from different ethnic backgrounds

May 2, 2024, by brzms6

Choosing a career path: navigating career options after graduation

by Liam Colabuono-Mcdonagh, master’s in research

I will be reflecting on how societies and networking events helped secure a place in Atkins Realis, a technology and engineering consulting firm.

Finding a career 

When I began university one of my main concerns was how to signpost my competitive edge and interests to employers. Some degrees will offer the chance to gain professional experience or perhaps you are clued in enough to know about all the things the Careers and Employability Service has to offer, but this wasn’t really my experience. For me, university was about trying lots of different things to find a career.

Initially, I wanted to be a teacher or a professor because I loved the idea of helping people understand concepts and learn new things. In my small town working in a school was the only work experience most people I knew had. However, as I went through university I realised how little I knew about the opportunities available to me and that curiosity led me to seek out skills and experiences that have shaped my starting career years later.

First year

COVID-19 was the background of my first year, however, I was determined to make the most of my time here. The Human Rights and Law Centre (HRLC) were looking for an intern to help with a policy and advocacy campaign for endangered academics (known as the Scholars at Risk (SAR) programme). I applied but I didn’t expect to get in. However, I had this notion that if I could get used to applying for internships and placements in my first year, I would be in a strong position for graduate scheme applications and other opportunities.

I interned with the HRLC putting an eight-month placement under my belt before my second year started. This internship also meant I had the opportunity to introduce myself to the Careers and Employability Service early and take full advantage of their resources for students.

Second year 

In my second year, I joined Hacksoc (hacking and coding society) where I took two committee positions and in Geography Society (Geogsoc) I worked as the outreach secretary. I also got the opportunity to join a careers event with GCHQ, MI5 and MI6 discussing careers in cyber for graduates. They were running a summer school; it was aimed at graduates but I applied anyway. I reached stage three of five for this role and struggled at the coding interview, I just didn’t have the technical know-how required.

Third year

I came across technology consulting after taking a Bright Network personality career test which suggested my confidence, public speaking and strong problem solving would suit consulting. I joined 180 Degrees Consulting (DC), which gave me the opportunity to meet charity clients and work on projects including social media strategies, fundraising, recruitment, and competitor analysis.

These experiences helped me network with top consultancy firms and gain experience in skills workshops and client presentations including being invited to Westminster for a “The Apprentice” style experience in business consulting with a management consultancy called Q5. These opportunities built my leadership and technical skills which helped me complete assessments and interviews for graduate applications in my third year.

Three options to consider

By the end of my third year, my hard work had paid off and I had three options.

-My first option was a graduate scheme with Atkins Realis, an engineering and technology consultancy group with a role in GIS consulting using my geography degree and technology background.

-The second option was a master’s in research, studying satellite technology applications for tackling modern slavery in India.

-My last option offered to me by a professor was to undertake a four-year joint master’s and PhD programme fully funded.

In the end, I was very lucky to be able to defer my graduate scheme at Atkins Realis and undertake a master’s in research. This was the perfect combination for me as I wanted to push my studies further to gain expertise but didn’t want to commit straight away to a PhD which can take many years to complete. I look forward to joining Atkins Realis as an analyst in London in 2024.

My advice would be: to consider how your experiences can build towards other opportunities and securing positions from networking and gaining other key skills.

If you are not sure what you want to do after university, visit the ‘Choosing your career’ webpage or book an appointment with a careers adviser to talk through your options. If you’ve had more than one offer and are unsure what you should do, read our blog and talk to an adviser.

Posted in Choosing Your Career