This month we have a series of blogs from young people who are weeks away from graduating and are about to enter the world of work. In these blogs, the graduates will be discussing how university prepared them for their future careers. Our first in this series is from Rebecca Neish, who will graduate from Queen Margaret University Edinburgh shortly with a degree in Events Management. She has already started work at Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce as a Training and Events Executive.
I’m the kind of girl that checks a menu online before going for dinner, picks what I’m having and still needs 10 minutes to decide when I’m in the restaurant. I am indecisive. So when you ask a girl like me, at 17, what I want to do with my life – I didn’t have a clue!
I had plans to become a Beautician, then a Drama Teacher and then an Event Manager in the space of a single UCAS application. Despite all my indecision, it took me only a few short weeks to know for sure that events management was the career path for me. It also didn’t take me long to grasp that when I finally reached the end of university and started looking for a job, practical experience was just as important as my grades. I started volunteering at every event I could, but at the end of semester 1, I updated my CV and found that all of my experiences had required similar knowledge and skills, and in fact I wasn’t really learning and experiencing anything new.
Yet, just as I began to feel stuck in a rut, I was passing the University’s Job Shop and came across an opportunity to work at Edinburgh Airport providing help, information and support to arriving passengers. The first-of-its-kind, University-run “STARS” (Student Tourism Ambassador Role Scotland) programme was a way for me to improve my confidence and self belief by interacting with a huge number of people from across the world.
It’s safe to say I grabbed this opportunity with both hands, and after six months I was promoted to STARS Coordinator. Working closely with the University’s Employability Centre and my course lecturer, we built up the programme from one location to four locations within a year, and provided employment to over 50 QMU students. I gained an unprecedented amount of managerial and administrative experience, as I was given the responsibility to successfully run and develop the programme. With the trust and responsibility the university had in me, I was able to really grow and develop my skills, confidence and practical experience.
As coordinator, part of my role involved going to meet senior business managers with a view to securing sponsorship and for exploring new growth opportunities. Walking through the doors of some of the most prestigious businesses in Edinburgh and speaking to their senior management teams was definitely daunting to begin with. I remember how my stomach dropped when my lecturer/boss Joe turned round to me before one particular appointment and said “I’ll let you lead this one!” For me, this moment was extremely important. Someone who I respected and looked up to and someone who’s business expertise is renowned, actually had the belief in me, at 20 years old, to land us a huge contract. We’re always told to believe in ourselves; but what really struck me, was to see someone else appreciate and believe in my abilities, possibly a lot more than I believed in myself at that point.
Through volunteering, I had the event experience I needed and now through the STARS programme I had the management experience. Through four years of hard graft, my passion for events never faltered and I only grew more certain that this was the career for me. I was therefore ecstatic when I was put forward for the opportunity to work for the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce as their Training and Events Executive. Thanks to my experience with the STARS programme I had practical experience in business and through my studies I had the theory and knowledge of the industry.
Without the fantastic experiences I was exposed to as a student of QMU, I would never have imagined that I’d be recruited for the job I am now in.
To read other blogs in the series: