India Fallon (BA 2014) tells us how her time at Bristol encouraged her to give back by volunteering as a Bristol Connects Career Expert.
Studying at the University of Bristol had such an enormous impact on my life and defined it in so many ways. I was eager to give back and do something to support current students and recent graduates.
Although I read for an English degree, I developed a taste for the third sector while working for the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) as a student. I was part of the telethon team, calling alumni to see if they were interested in supporting Bristol’s work. I also successfully received funding from the University to undertake an internship with a local international development charity. These experiences gave me the confidence and skills to look for work in the charity sector when I graduated.
I appreciate that success looks different to everyone and I wanted to speak on a Bristol Connects panel because I knew I would be honest and admit that I haven’t it found easy to establish myself in the international development space I work in. I very much enjoyed my most recent role as a Programme Officer with Youth Business International, but previously I have worked as a researcher, a teacher, and a communications officer, all in the third sector and across different countries. I had a few in-depth conversations with event attendees, particularly with alumni who wanted to make the transition from the corporate to the charity sector. I was asked about being a generalist or a specialist and this is a debate that features a lot amongst policy specialists and in the media. From what I’ve witnessed, I would say a degree on its own now is not enough for instant success and you need something extra.
My own experience on my Bristol-funded internship was a pivotal point for me.
For me, learning Spanish gave me that competitive edge and I have benefitted from moving jobs and working in different places. The important thing is giving it a try and working out what success means to you. I did my internship six months after graduation when things made sense and I felt excited about the future, so I would like to say to those graduating, remember, you’re in charge of your own life.
I am thrilled to see the progress the University has made, particularly with the Bristol Connects Live panels and the Bristol Mentors programme. For students who are a bit lost or unsure, it can be daunting to consider your future career. It is so important to give students the opportunity to speak with and get advice from someone working in their field of interest, therefore the more personalised help we can give them the better.
Careers are not always as linear (especially in a COVID-19 world) as we may have been led to believe. One tool I find useful, and would encourage all alumni to use, is the Bristol Connects platform. It is a fantastic chance to reach out to people and to network. I am delighted Bristol is helping graduates realise that things take time and the perfect career is not going to happen overnight. It is a marathon and not a sprint. Life is not about ‘the ideal job’, it is about understanding yourself, what opportunities you can make the most of and enjoying yourself. Don’t worry too much, with time you will get where you need to be.
You can support Bristol students and graduates by becoming a Career Expert online through Bristol Connects. You can also take part in Bristol Connects Live, a series of digital employability-focused events.