Within my first six months working at Queen Mary, I was lucky enough to go on a few big trips, including a two week trip to South East Asia. I had the opportunity to go to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia – I went to all of the capital cities... being thrown in at the deep end has given me the confidence to know that I can go anywhere and do these kind of events by myself.
17 January 2020
What did you study at Queen Mary and what are you doing now? I studied BSc Business Management and I graduated in 2016. I currently work as the Recruitment and Marketing Coordinator for the School of Business and Management at Queen Mary (SBM), managing the life cycle and dealing with student queries up until the point students submit their applications, enrolment day and following enrolment day.*
What does a typical working day look like for you? It involves a mixture of things such as responding to email and telephone enquiries and meeting prospective students face to face if they come to visit the campus, or if they have done a campus tour and if they want to know a little bit more about the SBM. I am also in touch with colleagues in central marketing and UK SR to discuss open days and offer holder events, as well as participating in centrally run events and looking after SBM’s own events – for example, by liaising with academics to see where they can help out. If we do have recruitment events, it is my role to manage the number of student ambassadors we recruit so that we can represent the school in the best possible way.
What prompted you to apply for a job at Queen Mary after completing your studies here as a student? When I first graduated I spent a year working at a management consultancy firm that specialised in international development; my role as an Associate Recruiter was to find consultants that we would put on projects and on our proposals to get funding from the European Commission. The role for the SBM was advertised to individuals who had studied at the school before or those who were due to graduate that year. Once I graduated, my intention was always to go into HR and even though the advertised role was not strictly HR related, it seemed really interesting and I had had such a positive experience studying at Queen Mary that I wanted to give back in some way. I had a really good interview experience in which I had to prepare a task beforehand. I was also attracted by the prospect of travel that the role afforded; as part of international recruitment, I would be expected to travel to different countries to represent the SBM. Once I officially started in my role, I knew that I had made the right choice.
How was it initially different working for the University compared to being a student and studying at the University? I definitely found the first few months quite interesting being on the other side of the desk and speaking to students as a member of staff. Whilst I would empathise with students who were struggling, or who were grappling with important decisions, I would also relate to them as a former student and feel what they were going through personally. My position really opened (and still opens) my eyes to see how much work goes on behind the scenes from a professional services perspective; when you go to university you simply think about the academic side, not the numerous meetings between colleagues, course administration or event management for example. I have also found that when I tell my story to students at offer holder day events, they are more interested to hear what I have to say as it is more relatable compared to hearing the same story from an academic’s mouth.
Do you find your time as a student at Queen Mary means that you have a unique perspective on your current role? Definitely. I think when I interact with students I can put myself in their position seeing as that was me only a couple of years ago. I can see there have been changes compared to when I was a student and how different things are now in a more positive sense. For example, students now get feedback within two weeks of submitting an assignment. Because I have studied here I really do have strong relationships with academic staff, I know our student profile and I also have close relationships with members of professional services as well. Whilst I predominantly deal with enquiries and getting students to the school, I also have the opportunity to go outside of my job spec and get involved in other projects happening within the school. I have monthly catch ups with staff in equivalent positions in other schools, particularly within the humanities and social sciences and within schools of similar sizes such as law and economics. We are invited to centrally run workshops so that we can get involved and learn best practise.
What kind of travel opportunities have you experienced so far in your role? Within my first six months I was lucky enough to go on a few big trips, including a two week trip to South East Asia. I had the opportunity to go to Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia – I went to all of the capital cities and I was sometimes accompanied by colleagues from the Global Engagement Team. My time was predominantly filled with recruitment fairs for postgraduate studies, where I would meet with students who were considering coming to the UK to study. It was such a great experience spending time on the other side of the world; I’ve also done smaller trips to countries in Europe, again with colleagues from other schools who are in marketing or recruitment roles. All of these trips have been really good learning experiences; being thrown in at the deep end has given me the confidence to know that I can go anywhere and do these kind of events by myself.
What made you choose Queen Mary in the first place? I was initially unsure of what I wanted to study at university so for me it was always a case of picking the subject first. I had always had an interest in business after studying it for my A-Levels and I knew that if I wanted to pursue business further, then London would be the best place to do so. Overall, I wanted to study in London and on a campus based university. I only visited two or three universities properly, Queen Mary being the first; it had that friendly community vibe which was missing from some other London universities.
How did your time and study at Queen Mary have an impact on your career and development? Where I studied such a broad subject like Business, when people would ask me what I wanted to do after, I would respond with a question mark. During second and third year I opted for HR modules such as employment relations and managing diversity because they were the modules I found myself most interested in and which gave me the sense that once I graduated, HR was the field that I wanted to go into. I am also currently studying part-time alongside my full-time role; within the SBM, I am studying my MSc in International Human Resource Management – an opportunity that was given to me when I was first employed after I expressed my interest to pursue HR long term. During my first year of work I was solely working full time, during my second year I started my masters, and now I’m in my last year of my studies. When I was a student I never envisioned that I would be working in higher education but I think it is a really great sector to be in, especially when you are quite early on in your career. The higher education sector gives you so much experience to enable you to specialise later on in your career.
How do you find it juggling your studies with your full time role? My first year of studying was a really good adjustment period as I was having to time manage deadlines at work and deadlines with my studies. It was a case of trying to prioritise one task over another and completing more of my studies during quieter periods at work. My line manager at the time was also really understanding and would allow me to finish off any assignments I had during office hours if I got all of my work done. This year will be interesting as I’ve got my dissertation to do – I will let you know how that goes!
Do you have any advice for current students or recent graduates? Current students – get as much work experience as possible. Your first and second year will involve going to events and realising that things aren’t for you. I remember during my first year I went to all these finance events and realised straight away that finance wasn’t for me. Had I not gone to these events then I never would have found this out. Compared to school where everything is spoon fed to you, at university you really have to be independent, proactive and get engaged. Do different things, not necessarily career related. For example, volunteer or get involved with the Students’ Union; I regret not getting involved with QMSU as it might have given me the chance to meet more students outside of my course. I did a bit of work as a student ambassador for the SBM; worked part time in my local cinema; had a summer internship at a car rental company and volunteered for ELBA once a week doing admin work throughout my three years of studying!
Recent graduates – your first role might not meet your expectations but think of it as a stepping stone. I wasn’t necessarily that passionate about my first role but I got lucky in the sense that I worked for a good company and had a great team behind me, including my line manager. Take time and don’t rush, you’ve spent three plus years working hard so the right opportunity will come for you.
Do you have a favourite spot on campus? The canal side – I never really went as a student but as a member of staff I love to eat my lunch there. The gardens near the hospital just behind Bancroft are also beautiful, especially in the summer.
What was so special about your time at Queen Mary? To sum up everything - I enjoyed the majority of my lectures, I had good relationships with a couple of my academics, which was great as I felt comfortable to go to them during their office hours and I got to meet people from places all over the world. A couple of my best friends were international students and had I not met them at university, then I never would have met them. It was really nice to be immersed in such a multicultural environment and to meet people who had come from completely different backgrounds; they brought completely new things to the table during lectures and seminars compared to people I went to school with. I also built quite good relationships with members of the professional services team and they remembered me when I came back to Queen Mary as an employee. I applied for a grad scheme in my final year and one member of staff sat down and helped me with my application even though it wasn’t necessarily in his remit. Even though I wasn’t successful, I did get to the final stages of the application process and this wouldn’t have been possible without this member of staff’s help.
*Since the completion of this profile, Leila has now started a new role at Queen Mary as the Administrative Officer (School HR Support) in the School of Engineering and Materials Science.