Chloe Etheridge – National Graduate Development Programme
What degree course did you study and when did you graduate
I studied History with Year Abroad (to Nagoya University, Japan) between 2016-2020.
Why did you choose that particular degree course?
I primarily chose to study History at degree level because I loved the subject. I have never had a clear career path in my mind, instead I have always sought to spend my time studying or working at things I enjoy.
However, studying History does furnish you with some indispensable skills that you can show off to employers when the time comes. Some of these include: research, critical analysis and reading habits, attention to detail, report writing and whatever the skill is called for ‘sifting through reams of information very fast’! I use these every day at work. I also think that studying History (or any other Humanities subject) teaches you to think about your place in the world and how you might seek to change or challenge it.
Therefore, my very general approach to career planning has been to attach myself to goals and see what jobs could contribute towards them. For me, these aims include social justice and environmental sustainability. Overall this makes me feel calm in the knowledge that I don't have to land a place at a world renowned company straight away in order to be working towards my overarching ambitions, over time I'm also happy to work in different locations, sectors and fields.
Tell us about your employer
This year I joined the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP), the two-year local government graduate scheme. I work in Transport Planning for a local government organisation called Black Country Transport.
What was the position you were recruited for?
I applied for the NGDP in my final year at Warwick, which is usually a 6 month long sifting process including tests, video interviews, an assessment centre and a final interview at a council. The scheme is in place to fast-track graduates to be future managers and leaders of local government, so you are placed in a dynamic environment with an expectation for learning straight away.
NGDP graduates undertake 4 placements during the scheme, across varied areas of local government, for instance, regeneration, election planning, homelessness prevention and climate change. I didn’t realise just how much local councils do for their residents, but there is an endless variety of work to get involved in. My experience on the scheme will be a little different because I work in a transport specific organisation, but even within this body I will be trying out everything from planning cycle routes to promoting electric cars to the public.
What attracted you to this position?
My personal commitment to equality and sustainability feeds into all of my work and so far I have found it really fulfilling.
What top tips would you give to students looking for a career in your market sector?
If you’re thinking of applying for this graduate scheme I would say: don’t be put off by the long application process, it’s not too intense along the way and so you can complete the stages as and when they come and you won’t have invested all your time if it doesn’t work out. I applied on a whim over Christmas, the only job I applied for in my final year, and I got lucky!
Local government needs a diverse set of backgrounds and talents that reflect the population they serve, most people would be a great fit.
What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were applying for jobs?
When I was in my final year considering my career path, I felt an immense amount of pressure to be searching and applying for jobs all the time on top of finishing the most academically challenging year of my degree. But having come out the other side, I can say that myself and all the graduates I speak to now (employed or not) wouldn’t recommend overwhelming yourself! I knew some people that felt like they could easily manage job hunting and final year, but if this isn’t you, it is absolutely not a problem.
If final year for you means concentrating on getting your assignments in and thinking about what you would rule out as a job: that is enough. Your wellbeing is top priority, don’t sacrifice this for your degree or your future career.
I accepted that if I had to take a year after university to search for jobs and work part-time, this would not be a failure. I think this mindset is even more important given the impact of Covid-19 on your university experience and the job market.
Take your time, apply for jobs when you feel you are ready, and try and enjoy the rest of your time at university!