What degree course did you study and when did you graduate
Current Role, employer and country
English Teacher, Seadragon education, China
Tell us a bit about your career story since graduating from Warwick
My final two years at Warwick were largely spent in lock-down, in my accommodation, on my own. I graduated in a sling, having just received shoulder surgery, was unsure on which direction to go, had no real support or place to live post-graduation & possessed a somewhat arbitrary degree (Philosophy), that I had settled for getting a 2:1 in.
I have always longed for adventure and stimulation, and have seldom found meaning in convention. Consequently, after a great deal of research, I accepted a role as an English Teacher in China. After paying the fees and jumping through the hoops, 2 weeks before flying, the covid restrictions changed dramatically, meaning I could not go. I scrambled and changed to a role in Thailand, which wasn’t as appealing or financially rewarding. I spent 6 months there, and had the time of my life.
However, I have always been tremendously ambitious (despite traditionally lacking in the necessary self-discipline to nurture it) and I wanted to make money and feel I had the ground under my feet. I returned home and secured a place on a very competitive graduate scheme with ‘Pareto Law’. This pertained to consulting roles in Business analysis / Project management. They provided £10k (market value) of qualifications and promised to place us with clients soon. 6 months and all of my savings later, they were unable to deliver on their promises to place 11/15 from my intake, and let us go, abruptly.
Again, I scrambled, and found a graduate project manager role at a railway construction company called ESL. It was a smaller firm, where I essentially fulfilled a bid manager role. I learnt a lot about managing people, organising myself and being in the work environment. After 6 months however, the resounding voice in my head that tells me I can do great things, became too loud. I needed adventure, and the metaphorical ceiling taken from above my head.
I interviewed for English teaching roles all over the world, and accepted my current role in Shenzen, China. There are incredible opportunities for me here and I have galvanised the focus and self-discipline that has been lacking for all of my previous years. I work at a school from 8:40am-11:55am every day, and spend the rest of my time on my other endeavours. It undoubtedly takes a great deal of sacrifice and mental fortitude, but nothing good comes easy, and nothing easy comes good. It’s precisely the adventure I wanted, and precisely the opportunity I needed to feed my ambition. I use all of my ‘spare’ time working as a boxing coach, recruiting other teachers and am at the infant stages of establishing an exporting company.
How has your time at Warwick helped you during your career?
The name Warwick University definitely piques peoples interest. In truth, I have lost count of the amount of ‘ooo, Warwick’ comments I have received from employers and peers alike. This is especially true with international employers, who perceive education a little differently than we do in the UK - it carries more weight.
Undoubtedly, the name Warwick will get your foot in the door in places where, were you from another institution, perhaps it would have shut. Philosophy was an enjoyable degree, suited my personality well, and certainly has useful points to draw on, like critical thinking, analysis and proficiency in precise articulation. However, it’s not the most practical degree and there’s not a straight line to toe into a job, as there would be with something akin to a mechanical engineering degree, for example. With that being said, I have had no problems whatsoever turning my applications for a range of roles, unrelated to philosophy, into interviews. The name Warwick University, I am certain, has had a prominent role to play in this.
What ambitions do you have for the future?
My ambitions for the future are to continue to improve myself and to continue to practice the self-discipline necessary to allow my talent to thrive. Currently, this looks like it will be in the context of; working successfully as a recruiter of other teachers fulfilling roles like mine, and working to expand on this across cities and countries… working successfully as a boxing coach, working to open my own boxing gym(s)… establishing a company that exports Chinese manufactured products to the UK / European markets & perhaps uploading videos of my experience on Western & Chinese social media platforms to generate revenue and a platform for advertising my services, products & endeavours.
Ideas and talent are the easy parts, as I have learned from experience. Developing them into real life success, is another thing entirely. The pieces are in place, however, and it’s on me to deliver. Life is short, and the most resolute constitution within myself, all my life, has been that I am capable of anything (as I believe to some extent, we all are)… so I’d rather roll the dice.
What advice do you have for Warwick graduates who would like to work in your sector?
If you intend to work in project management:
- Be organised & write things down.
- Managing people is difficult, especially as a young graduate managing older, more experienced people. Making things black and white, clarifying deadlines and outcomes with people makes your job easier.
- When interviewing, demonstrate competence, confidence and strength of character. It’s necessary for a stressful, outcome / deadline & management focused role. Many of today's graduates lack interpersonal skills and from my experience, employers are wary of having someone ‘solid and reliable’ who demonstrates initiative and doesn’t need their hand-held.
If you intend to work as a teacher:
- Be charismatic and confident, if students like and respect you, it makes your life much easier. Students will behave, engage, and feel comfortable to be themselves, make mistakes, ask questions etc.
- Work abroad! There are many places in the world that pay well with a low cost of living. It’s a great way to dip your toes into teaching as (compared to the UK) the workload is low, the pressure is low, the kids are far more excited by you and the cost of living is low… China is undoubtedly one of the best for this and I can likely get you straight in - Feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What 3 top tips would you give to students looking to find a graduate role in the UK or elsewhere in the world?
- Demonstrate (manufacture if you have to) a hunger and ambition within yourself for success and for the specific role at the specific company. I am flawed in more ways than I can count, however, I must say I am good in interviews. It’s rare I don’t get an offer when I reach interview stage, and I often apply for roles out of my (supposed) reach. I also often successfully negotiate better pay / benefits than advertised. I know from experience as an interviewer also, that someone who can transmit their energy and drive over to me is very rare indeed. It goes an extremely long way. More so than any qualification or experience you may have. Tell them a bit about you as a person, your story, your drive. Infect them with your energy.
- Further to this, don’t be nervous. Easier said than done, I know. However, anxiety takes away your wit, your charm, your ability to think and speak on the spot, your ability to showcase who you are. It puts you on the back foot, in a reactionary state. Nothing is ever final, even if you really want the job, life goes on in all the important ways if you don’t get it. Framing it like this in your mind will allow you to give the best version of yourself. Another small trick I use for this also, is register on every job site you can find, apply for every job you can see that is remotely in your field. When you feel you have options, when you get job offers that you end up turning down, it is easier to alleviate the pressure of an interview and the stress of finding employment. You become more accustomed to interview situation, interview questions, you refine your answers, collect data on what went down well and what didn’t… Apply Apply Apply! Apply also, to jobs of interest to you, that you may not be exactly qualified for. Stranger things have happened. Business is conducted by people, at the end of the day. If you come across in the right way, to the right person, everything is possible. Companies also need to fill gaps quickly sometimes, certainly smaller ones. Don’t limit yourself.
- More generally, life is difficult, it’s hard to make sense of and you will fail far more than you succeed. I have been blessed and cursed as being not much of a worrier myself, so it’s easier for me to say. But listen to yourself and go for it. Whatever it is. Even if you fail, you will feel better than you did if you didn’t go for it, but you might just surprise yourself and succeed. Back yourself. If you’re going to do anything, do it with purpose and with confidence. Analyse your short-comings, be honest with yourself and take action to improve… the rest will come to you.