Careers service: Alumni Event

Employability & Enterprise

Project Description

An alumni event for all English undergraduates, featuring speakers from a range of occupational areas.

This is one a series of projects. You can read about them all on the main project page.

Project report

Benefits to English students

The event benefitted English students in a number of ways. Through listening to and having the opportunity to talk to alumni, students :

  • Were encouraged to consider their career options at an earlier stage (our key target audience being first and second years)
  • Had the opportunity to broaden their career horizons to areas they may previously not have considered (a prime example being the finance industry, where students often think they are excluded due to having a non-numerical background)
  • Were provided with inspirational career ideas (speakers selected will show evidence of progression and achievement in their chosen careers)
  • Were encouraged to think about developing skills to aid their employability throughout their degree course
  • Realised that the skills and knowledge they are gaining from their English studies can be applied in a variety of working environments
  • Recognised what they could achieve and how to get there, and start setting career goals for themselves

Outline Plan of Activities

The event took place around the first week of March 2007 to coincide with complementary careers activities.

It was highly publicised within the English Department using a range of methods; e-mails direct to English students, on plasma screens in the department foyer, on sandwich boards at the department entrance, via the university’s web portal, and on flyers in students’ pigeon holes.

We scheduled 5-6 speakers from a range of different industries. Each speaker gave a short presentation of around 15 minutes covering: what they do, how they got there and how the skills developed during their English studies have helped them. The presentations were followed by a session where students chatted to speakers more informally on a one-to-one basis or in small groups.

The timing of the event was approximately 1.5 hours for the presentations and around 1 hour for informal discussions.

Other information

This event dovetailed nicely with the Media & Communications Careers Day which traditionally takes place in early March. The Media Day is open to all students but, due to its nature, does attract a high number of Humanities students. The purpose of the alumni event is to provide additional career ideas – demonstrating clearly to English students that there are a whole range of career opportunities open to them, that they are not restricted to particular areas, and that their skills are valued by employers across a range of industries.

Running these complementary sessions will allow us to package the alumni event as part of a programme of events specifically geared towards English students’ needs, which is likely to increase their buy-in to the event. By starting publicity early in the spring term, we will also be able to include our Work Experience Fair which takes place at the beginning of February as part of this programme. As a final activity, we are considering offering a CV/Application form workshop specifically for English students to encourage them to start taking some practical steps towards progressing their career plans.

With regards to speakers, we targeted individuals with at least 2-3 years work experience behind them. These individuals are likely to be able to demonstrate progression within their careers, and were confident and credible speakers, without being too far removed from current students. We are fortunate to have a strong Alumni Office at Birmingham, who helped us identify appropriate individuals who were committed to maintaining links with the University. In addition, the Careers Centre has good relationships with employers, and we used these contacts to assist us in identifying potential speakers which we believe was of mutual benefit to us and the employer. Finally, the Careers Centre and English department both maintain contacts databases which were searched for appropriate individuals.

Contact Details

Melanie Billingham
University of Birmingham