Emily Packer – BA (Hons) English; MA English and Culture graduate

Current employer: University of Plymouth

Current job title: Careers Adviser

Current location: Plymouth

“Taking your study to postgraduate level is particularly valuable and I personally found the University a fantastic place to study: there is a good atmosphere, great people, and the modules on the degree suited my interests.”

Tell us about your career path since graduation.

I have now worked with young people and adults in a guidance role for eight years – a field in which I built experience whilst studying. After completing my masters I continued to work with young people as a Guidance Officer for a college in Devon and undertook my Level 6 Diploma in Careers Guidance and Development. I then moved on to lead the Progression and Employability Team at Exeter College, which was an amazing experience. After further training in motivational interviewing, I progressed on to become a Careers Adviser for the University of Plymouth. In this time I have gained professional registration with the Careers Development Institute and become a member of the NICEC. I absolutely love helping people meet their potential.

How has your degree helped/influenced your career path?

Studying English gives you an incredible insight into socio-political issues and historical events that shape much of our culture today, and this has shaped my insight into people and our society. It may not be thought of as a research role, but being a careers professional means researching careers guidance theory, understanding employment statistics, reading and writing reports, and lots of networking. People also rely on you to talk clearly and be insightful and helpful – yes, it is about jobs, but it is more about helping people make and understand important decisions about their livelihood.

Has your career path changed since graduation?

I was always interested in working with young people and being a university student gave me access to work experience I would never have gained easily without my degree study. In all my roles I have been involved in projects that help and support others; although this began in Arts education and outreach, the core ideals of my career path have not changed.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

Knowing when to move on, and when to stay on: I have been lucky that fantastic opportunities have come around when I least expected it. That has meant making the decision to move on from a role I have loved and in to a new opportunity, without knowing if it would be the best thing. Luckily, so far these choices have been right for me.  

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I absolutely love attending careers networking events and conferences in London or other cities. It means that I get to network and talk to other careers professionals whilst learning about career fields and opportunities for students. When I worked in the Arts, meeting artists and guest speakers before their events was really exciting too: particularly working on the British Art Show in 2011.

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

I could have diversified my work experience by volunteering more at university. I was very much focused on gaining experience working within outreach and young people and I may have missed out on other opportunities.

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Gain experience in roles helping others; for example teaching, counselling, support roles, community work, and outreach work. My field attracts professionals from all areas. If you decide to go out into industry first, working in recruitment or HR is also a good training ground for understanding patterns of employment and what employers look for in applicants. The main skill you need, aside from professional knowledge, is the ability to adapt to different environments easily and put your clients’ needs at the heart of everything you do.

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Studying at Plymouth provided me with opportunities to gain work experience and relevant paid employment, whilst also giving me access to people I would never have met without studying for a degree. It gave me a life-long love for study and self-improvement and social mobility. I was the first in my family to attend university.

What lessons/skills did you gain from your course?

Studying a degree gave me the skills, knowledge, and expertise to conduct research and analysis on a daily basis. My masters’ qualification has also undoubtedly helped me to gain respect when working with teachers and academics, and it has certainly given me the confidence to undertake large projects. I will also complete a PhD in the future and that would not have crossed my mind without my degree.

Did you undertake a placement during your degree and if so, how did this benefit you?

As a Careers Adviser, I would definitely recommend completing a placement, if you can. During my study, I completed the Student Associate Scheme, which included two months in a secondary school placement. I also completed the Plymouth Award, Mentoring, and Student Ambassador training. The latter gave me my first training on safeguarding young people and vulnerable adults – this made me more employable than any other training I had during this time, and I still re-train every one to two years whilst working with people. It is invaluable.

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

Gaining an understanding of capitalism, consumerism, and discovering Darwin’s On the Origin of Species – I now understand society better than before. I also loved the privilege and freedom of being able to study at university and, particularly, literature.

Do you stay in touch with other University of Plymouth alumni or lecturers?

Yes. I made life-long friends at university and work with some of Plymouth’s alumni. A few of the teaching staff have been instrumental in my decision-making processes since graduation and I value their mentoring when needed, even now.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with the University of Plymouth, and why?

Yes, I absolutely would. Taking your study to postgraduate level is particularly valuable and I personally found the university a fantastic place to study: there is a good atmosphere, great people, and the modules on the degree suited my interests. That’s really important when choosing a university course.

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

If you want to do something, do it! Don’t think it is impossible or something that only happens to other people: get inspired, get organised, and get on with it! Going to university is a privilege: make the most of it! And make good use of the Careers & Employability Service.

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying BA (Hons) English please visit our BA (Hons) English page. For more information about our range of courses within the School of Humanities and Performing Art, please visit the school page.

Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other relevant alumni from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities are currently doing, please visit the humanities and languages interest area.