Kathryn studied a BA (Hons) in Events Management, starting in 2007 and finishing in 2010. She attained a 1st class honours degree, which she puts down to getting as much practical experience as possible, including voluntary/summer work and part-time employment. Here, in her own words, she describes her experiences whilst studying at the University of Plymouth, and how they shaped her future career.
Why did you choose University of Plymouth?
When choosing a university, there were only a select number of institutions that offered the Events Management degree, as it was in its infancy as an individual degree discipline. I was looking for a campus university close to the city centre and Plymouth ticked all the right boxes. When I came to the Open Day I immediately felt at home in the city, on campus and with the tutors, and before I left that day I knew that the University of Plymouth was the right decision for me.
Why did you choose this particular course at the University? What did you expect to gain from it?
The Events Management course really interested me; I really liked the variety of the modules and I liked the combination of the business, hospitality and tourism elements, but specialised in the events sector. I also liked the fact that the course combined both the theoretical and practical elements and felt it would be a course I would both enjoy as well as one that would give me good career prospects, which was a very important factor to me. It seemed like the perfect choice.
What was your entry route to the course? Did you come straight from college/sixth form? If not, tell us about what you were doing before coming to University.
I initially went to university at age eighteen, straight after finishing college, but did not like the place or the course I had chosen and left after six weeks. As I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I then spent a number of years working in seasonal jobs in the UK, France, USA and on Airlines, as it was a cheap way to travel and see the world and gave me time to figure out my next move. I then decided to join the Police Force, with the intention of building my career there. However, I didn’t find that to be the case, and once again, found myself pondering my career path. However, after doing some events planning alongside my employment roles, I started to see that as a potential career path and began researching into it. I applied for a number of related jobs but, not getting any interviews, realised I would have to gain some experience first in order to achieve this change in career direction. It was at this point that I began to look again at potentially going back to university, an idea I had previously given up on as something I would sadly never experience. I found the Events Management degree at Plymouth; after much research into the course and the universities that offered the course, I decided it would be the right move for me. Leaving a permanent well-paid role to become a student at age twenty-three was a decision I did not take lightly, but I knew that I had to pursue a career that I really wanted.
What was your experience of the course? Did it meet your expectations? Tell us about the good and bad bits, and how you overcame anything negative.
I had an amazing time on the course. I took to it like a duck to water and really felt like I had found what I was good at. I really got on with the lecturers as both tutors and friends and felt I grew as a person both academically and socially through the course. I met some of the most amazing friends too, who I know I will stay in touch with for the rest of my life, and have had some of my most memorable moments with too.
Did you take part in any extracurricular activities during your time here? How did these activities contribute to your student experience?
Coming to university at age twenty-three I thought I may feel a lot older than some of the students coming straight from college/sixth form, but that was never an issue and I threw myself into university life straight from the offset. I joined the cheerleading club, taking part in socials, volunteering, training and competitions. It gave me a whole new group of amazing friends and made me part of a brilliant team. I then became the Secretary for the club in my second year and the President in my final year. As well as the social and sports side, being part of the club, particularly a committee member, gave me something extra on my CV and a good talking point during job interviews.
Did you win any student awards during your time here? If so, which awards and what for?
At the Sports Awards in my final year, I was awarded ‘Half-Colours’ for my dedication to the Cheerleading club. I also won the John Brockman Memorial Prize for the best honours project in my course group, which I was awarded at my graduation ceremony.
Did the course change your career goals at all?
During my time at university, my way of thinking definitely changed, as well as the way I looked at my career. It really made me focus on the aspects of the course that I enjoyed most and made me think more about how I would achieve my long-term goals. Although I really enjoyed all the aspects of events, one of the course modules also opened my eyes to Human Resources, which really sparked an interest with me as a potential career I had not previously considered. This provided me with an option of which path to take, events or HR, after completing my degree.
What advice would you give to anyone else considering the same course here?
I would advise everyone to come for an Open Day and see the University of Plymouth, meet the people and explore the city. You will get the best out of your time at university if you really enjoy your course and the place, so do your research and take time to make the right decision for you. Although I would never advise anyone as to what the right option is for them, I would highly recommend the University of Plymouth and the Events Management course; I found Plymouth to be a friendly and safe place to study and the Events Management course combines enough practical and theoretical elements to make it engaging, whilst still maintaining high academic credibility.
Did you undertake any work based learning during your course? If so, please tell us about this.
I did not undertake a placement with my course, which was an optional element for the Events Management course after the 2nd year. However, I decided that due to my past work experiences and those I had obtained whilst at university, it would be more beneficial to complete my degree after three years and then go straight into employment.
What are your views on the placement element of your course?
I like the fact that the placement year for the Events Management course at University of Plymouth is optional as it provides choice for students such as myself who have different requirements than some other students straight out of college. I think it is a valuable element for many students and something that should be seriously considered, as it can be extremely beneficial when looking for employment after graduating. However, I do also feel that any placement year should add value to a student’s experiences and knowledge, and I therefore only think it is worth doing a placement year if you can get a good placement in your chosen area of interest. I would always advise students to ask lots of questions at any placement interview to really get a feel for the company and the role, as well as what they can offer you.
Did you go straight into work after completing your course? If not, please tell us what you were doing.
It took me a couple of months of job searching to find my first employment role after completing my course, but I had secured employment by graduation which, in this economic climate, I was very happy about.
If you are currently in employment, please tell us about your career path.
The first job I got after university was a HR Administrator at Debenhams head office in Taunton. After ten months there, I decided I wanted some career progression and was offered a job back in Plymouth at the Pavilions as a House Manager. Although I really enjoyed my job in HR, I was still thinking about a career in Events. The role gave me the opportunity to pursue this, whilst gaining management experience which would be valuable for a career in HR. During this time I also completed my CIPD Foundation Certificate in Human Resource Management, a very valuable qualification for HR roles, which kept both avenues open for me. I found that I enjoyed the HR and management aspects of this role and missed my previous HR role and finally, after just over a year at Pavilions, I decided to pursue HR as my career path. After recently securing a new job in London, I have just started a new role as a HR Co-ordinator at the University of West London in Ealing. I am also starting my MA in Human Resource Management part-time at the University of Westminster in January, which should take me two years, at which point I can look to further develop my career in HR.
How has your University of Plymouth qualification enhanced your career opportunities and employability? Did it equip you with the right knowledge and skills?
My degree has definitely provided me with employment opportunities I would not have been offered if I had not had that experience. However, I feel that in addition to the knowledge and skills I gained from the degree itself, my experience at the University of Plymouth made me think, write and communicate in a completely different manner than I did prior to my degree and I think this is what I gained most from university. I feel starting my course as a mature student also made me appreciate the opportunity much more and I definitely tried to get the most out of my time there.
What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?
In terms of a career in Human Resources, I would advise looking into completing a CIPD qualification as many employees are often looking for this as a prerequisite for many HR roles. Administration experience is also essential, but this can be from voluntary work or sports committees as well as part-time employment or summer work. It is also essential to keep up to date with the latest developments in employment law and HR processes, information which is easily accessible on the CIPD and ACAS websites.
In terms of Events as a career, I would advise getting as much practical experience as you can, which can be from voluntary work or sports committees as well as part-time employment or summer work. I would also advise looking into some extra short course training programmes in related areas, such as food safety, health and safety, and customer service. These things demonstrate to potential employers that you are committed to your professional development and may just give you the edge over any competition you face. Anything you can add to your CV to make you stand out from the crowd is vital.
As a graduate are you involved with the University now? For example, have you returned to speak to current students or kept in touch with your lecturers?
As I have stayed in the South West I have attended a few lectures for the new first year students to talk to them about what it is like at university and to answer any questions they may have. I have also kept in touch with a few of my lecturers and there are a group of Events Management alumni who try and get together with some of our old tutors from time to time which is great.
Would you recommend undertaking a course with University of Plymouth, and why?
I would definitely recommend University of Plymouth to prospective students as you get the best of both worlds – the friendly culture of a campus university with the benefit of having the city right on your doorstep. There is also something for everyone at the Students Union, including many sports, societies and volunteering opportunities. Plymouth also has good nightlife, whilst still being a very safe city to live in. Plymouth holds a good reputation in terms of its university and learning facilities and my friends on different courses at the university all loved their experiences there too.