Emily Packer

"The motivation to undertake my masters programme came from the positive experience I had during my undergraduate degree. I’d also been working in the arts sector for two years and felt that it was the right time to return to study. I’d experienced working around artists and speakers and wanted to be able to contribute to the conversation. 

I knew I wanted to study locally and had built a good relationship with tutors on my undergraduate degree, so it was natural to continue that positive relationship. I found a mentor in my module tutor and that kind of relationship is important in getting advice about building your career. I knew that the quality of staff at Plymouth in the Department was high – and most importantly that they focused on the areas of research I enjoyed. 

The MA showed me just how passionate you can be about certain topics and how close you become to the texts you’re studying. Even if you studied them at undergraduate level, you’ll find new corners you hadn’t visited. 

The dissertation is a test of your writing, reading and investigative skills but much more than this it tests your character, time keeping and commitment to a project. You’ll perhaps never experience anything like it again – unless you move on to a PhD. It’s an incredible time in your studies and I learned a lot about my strengths, particularly as I worked full-time while completing my thesis. It showed me that you can always make time for things you love and are committed to.

During my studies I also organized a postgraduate conference for the department, gaining experience in project management and sharing my passion for research with others. Keeping your work and study parallel is very important for your future employability. 

Your academic study shouldn’t be done in isolation; you should have something else that keeps you interested and employable. It adds value to your study and you’ll feel less isolated if you have a hobby, work or interest outside of your study.

If you have an idea, try to make it happen. My best successes have come from asking someone who has the resources “Can I do this?” They normally say ‘yes’ and then you have the chance to make something special happen. When another student and I asked if we could organize a conference we never dreamed a year later we would be hosting speakers from Oxford, London, Exeter, Southampton and Warwick in front of an audience of 50 people. 

Putting your masters on your CV or application fills you with a great sense of pride and indicates to your employer that you are serious about committing yourself to a project and to your own development.

I have already been in the workplace for a while – I never stopped working in one way or another through my study. I’ve just taken on the role as Progression and Employability Leader for a leading further education college. I’m passionate about improving the outcomes for young people and this role consolidates the experience I’ve built over seven years working with young people in a variety of settings. In the future I’d like to complete a PhD in literature, culture or education, perhaps all three together.

If I were to advise someone wanting to follow a similar path, I’d say listen, create your own opportunities and keep working. 

It will be tough, but keep going. Nothing worth doing was ever easy. That won’t mean much until you’ve made it past the times where you think “Why am I doing this?” Enjoy the hard work – it makes you stronger as a person and it’s worth it. Most of all, have fun!"