University of Portsmouth's History Blog

How to prepare for life after university: History graduates reveal how the University’s careers services helped them gain vital workplace experience

In this blog Luke Nicolson, who graduated with a History degree from Portsmouth in July (well done, Luke!), discusses a project he undertook as part of the second year module, ‘Working with the Past’. Luke and some of his fellow students interviewed recent UoP History graduates and asked them about their careers since graduating. In this blog Luke reveals that the various opportunities the students undertook while studying at Portsmouth helped them in their current careers. The module ‘Working with the Past’ is coordinated by Dr Mike Esbester.

With the findings of interviews from four graduates of History who studied at the University of Portsmouth, this blog will explore the effectiveness and usefulness of extracurricular activities and external placements in relation to a History degree and a full-time career post-graduation. Those interviewed were Melissa, Cathryn, Chloe and Rebecca. Each interviewee gave a detailed explanation on which activities and placements were helpful during their degree, and explored how they prepared them for the career they now undertake. 

The first graduate to be interviewed for this research project was Melissa, who was a project manager for the Epsom race course mass vaccination centre on the NHS graduate scheme. Melissa explained how attending a careers fair put on by the University of Portsmouth was where she first heard about the NHS graduate scheme. Emphasising how useful and helpful the careers fairs are, Melissa recommended all students that are not completely sure about what career path they want pursue, should attend them. She shared how the fair offers a wide range of careers that would interest the majority of students. Melissa also shared how she participated in a variety of sports societies during her first year at the University of Portsmouth. She explained how this helped improve her social skills, which was extremely useful in preparing her for her chosen career. Frequently meeting new people also enhanced Melissa’s communication skills, allowing her to communicate more effectively with her university tutors which helped improve her degree. Overall, Melissa explored how being proactive in relation to extra-curricular and external activities can be very useful in helping with your History degree and career once graduated. 

The next person to be interviewed was Cathryn. Currently, Cathryn works in a member of Parliament’s constituency office where she regularly carries out case work and organises constituency events. During her time at the University of Portsmouth, Cathryn was a part of the History Society and actively attended the weekly social meets. She explained how these drastically improved her social and communication skills. Cathryn also explained how the History Society was very useful in helping her in her degree. Discussing and debating with like-minded students helped enhance her analytical skills, leading to improvements in her research and assignments. As well as participating within the History Society, Cathryn also undertook part time work experience. She explained how this helped improve her time management within her degree; she became more proactive which coincided with more in depth and thorough research. She also noted that part time work experience fully prepared her for her full-time career; she had the skills and experience required to carry out her job to an excellent standard. Overall, Cathryn emphasised the importance of taking part in extra-curricular societies and gaining part time work experience during a degree. She explained how these activities gave her sufficient skills and experience to improve your degree and prepare you for a full-time career. 

Next to be interviewed was Chloe, who is currently employed as the Records Manager and Policy Officer for the Falkland Islands Government. During her first year at the University of Portsmouth, Chloe became an Archive volunteer at the Portsmouth City museum. Chloe strongly emphasised how important and useful this activity was in relation to her degree and career post-graduation. Firstly, she touched on some of the skills and attributes she gained from this volunteer placement that helped her with her degree and career. These included the ability to catalogue archival material, assisting and organising exhibitions, assessing the conditions of records and conducting basic preservation and conservation work. Chloe explained how all these skills directly linked to her History degree and ensured her research and assignments were completed to a level of high quality. Chloe also shared how the placement fitted well with her History degree. She was able to take advantage of the records and archives held at the museum. This placement also created valuable and useful connections for Chloe to use as referees to support her throughout her career. Finally, the placement helped Chloe gain professional accreditation as a registered member of the Archive Records Association, which was key to her progressing in her chosen career. Overall, Chloe showed how her volunteering placement was extremely helpful for her degree and her career post-graduation. She explained how this placement gave her various skills that benefited her research and also gave her the connections to help her progress through her career. 

The final person to be interviewed was Rebecca. Currently, Rebecca works as a curator at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth. During her time at the University of Portsmouth, Rebecca volunteered for a year and a half at the Royal Navy Submarine museum in Gosport. During her placement here, Rebecca gained key skills that helped her with her degree and full-time career once graduated. For example, she shared how the placement improved her confidence and social skills. The placement enhanced her ability to debate with other historians and improved her research and analytical skills. This helped with her degree as she was able to carry out more thorough and detailed research to create well written assignments. Rebecca also noted how the connections she made during her placement were useful when she applied for full time employment. Overall, Rebecca shared how volunteering can enhance your research and analytical skills, improve your confidence and increase your connections for possible full-time employment throughout your career.

All four interviews give a detailed and thorough explanation on why extra-curricular activities and external placements were important and useful in relation to current degrees and full-time employment. Attending career fairs, participating in societies, taking a placement, or volunteering allowed them to learn the necessary skills required for a History degree and also provided valuable connections which they all used to progress in their careers.

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