Doing well in school always came pretty easy to me. I remember impressing teachers as far back as infant school and my academic record has been pretty solid – with one rather notable exception.
School and university
I picked up eight A*s at GCSE from St Martin’s Comprehensive, a struggling state school in Caerphilly. This was about par for the course in terms of how I had been doing throughout my time at school. I picked four A Levels that I fancied doing – more so because I was interested in them than because I had any idea what I wanted to do when I grew up.
A couple of years later, I had achieved an A* in PE, and an A each in Physics, Music and Psychology. This confirmed my place at Loughborough University to study Sport and Exercise Science. I still had no idea what I wanted to go on to do – I just knew I liked sport and Loughborough was the best place to go and study that.
Then came the blip. I never really took to the habit of actually putting effort into my work at Loughborough. I found it easy enough to understand the content, but I missed a lot of lectures and just didn’t revise properly for exams. Honestly, my attitude to those three years was very uncharacteristic and I’ve never really been able to explain it. Either way, the upshot was a deserved 2:2, albeit only missing a 2:1 by 0.5%.
Career and master’s
Part of the reason for that final grade was the quite major distraction of running to be the Vice President for Media at Loughborough Students’ Union (LSU) in my third year. The successful campaign saw me take up a full-time position as part of the LSU Executive Committee for 2014-15 and then get re-elected for 2015-16.
My time as the VP Media – during which I oversaw the work of the student-led magazine, TV station, radio station and photography section – was probably the happiest but most challenging time of my life so far. It’s difficult to explain how a students’ union job can be so tough, and I won’t try to do so here, but I am proud of what I achieved there.
Just like when I was doing my GCSEs, A Levels and degree, I still didn’t know what I wanted to do after finishing my second term as VP Media. I started developing an idea for a media business, but unfortunately I had to shelf it for various reasons. This left me frantically applying for jobs, mostly in the charity and third sector, in my final few months at Loughborough.
It turns out that graduate jobs are tough to come by, particularly in those sectors. So, I ended up applying for a master’s program in the brand new Loughborough University London campus. I hadn’t expected to want to go back in to academia, but given that I wanted to go into something around development and/or public policy, I realised that this might have been my only chance to get on to a master’s in that area given that all I had was a 2:2 in Sport and Exercise Science.
So, I started MSc Security, Peace-Building and Diplomacy in October 2016, and my attitude couldn’t have been more different to when I was an undergraduate. I finished that year with an entirely deserved Distinction grade, having not submitted a single piece of work that got me less than 73%.
While I studied, I worked for about eight months as a part-time Student Media Coordinator at King’s College London Students’ Union. When I finished my master’s, I still didn’t have a full-time job to go to (the graduate jobs market really is a bitch), so I reluctantly moved back in with Mam and Dad in Edinburgh.
I spent three months working at Finnegan’s Wake, an Irish bar in Edinburgh’s Old Town, so I had something to do and had a bit of money coming in. I hadn’t planned to go back to working in students’ unions, but by this point I figured it made sense to start applying for a sector in which I knew I would stand a good chance.
So, in early 2018, I successfully applied to be a Student Groups Coordinator at the University of Birmingham Guild of Students. I was there for around 15 months, when I was approached for a role at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP). At the time of writing, I am weeks away from moving down to London and starting my new role of Membership Communities Coordinator.
Economics – the next step
As you’ll have seen, I went through much of my youth being good at rather a lot but not being able to decide which thing in particular I wanted to specialise in. Almost ironically, the thing I have known for several years I want to go in to is something that was nowhere near my thoughts at the age of 16 or 17.
My general interest in politics led, slowly but surely, to a much more specific interest in economics by the time I started my master’s. This was confirmed in my mind by how I took to the Economic Global Governance module. I have now read most of the classic economics works, from Smith to Piketty, and listened to several lecture series, to get my knowledge as strong as it can be without formal qualification.
I hope to undertake a PhD at some point and I can now say it’s my aim to go into university research and teaching as a career. At the time of writing, I am putting together an application to study a Graduate Diploma in Economics from September, part-time alongside my job at RCGP. Hopefully, this is the first formal step towards what is – possibly for the first time – quite a clear career goal.