BSc DipEd Biology & Education 1993
Customer Services Officer, HSBC
1) How has your Stirling degree helped you in job-seeking and career progression?
Well, interestingly my career over the past 17 years has been in Finance. Initially I found it very difficult to find a job in my desired sector and also after teaching experience I realised I didn’t want to teach, so I had joined a bank.
My degree helped me in two ways. Firstly with the study ethic I took with me into the job world and secondly with the perception of my degree in the finance market.
After a few years as a cashier with Abbey National I decided to complete my Financial Adviser exams. My four years of study stood me in good stead and I was able to apply myself easily to studying for these new exams, much more than someone who did not have the study ethic behind them.
Following a spell with Abbey National as a Financial Adviser, I moved to Scottish Widows. In my interview I realised the advantages of having a science degree. It was actually a positive that I had a degree in Science and not Finance or Accounting. They wanted people who were intelligent, logical and problem solvers – all the things a scientist naturally is.
2) What kind of contacts did you make at Stirling and how did these help you?
You will go through University and meet many people. I have found that the friends I still speak to, some who are still teachers, some are still scientists, but others, like me, are doing something completely different, they keep you grounded and at times when you doubt yourself, and your choices, you can look at other people and see that everyone makes difficult decisions in life, and it’s okay.
What you will find when you hit the job market is that along with your CV you will need referees. For the past 15 years until my Adviser of Studies retired, he was my referee on all of my applications. He was and is a good friend.
3) How did your experience at Stirling differ from that of friends and colleagues who studied elsewhere?
Other Universities are generally in major cities, with the exception of St Andrews. In this respect, the students have access to so much more, that is much more of everything, and for me too much of everything! Too many people, too many buses, too much traffic, just too much.
Stirling is a small city, compact and incredibly historic. Yes it has buses and traffic, and the odd night club, but it’s a relatively quiet city, easy to navigate, great to explore and ideal if you want a quieter time. Don’t get me wrong, there is lots to do and plenty of places to have fun, but if you want to go clubbing every night and experience different clubs every night, then Stirling isn’t for you. If you want to shop till you drop, then try Edinburgh or Glasgow, we have great shops, all that you ever need in a compact shopping centre, I can’t imagine needing any more.
4) What made you choose Stirling?
Firstly I am from Fort William; I wanted small, quiet, friendly, close to the highlands, a campus – a specific area where we lived and studied that was safe and welcoming. Secondly I wanted somewhere where I could be actively involved in sports, and somewhere with a reputation for being a sports campus. Stirling is perfect for this and has incredible facilities. Finally, I wanted somewhere easy going and peaceful where I could see myself settling and Stirling was certainly it.
5) How did you enhance your CV to break into your chosen sector?
Don’t be afraid to shout about your experiences, your achievements and your personal life. That may sound strange but people do have a life outside work, and it can be that one evening you help out at the scouts that someone picks up on in an interview. You are your biggest asset, put yourself out there on show, be proud of who you are, what you do and where you came from.
6) Is your career what you expected or has anything changed?
I thought Finance would be boring and predictable; it’s nothing of the sort!
7) What other activities would you recommend to build up my skill set?
Make sure you are competent with the latest Microsoft Office suite. Also recently, I have found that Lotus Notes has been the preferred mail provider for the last two major financial companies I have worked for.
A clean driving license can help enormously depending on the type of role you go for. And I know we shouldn’t judge people but employers do prefer non-smokers.
Finally, as I have said before, be an individual, have interests that extend beyond work and study. Be someone other people will want to talk to and ask questions, be a closed book that others want to read.
8) What advice can you give me as a student now?
If you have a specific career in mind and are working wholeheartedly towards that, then get involved in volunteering in the area you want to work. Remember, a quarter of your CV should be selling you, what makes you stand out from the rest. Everyone going for that job will have the same qualifications as you. What makes you so special?
Email Claire Wales if you would like to ask a question.