Ask the Graduate: Your questions answered from Uni Outreach Coordinators

RO Central Team - Monday, March 29, 2021
Posted 1 month ago

In March we heard from 3 graduates who studied at RO Partner universities and are now working at their institutions as outreach coordinators. Below Harriet, Chenaiyi and Paige have answered your questions. Read on to hear more about their work experience, the challenges involved in their day to day roles and their future plans.

What plans do you have after you finish your Outreach graduate roles?
Harriet: I have recently been offered a new role within the University of Sheffield which involves creating and coordinating work experience programmes for post-16 students within different faculties such as Law and Social Sciences. My internship will lead me nicely into this role with transferable skills and knowledge I have gained surrounding working in higher education. In the long term I would like to do a PhD in a topic related to my degree, most likely plant ecology. Something I like about my current role is that it has useful transferable skills that will help me in a PhD such as report writing, communication, and delivering presentations.
Chenaiyi: I would like to explore the area of outreach and widening participation further! And I’m hoping to find another job in a university or focusing on higher education after my contract finishes at the end of this year.
Paige: To answer this question I might have to go back in time a little...My original plan for this year was to have a year travelling after completing my degree, before then applying to the Teacher Training Programme with Teach First. I obviously couldn’t travel due to the pandemic, which is then how I started looking for job roles and came across this Outreach Graduate Intern position for the year and applied to that. I’m very glad that my application was successful and I was able to do this role this year as it’s been a great developmental opportunity and is closely related to the work I did at University! As my original plan was always to apply to Teach First, I did this at the same time as applying for this role. I was successful and will start my Training Programme with them in June this year. I have really enjoyed my graduate role, and it has opened my eyes to the different roles and work opportunities available within the Higher Education Sector and at a University. So I will still be working in the Education Sector, continuing to support young people to achieve their potential and explore different opportunities - I can’t wait to see where this will take me!
What do you like most about your job?

Harriet: I like the diversity of tasks within my current job and the focus my role has on personal and professional development. Because of this I can get involved with a range of projects. Often, I will be working on numerous projects, creating content for sessions and presentations on a range of topics which I enjoy. I like that I have the ability to get involved with any sessions or events that I would like to. This is such a fun and easy way to learn new skills and information about the sector I work in. With the role focusing on my own development, I am actively encouraged to work on topics that interest me and so I have really enjoyed being involved with projects that aim to help less represented students such as care leavers and young carers.

Chenaiyi: The variety of the work and the team I work with. Because I’m supporting a lot of different projects, it means that the type of work I’m doing changes all the time – one day I might be preparing a presentation, on another day, I’ll be leading a zoom breakout session, or creating and editing some video content. I like that this stretches me and means I can develop skills in many areas! The people I work with also makes the job enjoyable because they are extremely friendly and passionate about reaching young people.
Paige: My favourite part of this job role is probably the variety of projects and work I can get involved with, alongside the content of the work. Being able to work in a team is great as you can support each other at different events, discuss existing projects and create new ideas. It’s really rewarding knowing that the work I’m doing and the resources I’m creating are supporting young people to learn more about their future options and could have a positive impact on their lives. As a recent graduate myself, a lot of sessions I deliver or support involve me talking about my own experiences and reflections of higher education. I enjoy being able to use my own experiences to support these sessions and hopefully inspire others. I think it’s really important to try and find something that you enjoy doing and that interests you, this way it won’t feel like work as well!
What do you find the most challenging in your work?
Harriet: I think balancing my workload can at times be challenging. Although I like having lots of different things to work on, balancing my time between them all to meet various deadlines can be a challenge! Scheduling time in my calendar to work on certain things really helps me to stay on track as I get a reminder to do it and it also means that people are less likely to book meetings at this time, meaning I have a nice chunk of time to get my work done. I think working from home can also be challenging as you have to keep yourself motivated and it can also limit contact with my teammates. However, we all make sure to keep in touch regularly and it is a great life skill to keep yourself motivated and on track.
Chenaiyi: The busyness and sometimes not feeling like there are enough hours in the day to get all of my tasks done. There’s also a lot to learn about my area of work, things to read up on, and new words to get used to.
Coronavirus and virtual working has changed the type of the work we’re doing too. For example, we can’t go into schools or colleges physically anymore and we can’t invite young people to come to campus. This means that I’ve been challenged to be creative and think about how to engage students using online platforms.
Paige: I think the most challenging thing for me personally has been the transition into a full time working role. I’m sure this will be similar every time I start a new role going forward, but I have had to gain an understanding of different terminology and processes used within the team and University, alongside working with a variety of teams and other organisations. This is challenging in the sense that everything is new and I had no prior experience of a full-time job role. As a student at university you can decide when you work and when you have free time, so adapting to a regular structure throughout the week took a bit of time to get used to.
The University has been extremely supportive in ensuring I receive training where I need it and I continue to learn and adapt as the role goes on. That’s why this role is so great as it is developmental and focused on supporting me in this transition. I’m sure there will be challenges in any role you go into, but I find it helpful to remember that I shouldn’t know everything right now and no one is expecting me to, it’s about continuing to learn and develop each day.
How do you get into this area of work? What work experience do you need?
Harriet: I think having a good knowledge of widening participation and higher education is essential. This could either be through personal experience by having faced certain barriers to higher education such as caring responsibilities, living in care, being an estranged student, or being from an area with low progression rates to university. This could also be from taking an active interest in widening participation by being a student ambassador for these types of events or working on open days and other projects that involve engaging with prospective students. Just having the experience of being a student at a university is good as you will have knowledge of what university is like and how you can access it, which is really important information to share with students. Having good communication skills both verbally and written is important and can be gained by a variety of work such as customer facing roles, volunteering with organisations that help people, and writing articles for newsletters.
Chenaiyi: For the graduate position: it helps if you have some experience working as a student ambassador whilst you’re studying at university – this is a job specifically for university students where they represent their university at lots of different events, including outreach activities like school visits or summer schools, as well as open days. Having some experience working with young people is really useful too because you can end up working with students all the way from 11 to 18.
Paige: I think there will be different experiences and things you can get involved in that will support you in moving onto a role such as this, however, I can only really relay my own experience. As a graduate role, one requirement in the job criteria was a degree completed to a good standard. In terms of previous work experience, I worked as a student ambassador for my department but also with the outreach teams at the university and as a mentor on one of the outreach programmes. This involved supporting and delivering events that were organised for school pupils, as well as 1:1 mentoring sessions with students. This enabled me to build professional relationships with the teams, develop my skills and also gain a better understanding of the work that the team does and who they work with. When I saw the role I proactively used these relationships I'd developed to seek out advice and support with my application which was helpful.
I think one of my top tips, for any job you go for really, is to make sure you research the place you are applying to and have a good understanding of who they work with and what they do, this is great to bring up in interviews and shows you’re interested. Another tip is to look at all the experience you have and specifically apply it to the role you’re applying to, describing how your experience will support you in that role. Finally, make sure to develop and maintain professional relationships and continue to ask questions about advice, support, further experience or available job roles. Hope that helps!