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Emily Shaw (BSc Human and Physical Geography 2011)


After completing my degree and spending a summer travelling in South America, I returned to the University to work for the Students' Union. As Societies and Volunteer Coordinator I provided administrative support to over 100 student societies - everything from Law to Lego and Business to Belly dance; and worked with local charities and community groups to develop volunteering projects and opportunities for students in the local community. My role now focuses on volunteering and student-run social enterprises. My days at work are incredibly varied and I am lucky in getting to work with so many enthusiastic, positive, passionate students.

Why did you choose to study at the University of Reading?

The Geography Department is relatively small – meaning staff know each student. The range of modules and the option to study subjects from outside Geography really appealed. On the visit day I was shown around by such a friendly and knowledgeable geography student, it seemed Reading was meant to be.

What was the best bit about living and studying in Reading?

The opportunities to get involved in extra-curricular activities – it got me my job now! I made so many friends through working on the student newspaper and being President of Reading University Travel Society. My Personal Tutor always supported my involvement in the Students’ Union and encouraged my volunteering.

What top tips would you give to students who are beginning their studies?

Don’t be afraid to ask your Personal Tutor and lecturers for help. I was always emailing and popping in to see mine – they are there to support your studies so don’t be scared of them!

What are you up to now? How did you get there?

I am working for the Students’ Union as the Volunteering and Social Enterprise Coordinator and I got my job because of my involvement in student activities as an undergraduate. I came back to help at freshers’ fayre having graduated and my current boss encouraged me to apply...and here I am!

What would be your top tips for students interested in working in this sector?

If you want to work in a role supporting students, or any individual for that matter, experience of leading groups of people, thinking on your feet and being creative are all important. Volunteering can provide you with so many essential skills and experiences to talk about at interview. You have to be able to show you have been an active, engaged student yourself, so get as involved and immersed in university life as you can.

How has the University of Reading and the Careers Centre helped in your chosen career path?

Reading University Students' Union have helped me start my career path - so in that sense, I owe them everything. The Careers Centre were great in my second and third year for CV checking and for students today, the services of the job shop and the development of the RED Award mean the Careers Centre is offering you an invaluable service.

What are your top tips for students graduating this year? What should they be doing to secure the job they want?

Talk to people. You never know who may know of an opportunity and open doors for you. So many jobs come through word of mouth, so see everyone as your potential connection to a job.

What does the University mean to you and what is your favourite memory?

I have been studying or working at the University of Reading for 5 years and I still love being on campus. Now working here, I have come to truly appreciate just how fast it is changing and that makes it a very exciting place to be. Picking one memory is impossible, as both in and outside of my studies I had an amazing time; going on field trips, running a team building afternoon for new geography students, being appointed as Travel Editor of Spark*, winning committee member of the year. Dinner at the Vice Chancellor’s – that was pretty good, too!

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