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Nick Smith (BA English Literature 2005)


My experiences at Reading made me realise that I love Higher Education, though was better placed to support others in their academic endeavours than be an academic myself. After 2 years as a students' union officer in RUSU I worked at NUS helping run their democratic processes and governance - everything from running the elections of the national president of NUS to minuting the finance committee. Since then I moved into HE administration and have worked supporting the senior academics who make decisions on the way students learn, conduct research and every aspect of how they live and study whilst at University.

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

My final decision on Reading was made by the range of modules offered by the English department. There were clear core specialisms but being able to study more unusual subjects like Detective Fiction alongside those was really important to me.

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

Having spent my time since Uni touring the campuses of other institutions, I realise just how lucky Reading students are with the campuses they have. The green environment really was a wonderful space where to revise and relax.

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

Get involved in the Students' Union and make sure your experience at University is rounded. The opportunities for leadership and project management within RUSU has helped my employment, but more importantly the ethos of supporting others and making a change for students has really guided my career.

If applicable, how did you benefit from spending a year abroad / a year in industry?

My 2 years as a Student Union's vice-president shaped my way of thinking and working. Being given a leadership role so early in my career was amazing. I'd be sitting in university meetings making a difference to students in my hoody and not believing how lucky I was! What really changed me, though, was helping other students realise what they could do. Allowing sports presidents to become leaders, volunteers to develop themselves and course reps to improve the education of their peers. That led me into a role where I wanted to support people in power and that's influenced every job I've been in since.

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

I'm an Executive Officer for a Vice-Principal of a London University. This means I work on a variety of projects; everything from helping with speeches and events to helping organise space on our campus, communicating with students and coordinating academic and financial returns from others within the university. I get to work at a high level and the decisions I support make a real difference to medical research, student doctors and the Life Sciences industry. I got here because of the skills and experience I earned as a students' union officer at RUSU and later a staff member at NUS.

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

My experience as a student made me want to fight for the abilities of others to enjoy it as much as I did and later to support students from the institutional side.

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

The job market is tough, so be flexible and make sure you have a breadth of skills. Show a real interest in the ethos of the organisation you are applying for and make sure that comes across in your application and interview.

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

Among my favourite memories I have to mention standing up in front of Cafe Mondial on my election night and Freshers 2006 when the 'Freshers Angels' - an idea I conceived -  were out in force: I think that they are still going and that's a wonderful feeling to have.

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