Photo by Anna Huix
Endings and new beginnings
Three Finalists share their thoughts on careers, post-Cambridge plans and the future.
Hearing industry professionals talk about their experiences and give advice has been really useful.
Your final year at Cambridge is such a mixture of emotions and experiences: the joy of delving deeper into your subject, the pressure of Finals and extracurricular activities, and the excitement – and fear – of going out to try your luck in the wider world. But every Finalist has one thing in common: a well-prepared and slightly weary answer to the eternal question. “So! Graduation! What are your plans?”
For Bea Hannay-Young (Emmanuel, Human, Social & Political Sciences) the question looms large.
“Thinking about the future occupies a pretty big chunk of my time,” she says. “The final year is when you start realising you are not coming back to Cambridge next year and begin thinking about what you want to do after that.”
Hannay-Young is hoping to take a year out to “expand my CV and bolster my savings”, then take a Master’s in Chinese art and Mandarin. She would eventually like to become a Chinese art and antiquities expert. To that end, she’s been using all the schemes the University offers, such as attending Arts and Heritage networking events and Arts career panels.
“It’s hard to tell what the jobs market is like. On the one hand, there’s a lot of talk about the culture boom and an increasing demand for people to participate in art. On the other, people who work in mid-level positions say it’s very competitive, as so many people want these jobs,” she says. “So hearing industry professionals talk about their experiences and give advice has been really useful. There are so many different things you can do in the arts – lots of people flit around between different jobs, working in many different departments before they find somewhere to settle.”
The final year has also been a whirlwind of activity for Hayden Banks (Queens’, Human, Social & Political Sciences). He has served on the JCR committee, is Queens’ LGBT representative and previously College’s access officer, and is the publicity officer for the University’s branch of educational charity Education Partnerships Africa – and all the while, thinking about his post- Cambridge future.
“I’d like to work in international development, policy or social mobility. I’ve had a one-to-one meeting which was pretty good. I’ve also been applying for roles in various charities and the Department for International Development graduate scheme. Of course, it’s very competitive.”
And for some, being a Finalist is about discovering what you don’t want to do. Brontë Philips (Newnham, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies) started the year with every intention of going into law. The Careers Service, she says, were hugely helpful. They identified opportunities and advised on her CV, training contracts and vacation schemes.
When a careers adviser, during a practice interview, asked her: “Are you sure you want to do this?”, Philips reconsidered.
“Partly because I am so enjoying the work in my final year, I’ve decided that I want to stay in academia but I will probably take a year out,” she says. “The final year is more intense but it feels like real academia. It feels like you are closer to the source, not just doing something for the sake of it.”
Her future could involve translation or policy and research – the effect of sanctions on Iran, for example. But she wants to keep her options open.
“I think we get the feeling there is so much rush to have a job straight out of university: you have to be sure, you have to earn megabucks,” she says. “I need to stop and have a minute to reassess everything. I think it is important that people know you can do that.”
Interview by Pamela Evans.
This article first appeared in CAM - the Cambridge Alumni Magazine, edition 81.