Development Coordinator at The Open University
BA History, 2018
What does your role involve?
My role is a Development Coordinator for the Open University’s Careers and Employability Services. As the vague name might suggest, it’s a pretty diverse role. For the most part it involves marketing and communications - creating social media posts, writing articles, and creating other promotional materials and messages for various channels. However, my role also encompasses many aspects of service delivery – helping to set up and organise webinars and forums, compiling data, supporting other staff members with odd jobs and technical tasks, and everything in between.
An average day for me might involve scheduling some social media posts, compiling a weekly news roundup for the service, writing an article or some other promotional material, adding adverts and news items onto our vacancy service (akin to Careers Network’s Careers Connect), and collating the monthly website statistics. My work can also be quite project-based too, for example at the moment I am in the midst of organising and implementing the communications plan for our upcoming careers fair.
How did you find it?
I was job hunting for three months after I graduated. I wasn’t too stressed about finding a job but I know people that certainly were and it is disheartening when you send off so many applications and hear nothing back for so long. Don’t give up. I found my job through the usual channels, I think it was on findajob.dwp.gov.uk.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
The service is at the end of a massive growth in size and funding, so it’s good to be part of a new team with lots of new and innovative services to deliver. The team is friendly but professional, which is really good for a first job as it gives a sense of career progression.
In terms of my tasks, I usually enjoy the marketing side of things most. It’s been great to learn the tricks of the trade from my senior colleague David, our Marketing and Communications Manager. For example, I’ve learnt about key messages and how to construct them, and how to engage a specific audience. Learning to write in the correct way has been a fun challenge that I’m still learning. As a history student you learn to write in a very specific way with points, evidence, explanations, and conclusions. In marketing it’s much different. The text has to be immediately engaging, and you can’t leave the most important parts till last. Learning this with the guidance of David was one thing, but then I had to learn to adapt this text into one suitable for our website under the guidance of our Instructional Designer Rita. This means being very concise, clear, and to the point. The two styles don’t always work well together and it’s been a fun challenge to learn how to accommodate both needs and work collaboratively with the team.
I also enjoy the variety of tasks I can do. Whilst I enjoy marketing, sometimes it can get tiring or I get stuck working out the right wording for something. In those instances it’s fun to do something that doesn’t require as much brainpower, like compiling data from Google Analytics and various other sources into a single excel file, which I do every month for our website statistics.
What is most challenging about your role?
The most challenging parts of my role have been adapting and learning to do different tasks and gaining the confidence to talk and collaborate with colleagues. The single most challenging task I have had up to now is creating and organising the communications plan for one of our upcoming careers fairs. This has involved planning, preparing, making sure everyone knows what they’re doing and when, and lots and lots and lots of writing. In the office I have a whole whiteboard taken up with my messy handwriting in a table chart of everything that needs to be done and when. It’s a lot of work but it is rewarding being put in responsibility of an important task.
However, the most challenging aspect of my employment in general would probably be simply adjusting to working life. Going from 3 years as a history student with minimal contact hours to working 9-5 every day is a bit of a culture shock. Suddenly you start to wonder where all your time has gone!
How did your time at Birmingham help prepare you for this role?
My time at Birmingham was integral to how I got my current role. Most obviously, I worked for Careers Network as a Newsletter Assistant, writing the weekly and two-weekly newsletters for the College of Arts and Law and helping out at careers fairs. This gave me direct experience in the sector and experience at marketing and engaging with students (although I now realise those newsletters weren’t very good compared to the writing I do now).
Obviously not everyone can find a job with Careers Network, but what every student can do is enrol onto the Personal Skills Award. I credit this as the most important thing I did for my career at Birmingham. Taking a module or two as I did really taps you into an employability-focused mindset. It was incredibly useful for learning about self-evaluation, looking at yourself with an eye for skills and employability, and presenting yourself as strong candidate. Although I must admit I didn’t manage to finish one module (be prepared for a lot of extra work), I would definitely recommend it.
You can also gain a lot of skills just by being a history student. I used various examples of group work in my interview, and if you think about it you can apply lots of key competencies to your study. The most important part of my study was my dissertation. This can be a great CV or interview example. Writing your dissertation you exercise independence, self-evaluation, organisation, time management, analysis, research, decision-making, and a whole host of valuable skills.
What advice would you give to students interested in getting into your industry or role?
You might not want to hear it, but experience is key. If you’re like me then you went to university expecting that once you came out the world would be your oyster. It doesn’t work like that and the most important thing you can do at university is get experience. This could be with a society, with a part-time job, volunteering, or an internship. Yes, it takes effort to apply for these things, but it’ll take pressure off you in the long run.
I was able to build up key experience in social media marketing by voluntarily managing the social media for the historical re-enactment group I was part of. There wasn’t any formal arrangement, but it was still experience. Perhaps you could do the same for a group you’re part of, or a society, or wherever you work? You could even create an Instagram account for your pet and see how that goes. Even if it fails you can learn from it.
As I’ve said above, another really useful thing you can do is sign yourself up to the Personal Skills Award. It will really help tap you into the right mindset when it comes to careers. Another tip would be to make the most of Careers Network! They have loads of resources you can use and it’s super easy to organise one-to-one careers guidance. I know from working in a careers service myself that they’re made up of lovely people who just want to help. From a marketing perspective I’m sure they’re eager to help you as best they can so they can use your experience to encourage others!