Caitlin graduated from the School back in 2012, and after a few years working here and there she decided to pursue a career with the Civil Service as a policy manager.
What attracted you to study at Kent?
I actually only put Kent down as I needed a 5th choice. I had visited Canterbury on a school trip the previous year, and thought the university looked quite nice up on the hill with all that space, but close to the historic town. I never looked around the university itself or even looked at the modules etc. for history, until I received all my offers. I then had a look online, liked the choice available for history students in all three years, so put it down as my second choice.
How did you find your course?
I really enjoyed the course at Kent, especially the choice Kent history students got compared to friends at other universities, who only had compulsory modules until their final year. Being able to choose a good proportion of the modules taken at each stage was really important, looking back, as it helped me both specialise in history of medicine in my final two years, but also take completely unrelated modules that I was also interested in, such as the colonisation of Africa and the Anglo Saxons.
Did you take on any work experience placements during your studies?
I did one work experience placement at Maidstone Museum, for two weeks one summer.
If so, how do you think you benefited from these placements?
I found the placement helpful, if only to highlight that I didn’t want to work in a museum! It also highlighted that if I did want to work in the heritage sector, it’s quite likely I would need to gain additional qualifications on top of my degree.
Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities – student societies and/or sports clubs, part-time jobs, volunteering etc?
I was a member of a political society and the History Society, being deputy chairman and secretary of these, respectively, in my final year. I also worked part-time in restaurants and supermarkets in my first two years, and in my final year as a Student Ambassador.
If so, how did you balance these with your studies?
I found it quite hard to balance the restaurant and supermarket work with my studies, especially around the busiest times of year such as Christmas, when you would be booked onto 14 hour shifts regardless of whether you had an essay due that week. I found working for the university as a Student Ambassador far easier, as the university were very flexible and there was no pressure to take up a job unless you were free. It also paid better! Being part of the societies was easy to fit in, and at some points in third year the society meetings would be the only time I wasn’t at home working or in the library, so it gives you a reason to get away from the dissertation.
Did you sign up for the Employability Points scheme, or the Kent Union Student Certificate of Volunteering scheme? If so, did you find them useful?
I signed up to the Employability Points scheme part-way through my third year, in the first year it was run by the university. I did find it useful, and wish I had signed up earlier, as I found it forced me to reflect on what I was doing to help myself find a job when I graduated, and had the opportunity to go on a Tesco-run Leadership and Management course at the end of the year, thanks to the number of points I had collected. I still refer back to this course in my current role, so it has definitely been useful.
How do you think your studies and extra-curricular activities have helped your career prospects?
Studying history opens a lot of doors, although this may not be obvious at first. Historians have a reputation of being good researchers and analysts, being able to put forwards good arguments, and be able to communicate well. Combined with running two student societies, this demonstrated to employers that I had skills that were applicable to the real world, and this definitely helped me secure my first two jobs, first as a fraud investigator for an investment bank, and secondly as a local council auditor. Even now, five years on, these skills still come in handy all the time.
What are you doing now?
I’m on the second year of the Civil Service Fast Stream, rotating around different central government departments in roles ranging from an Executive Resourcing Consultant (a fancy title for a head-hunter) at HMRC, to a procurement advisor at the Department for Transport. I’m about to go on secondment to CAFCASS, an organisation made up primarily of social workers, which will be a totally different experience again.
What are your future career plans?
The Civil Service Fast Stream is a four year scheme, after which I hope to become a policy manager, leading on the development and implementation of new ideas, hopefully in the Department for Education or International Development. In the longer term, I hope to reach the senior Civil Service, and potentially even run a government department alongside ministers.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking about taking a degree at Kent?
Kent is a really well-respected university, and having a degree from Kent helped me not only in getting my first job after graduating, but also when I was applying for my MSc at Oxford, as many of the professors at Kent are well regarded as subject experts. I would encourage anyone thinking about a degree at Kent to go for it, and to take advantage of all the extra opportunities the university provides for students to gain additional skills and experiences through societies and sports clubs, Kent Union-run events, and the Employability Points Scheme (which I would encourage all students to sign up to).