Thomas graduated from the University with a BA in History in 2015. He has secured a position on Lloyd’s Banking Group’s graduate scheme, and is currently completing a rotation through finance security in preparation for a permanent management role.
What attracted you to study at Kent?
I was attracted to study at Kent for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the History degree offered a wide variety of module choices which gave me the flexibility to try new topics on a yearly basis. Some degree programmes are quite rigid in their structure, but at Kent it was highly flexible. Secondly, after attending an open day I realised that I wanted to be in Canterbury. The city is not only beautiful, but also has a wide abundance of cafés, pubs and restaurants which I felt would provide me with an active social life. Having previously only lived in a small village, I wanted the excitement which a large town provides, yet the security of a university city – Canterbury fitted this desire perfectly. Lastly, I knew that a degree from Kent would stand me in good stead for the future. The university is increasing in the league tables every year and the reputation of the History Faculty was strong.
How did you find your course?
I enjoyed it all, but especially my first and third year. In my first year I explored new topics and tested myself a great deal. I discovered that I wanted to learn more about military history and developed a passion for the Victorian era. I also realised that medieval history, although fascinating, was not an aspect of history that I wanted to continue. My third year enabled me to specialise and provided me with the opportunity to delve into the Second World War and research the Dunkirk evacuation.
Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities, and if so, how did you find them?
Yes, I was a Student Ambassador. This role was immensely rewarding as I visited schools across Kent in order to inform students about university life. I gave presentations on why students should consider university, the reality of student finance and provided assistance to students applying to their dream university. Not only did this boost my own employability, it also gave me the personal satisfaction of knowing that I had impacted someone else gaining entry to university.
I also took part in an employability scheme run as part of the Victorian Britain module whereby I gave a presentation in the Beaney Museum on a pair of Afghan trousers which are in the museum collection. This taught me how to research an item in a museum and how to present this in an interesting way to members of the public.
Lastly, I took part in the voluntary scheme run by Kent Union. Throughout my final two years at Kent I volunteered for over 200 hours in the local community. This provided me with something different to discuss at interview and distinguished me from other applicants.
Did you take on any work experience placements during your studies? If so, what support did you receive from the School in securing/completing this?
In my first year I volunteered with the Royal Engineers Museum in Medway. I used to take the free student bus to the Medway campus which enabled me to complete the internship. I worked in the archive and undertook cataloguing tasks as well as photographing the items in the museum collection. The school has a very close partnership with the museum and provides a good flow of volunteers to the institution.
I also had student placements at Transport for London and the Houses of Parliament. In both placements I worked in the archives. I generously received funding from the employability office to cover my transport costs in order to travel to London. The school provided me with academic references in order to secure both roles.
Upon graduation I worked at Buckingham Palace as a warden for the annual summer opening. This required me to become knowledgeable about the history of the Royal Collection and the British Monarchy. I was able to secure this role due to my history of work experience in a museum/heritage environment, as well as strong degree performance.
How do you think your studies have helped your career prospects?
Throughout university I wanted to work in the heritage sector or become a history teacher. However, at the start of my final year I had a change of heart and wanted to see what other opportunities were available.
I found the heritage sector to be rather unstable and after working in a number of schools I realised that teaching wasn’t for me. I therefore took the decision to keep my history interests alive via voluntary work and maintain it as a hobby rather than a career.
However, my degree taught me some highly employable and transferable skills. It taught me to be highly analytical, to condense and translate information quickly and efficiently, and to confidently defend and debate my views both in verbal and written form. Moreover, history is one of the most versatile and respected degrees you can have, I found that I was able to pursue virtually any career I wished.
Indeed, during my second year I read that lots of graduates went into the City of London after graduation, however I had never had any direct exposure to this. So I went to a series of insight days at some major City employers and worked with the careers service to see what other options were open to me. I concluded that I wanted a career which was of a professional nature, offered a great deal of responsibility early on, provided the opportunity for national and international travel, and would enable me to continue to gain qualifications. I also wanted to try something completely new, and above all, I wanted variety.
What are you doing now?
I am now on the Graduate Scheme at Lloyd’s Banking Group where I am based in the Group Operations division. Over two years I undertake three rotations across the business in order to understand how the Group functions. After the two years I’ll move into a permanent management role. My first eight months are in Group Security where I specialise in risk – this role aims to ensure that the bank is a secure and profitable business and protects the Group from those who wish to cause it harm (e.g criminal groups, cyber attacks etc).
What are your future career plans?
The best aspect of being on the graduate scheme is the variety. I have to move location and role every eight months whilst on the scheme and I hope to continue this trend for a number of years after. My priority in the next few years is to learn as much as I can about the sector and develop my management capabilities. I would also like to become more active in the field of history through voluntary work as well as the education sector through my alumni work.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of studying History at Kent?
Be open about what aspects of history interest you – you won’t truly know your interests until you’ve sat down in a lecture or read a couple of books. Don’t be too closed off in an application about what you want to achieve from your degree, emphasise that you want to discover your interests. People tend to study history because they love it (rather than to enter a certain career sector), as a result, the knowledge, interests and passions you develop whilst studying will stay with you. It is hard to be passionate about some subjects, but history invokes passion and interest every day.
Lastly, never assume you know what you want to do with your career. In my first year I thought I knew what I wanted, however, by my third year I wanted something totally different. University provides you with the perfect platform to experience a variety of careers and gain an understanding of what options are available to you. Use the careers service to see what other history graduates from Kent (and other institutions) have done after graduation and do as much voluntary work as possible. Lastly, use every summer as an opportunity to either travel, volunteer or get work experience.