My Journey as a Part-Time Student and Worker at the University of Leeds

How to shape your academic and professional career is a challenging task for a Masters student who has a concentrated amount of time to complete the course of study and look for job opportunities related to the chosen degree. When I decided to study at the University of Leeds, I was hoping I would have gained the rightful skills to apply into my future work. To achieve this, I chose to study the Masters course of Climate Change and Environmental Policy part-time, so that I would have attended the course in two years instead of one, and I would have been able to find a job alongside my studies, possibly a part-time junior position or internship, related to my course. I knew it would have been hard at first to enter the job market and be hired, since when I enrolled in the course and started looking for a job, I had never had a proper work experience in the field before. However, I did believe that there is a starting point for everyone and that was the perfect time for me to engage in this challenge and use the soft skills I had already gained by studying at University and by working simple short-term jobs during my undergraduate studies.

A fundamental point to improve in order to be able to demonstrate my abilities to employers as well as shape my career interests and passions, was to enhance my academic and professional connections. I suddenly decided to participate in the industrial mentoring scheme, which was organized by the University itself in order to put students in contact with Leeds Alumni with specific working experiences or professional interests that could benefit the student in better understanding how specific job roles are structured, or what working in a specific field involves. In my case, I was interested in getting insights on the field of Sustainability and Consultancy. I had the opportunity to meet my mentor (virtually) and ask her for any type of advice to start a career in this sector and in general in the UK, its drawbacks and advantages. This relationship gave me a lot of self-confidence and made me realise that I was going through the right pathway towards the start of my professional career.

Another important stage was the improvement of my CV and LinkedIn profile, two powerful instruments for you to introduce yourself to potential employers and give a first good impression within your network. I still remember the tips I was given during a workshop held by the Career Centre of the University of Leeds on how to improve your LinkedIn profile, how to properly show your skills and interests in order to catch the attention of readers, but also to help you understand which parts of your field of study you might be most interested in, and therefore select the most suitable job opportunities. I had never met anyone explaining these dynamics to me and I highly recommend anyone to participate in this type of workshops particularly if they find themselves in the same situation as mine!

Finally, here is where my job hunting process started, after I gained all the useful knowledge, connections, and skills in order to behave properly in front of a job application and hopefully an interview! It was indeed thanks to the connections I had made during the first year of my studies at the University of Leeds, that I was able to find my first internship opportunity during the summer after finishing the assignments for the second semester, since I would not have had to work on my dissertation until before September. Therefore, I applied for the internship position on Sustainability Project Management at ALOT Srl, an Italian Project Management company which works on EU funded sustainability projects in different fields, from in-land and off-land mobility to environmental services and eco-tourism. I had the chance to work virtually for the company for three months before starting the second year of the Masters.

Smart-working from the most different places and the best work mates has never been so comfortable! At the same time, remember to never lose professionality!

It was challenging at first to learn about all the processes and how to complete tasks and deliver effective outcomes within the company. I was lucky to be trained by amazing colleagues who were always available to explain everything to me. Interestingly, my internship tutor was actually a University of Leeds alumni, more precisely of the same course of mine! It was amazing to discover how my course could bring me to if I played all my cards wisely. I learnt the basic theory and functioning of sustainability project management, starting from project design to development and finally implementation. I realised how important it is to engage with representatives of different countries from around the world and different public and private stakeholders during the whole course of the project, in order to properly understand their specific needs and priorities and deliver the most effective and comprehensive outcomes. I deepened my knowledge on the importance of addressing sustainability from the three main components such as social, environmental, and economic sustainability, in order to deliver international projects that are sustainable in the long-term. Even in a short period of time I was able to gain substantial knowledge of sustainability project management, and most of all to connect with amazing colleagues and build strong relationships which hopefully will help me, after completing my studies, apply for the perfect job role!

I am now attending the second year of my part-time Masters course, and I have been working as a Climate Risk intern for the Food of Agriculture Organization of the United Nations since September. Here I have been learning several facets of the work on Climate Risk Management, often very different from what I have been studying at University, alongside integrating already acquired knowledge, like if I was attending another masters course! I have been given many different tasks, from making climate risks and vulnerability assessments of specific areas around the world, from Brazil to Cambodia and Pacific Islands, to support the development of projects by directly communicating with stakeholders worldwide and participating in meetings, workshops, and webinars. It is amazing to see how my role has been shaping throughout these months and how I have been assigned always different tasks. I will soon deliver my first event on a specific project I am working on with the team, which I will also link with my project dissertation for the Masters! Some important advice that I learnt in fact, is to show your interest in embracing new tasks or propose to work on anything you are passionate about! Demonstrate that you are not afraid of challenges, but instead that you are excited to give it a try! This will definitely help you shape your career and embrace new exciting opportunities.

Working for FAO on assessing climate risks for projects in Brazil is one of the main tasks I have been assigned to and that made me realise the importance of this work and how interesting it is.

Overall, there are many challenges with studying part-time, since even if the structure of your masters course would be divided in two years, you will still have added responsibilities in finding a job or internship opportunity, apply for it, and carry it on in the most professional way, without compromising your studies and still obtaining accomplishing grades. In addition, sometimes you might find it challenging to combine work and study, and to allow yourself some free time. At the same time, working alongside studying can give you so many opportunities to deepen the knowledge on the topic you choose and better perform on your exams and assignments by gaining self-confidence on your abilities and skills, by exploring different sides of topics and addressing academic concepts and issues from other innovative perspectives. It can definitely help you develop practical experience and skills, which will hopefully make you ready to apply for a job right after finishing your studies, with all the required technical and soft skills already obtained!

In conclusion, I believe academic and professional experience gained by working alongside studies will be useful to demonstrate future employers detailed knowledge of your sector, as well as the skills gained such as flexibility and multitasking, but most of all to apply such experiences to find the perfect job after your studies that fits with the course chosen at the University of Leeds. Pathways to reach this are all different for every student and I just hope telling my experience and some advice I learnt throughout my journey will be of inspiration for prospective students and job applicants!

Author

Arianna Gialletti
Hi everybody! I am Arianna, I come from Deruta, Italy, and I am 23 years old. I am a Masters student of the Climate Change and Environmental Policy (MSc) programme...
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