"Throughout university you have this idea in your head that the minute you graduate you’re going to walk straight into an amazing job – unfortunately this isn’t the reality and finding employment soon becomes your full time job – and a difficult one at that! I graduated in July 2009 – right in the middle of the recession when graduate opportunities were few and far between and competition for the small number of places available was fierce; the company I am now working for had over 600 applications for the nine graduate places it was offering.
In January 2010, I applied for the Audit graduate scheme with the accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young who are based in London and who have a further 17 offices around the UK and over 70 worldwide. Whilst I thought that my 2:1 degree from the University of Leeds and my extensive work experience (I worked part time at a large stock brokers throughout university) would put me in good stead, I was worried that because I didn’t come from an accountancy or a mathematical background, I wouldn’t stand a chance against some of the other candidates - some of whom had been studying accountancy since the age of 16.
However, my prospective employer was actually rather intrigued as to what a geography degree actually entailed because like the majority of people (I’ve had a lot of ‘Isn’t that just a degree in colouring in?’ or ‘Does that mean you’re going to be a weather girl’ thrown my way at the mention of my degree in geography!) he was unsure at to what a degree in the subject actually covered.
I told him about some of my favourite modules that I studied such as ‘Retail Geography’ (which looked at how retail in the UK and across both Europe and the US had evolved over time), ‘Geography of the UK’(which explored spatial variations of topics such as health and education),’ Borders and Boundaries’ (looking at how the livelihoods of groups such as gypsies are changing with time) and ‘European Cities’ (one of our essays even focused on my hometown of Liverpool during its year as European Capital of Culture!) and he was both pleasantly surprised and extremely impressed at the variety of the topics covered in the degree.
In April 2010, following a second round interview with UHY, I was offered a place on their graduate scheme and after six months of working for a private housing company and a two month volunteering trip to Kenya, I started my training contract in London in December 2010 and will (hopefully!) qualify as a chartered accountant in December 2013.
Now, whenever people ask me for advice as to what they should study at university, I always say ‘At this point don’t worry about having a particular career in mind...do something that you really enjoy or find interesting....because you’ll be doing it for the next three or four years!’ And I’m glad that this is something that I did because as long as you have a good degree from a top class university like Leeds and you’re willing to work hard then you can do anything you want...even accountancy!"