Hello and welcome to the end of this series! If you’ve been around for a while, you may remember I interviewed a lot of students on various placements around this time last year. Now that they’re all back at university and almost ready to face the big, bad world of life after graduation, I thought it a good idea to check back in with them.
This series re-visited the past interviewees to see how they were getting on, their thoughts on final year, plans for the future and what they made of the Diss. To view all #FinalYearFear interviews that I’ve carried out, click here.
What I was most hoping for was that they were all as clueless as me when it comes to plans for the future, but a lot of them are already back working for their placement companies, new companies, going on to do Masters and going off traveling. You can check out their placement interviews here.
The penultimate interviewee to talk about #FinalYearFear is Aoibheann McCormack, who was unlucky to land herself with me as a friend from her first day on our Business with PR course at LJMU. Being from just down the road in Omagh, County Tyrone, our accents formed a strong bond which we have until this day.
Aoibheann will be graduating next week alongside myself with a first class degree and you can read below about how she got through her final year and what she’s going on to do. Her placement interview can be found here.
Orlagh: Hey gal, how are things with you? How are you finding final year at the minute?
Aoibheann: Things are grand! I’ve most of my assignments past me now, the only thing that’s left – I say ‘only’ like it’s something small – is the dissertation and an exam. So, still a lot of stressing going on as I’m trying to finish up my degree, but the end is in sight now so it’s just a case of telling myself ‘it’ll all be over soon!’
That being said, looking back at the four years I have spent as a student has really made me want to pat myself on the back that I’ve got this far and it’s a bit sad it’s going to be over so soon… although I am so excited to have that degree finished up and that scroll in my hand!
Have you noticed much of a difference between final year and your first two years at uni? Is there a lot more pressure and work to do?
Aoibheann: Being honest, I think final year has been very similar to second year with regards to the actual assignments and workload. However, the dissertation is the one thing that has loomed over final year since before I went back – probably when I was still on placement. So, the diss coupled with the fact that all your assignment marks in final year pretty much need to be great has meant the pressure is substantial.
With regards to going out etc., my placement year really mellowed me. I got a lot of my partying out of me in 1st and 2nd year and the ‘adulting’ side of working a 9-5 meant that I preferred saving my money, money that I earned and putting it toward my savings or treats. As well as ASOS #notspon.
How have you found transitioning back to university life after placement?
Aoibheann: It’s been grand. I’ve not had a consistent job since placement because I wanted to put energy into finding career-related experience, so the opportunities have been few and far between. However, I did work for an amazing digital marketing company in Liverpool for three months, and from that I’ve gotten freelance work on the regular, so I’m glad I stuck to looking for jobs that would add valuable experience to my CV. Obviously, the salary wasn’t the placement salary which is always something you miss! However, it didn’t take me long to get back into rationing the student loan – you kind of come back onto the student cloud quickly.
The 9ams are a lot harder too which is funny considering you do a 9-5 for five days straight on placement. I will say that I am more wise-headed leaving placement. You kind of realise that people you look up to have been in the exact same position you are – in education, taking internships and placements and then grasping opportunities when you can. So I wasn’t scared to come back.
Now that you’ve experienced life in the corporate world, are you excited to go back or sad to leave university behind?
Aoibheann: It’s really a mixture of both. I am excited to get back to work but I’m going to miss university because it’s such a unique experience. Especially when you move from somewhere like Ireland. One day you’re sitting chatting about how tara yer man is and the next you’re in a massive city like Liverpool, living with six people from all over the country in a tiny flat for a year – plus learning how to truly live independently. I mean, I could type forever about the things I’ve learnt throughout my years at university and how it’s changed me as a person (all in good ways). I mean, it truly is a freedom having so much spare time to do whatever you like in an amazing city – please, anyone reading this, savour your student time! However, I won’t miss the assignments and exams.
THE ‘D’ WORD
Have you had to write a dissertation this year? How’s that going?
Aoibheann: Yes, the dissertation is going ok. I’m going to be honest though, I’ve dreaded it since starting university. It’s such a massive piece of work. In all honesty, it’s been very boring for me and I can’t wait until it’s handed in. I appreciate our lecturers and wider academics who really adore researching and writing lots of literature on topics, but I do not share that love. I learn by doing, so reading literature doesn’t excite my brain or help me learn. So, yeah, I don’t have to be friends with my dissertation, but I only have to work on it for a few more weeks and it’ll be done. It’s definitely been my biggest challenge at university so far.
Do you think you could have approached it better? Any advice for those going into final year of when they should start their project or how they should approach it?
Aoibheann: I have been honest with myself since my first dissertation lecture – I will not be that person who starts it in September. I have never started an assignment more than two weeks before it is due. It’s just how I work – it’s more stressful and more pressuring, but I don’t thrive unless there is a bit of pressure. I started my dissertation mid-March and for me that’s studious so I’m probably in the minority who leave it to the last minute but it’s working for me.
My advice to final year students approaching or currently working on their topic is:
- Break it up to so many words a day. I have set a goal of 600 and it’s going great for me. It’s a good few hours of work but it isn’t overbearing.
- Don’t listen to your lecturers when they make you feel like your dissertation is the be all and end all. Yeah, it’s important but don’t let it completely dominate your final year life. It doesn’t need to be that stressful.
- Don’t compare your progress to others. It won’t get you anywhere to worry where others are up to. You need to trust your learning style and write in your own way, in your own time.
THE FUTURE AWAITS
What are your plans for the future? Have you secured a job/grad scheme? Are you planning to travel/take time off?
Aoibheann: I have secured myself a full-time job after uni starting in August. It’s going to be in a similar role to my placement which was Corporate Social Responsibility with Communications, but the job will now focus more on Digital Content as well as CSR. My excitement is an understatement. With regards to time off to travel, I have three months of free time to do whatever I like with so I’m definitely going to be traveling a bit more – the boyfriend and I need more photos for the frames in the living room, you know yourself.
How did you find the application process for your graduate job – was it similar to your placement applications?
Aoibheann: There wasn’t an application process because the job was offered to me, so I was lucky! However, I did have an interview for a PR agency in Chester and that was arranged via LinkedIn and was coupled with an interview. I don’t mind interviews though, so for me the process wasn’t really that bad.
My advice to anyone going for interviews is to be yourself. Having been on the interview panel at assessment centres, I am fortunate enough to know what employers are looking for – I can’t thank my placement manager enough for showing me. They want to know they can work with you 40 hours a week. Your credentials matter but they usually only take up the first 2-3 questions anyway so focus more on what makes you as an individual stand out.
Where do you see yourself in 12 months time? What do you hope to have achieved by then and where would you like to be?
Aoibheann: Oh, in 12 months’ time I see myself at my job, making waves in my Corporate Social Responsibility role and helping to make a difference to people’s lives for the better. I also see myself finally taking driving lessons as I am manifesting that I will have my licence this time next year.
What’s the number one highlight of your entire university experience and why?
Aobheann: One highlight of my university experience… there are so many! My placement is up there but I’d have to say our trip to Amsterdam for our Events Management module. We were working over one weekend at the New Renaissance Film Festival, learning the ins and outs of holding a complex event. I think it’s a highlight because A) we got to go to Amsterdam and meet so many great people at the film festival. But B) mostly because I got to discover a lovely city with my three gal friends and classmates. It was just such a great few days and I felt like I had learned a lot, but you can’t beat traveling with your friends. I think knowing it was a last hoorah of being a student also made it more sentimental.
What’s one thing you’re looking forward to after graduating?
Aoibheann: I’m looking forward to living my life, man! I can’t wait to have my official degree OMG. I love working in an industry like CSR where your work is always to help others and make a difference. I also love being creative so I cannot wait to get stuck into my job. Mostly, I’m just looking forward to starting my wee life properly!
What’s one thing you’re fearing about life after graduation?
Aoibheann: Absolutely nothing. I am an official Law of Attraction advocate and I believe that being positive is one of the strongest ways of getting what you want in life. So, I am going into the future fearing nothing and ready for everything. You gotsta go after your dreams!