There has been a lot of focus recently on degrees and degree outcomes, especially when thinking about what graduates do once they leave university. While much of the discussion is often on graduate earnings and degree value, which is of course important, it often obscures the range of career destinations for students, and also how they value and appreciate what they have learned. Sometimes a degree can offer more than just a final income, but also offer opportunities to go in new directions, to gain skills and confidence that has longer-term benefits. Sometimes it can take time to recognise that.
Psychology degrees offer students a very broad education, supporting critical thinking in a range of core domains from social aspects of how we live to the more cognitive ideas of understanding human capability. This breadth comes together in the breadth of research methods skills that students develop. They become increasingly literate and numerate, and find opportunities to employ the skills learned in many different settings. Graduates who are capable of supporting change in organisations and communities are important, and that is of great value to us all.
We asked Lawrence to write a short piece for us last year (One year on) and have again asked him to reflect on what he’s been doing since then. What is striking is how his degree and the skills gained have taken him on a career journey that was unforeseen at the start.
An open mind is an open future
It has been a little more than two years since I graduated at Cardiff Metropolitan University and I got to admit it has been an extremely busy time. In my last blog I spoke about my first job since graduating as well as transferring government departments to the Ministry of Defence as a Commercial Officer. Since then I have been promoted within the Ministry of Defence and thanks to my skills I learned through my degree I am now a Commercial Manager for Defence Science and Technology Laboratories, the UK’s leading investor into innovative science. Now I am going to talk about how having an open mind got me here and how Cardiff Metropolitan University helped me get to where I am.
When I started at Cardiff Metropolitan University, I have to admit I went in with a rather closed and unfocused way of thinking. I wanted to be a Forensic Psychologist and wanted the best grades to achieve this. However, I was focusing far too much on the grades as well as thinking there is only one way forward for me. This started to change at Cardiff Metropolitan University, the feedback on my assignments and the advice I was given started to open my mind and allow me to see outside this circle I had set myself. I learned not to take feedback personally, but use to it empower myself to become more open minded and discover new career paths. My grades became better and I was able to focus on myself. I felt this was an extremely important learning curve of going through university, being able to take feedback and moulding it to better your skills. You will find in any job you go in feedback will always be given, not to put you down but to help you to improve by identifying any areas you need improving on.
It is important to keep an open mind. Set yourself goals but allow yourself to be flexible about them as you never know what is waiting for you round the next corner. Having an open mind also prepares you for when you leave university, as a majority of organisations look for people who are able to be innovative. Innovation is about open mindedness and flexibility in thinking, as a psychologist it is important to be able to take feedback, think outside the box and being prepared to change direction. At the end of my degree I wanted to be a neuropsychologist, I was accepted onto a Masters to help me get there. However, when I got the opportunity to join the Ministry of Defence, I changed my path and became part of something big. My life changed for the better, because I allowed myself to be open minded and flexible. I used my skills I learned from my Degree at Cardiff Met University and built on them. My job as a Commercial Manager involves negotiation, due diligence, innovative thinking, flexibility, effective communications skills, excellent writing skills and most importantly being able to keep an open mind as I am responsible for spending over a hundred million pounds in one year alone.
I thank Cardiff Metropolitan University Psychology Department for helping me get where I am today, the department has a great selection of lecturers who are always willing to help. If it wasn’t for their willing and guidance I would still be wondering what to do with my life.
Lawrence’s personal tutor, Dr Nick Perham, has added the below:
Lawrence was a mature student who joined us for the second year of the degree so he had not experienced us or the programme earlier like the majority of his fellow students. However, this did not affect or deter him. Throughout his studies he was always engaged both in and outside of lectures where he was a key driver of the Psychology Society. Lawrence always took the opportunity to ask questions about his work and the topics he was being taught so that he could be proactive in his learning and draw links between the various area of psychology. This open-mindedness, independence, and inquisitive nature helped to create the graduate student from Cardiff Metropolitan University who went on to work for the Ministry of Defence.
It’s really nice to see how Lawrence recognised the skills he had gained, and especially how he had to work at them, but also took opportunities and chances that come to him. Supporting skills development and offering opportunities to reflect is something we take seriously in Psychology at Cardiff Met, recognising the value of the contributions our graduates will go on to make in the world.
We have been a little quiet over the last few months. We’ve just been very busy over the summer and into the start of term. We are now ready to start again, show-casing the writing of students and staff. The aim of the blog is to give an insight into the things that staff and students get up to, to reflect on events we are involved in, and also to think about things that are outside of the day-to-day running of the department. We will be publishing a series of blogs this year, from students, graduates, and staff covering topics and events that relate to applied psychology at Cardiff Met. We hope you enjoy them!
A few years ago we introduced service learning modules into the second and third year of the undergraduate programme. The two Work, Volunteering and Applied Psychology modules offer students opportunities to work with placement partners, building applied psychology skills, and gaining useful work experience for the future. The impact of the WVAP (pronounced Ooohvap) modules has been profound as the work Alison Walker completed for us has helped us think carefully about the skills that students need, but also the areas that they wish to work in. That is important, but what always strikes me is how students do much more than simply complete a placement to get a grade and gain something for a CV. Often they work with partners because they want to make a real difference to the lives of people, helping and improving communities by offering their time and support. It is this aspect of caring and helping that always impresses most.
With that in mind, I am pleased to introduce a new blog post from one of our final year students, talking about the STAR Society. We have heard from Wasim before and it is brilliant that the Society keeps going from strength to strength. The fact that STAR is on course for a Gold Tier award shows the levels of support and commitment from the society members.
STAR: Supporting social cohesion
STAR is a national charity made up of over 26,000 students coming together from different universities from all across the country with one aim in common, that is welcoming refugees and asylum seekers to the country. This is achieved in four ways: campaigning, volunteering (working directly with Refugees and Asylum seekers), educating (raising awareness) and fundraising.
A lot has changed since I was last asked to write a blog on behalf of the Student Action for Refugees (STAR) society- our society has grown and has had an impact on the lives of Refugees and Asylum seekers living in Cardiff. I will cover these in this blog.
Our proudest achievement to date has been the Equal Access (EA) campaign. This is a campaign from the STAR national organisation which helps give asylum seekers the same rights to bursaries and scholarships as home students. Having personally started the campaign petition in our university during Freshers week last year, the number of signatures grew and grew. Our university now allows two places for asylum seekers to attend with full fee waivered scholarships, a met rider card and a meal a day. It was a long road to get this, but worth it for the great outcome.
After this, we organised a bake sale in order to help STAR national with other projects across the country. In October, the volunteers and committee baked cakes and we sold these with the help of the Students’ Union. We raised awareness for the society in terms of engaging with staff and students who did not know the society existed, and also let people donate to the cause. In total, we raised £164, which was the highest any STAR group in the UK had raised for the bake sale. We received an award from STAR at their yearly Annual General Meeting.
Nearer the end of the academic year, we were nominated for a awards from the Students’ Union including best new society and society of the year. In the end we won the society of the year award for all our hard work, which I think is well deserved considering the effort and dedication that the committee and volunteers have put in throughout the year.
We have worked hard over the year to raise the profile of the society within the university, and as a result of this, the society has earned the bronze society tier, followed by our current status of being a silver tier society with the hope of becoming a gold tier society next year.
Throughout all of this, we ran our drop in English Conversation Clubs which help refugees and asylum seekers with their spoken English. The sessions are two hours long and are broken into two sections. The first part of the session consists of having a general chat with the Refugees and Asylum seekers, followed by a more structured hour where we use worksheets to guide conversations in important areas we believe they should know about, for example, telling the time and the weather.
It has been a great year for us at Cardiff Met Star having achieved a lot during the academic year and we hope to continue with the success from this year into next year and many years to come. If you would like to get involved as a volunteer or would like to be on the committee, please speak to the Students’ Union who will point you in the right direction.
The SU Tier Awards recognise the growth and community engagement of a society, and so to have achieved a silver award and be on track for a gold one shows the levels of commitment from all involved.
UPDATE: A further 250 pounds has been raised by the Society this week.
If you would like to get involved, please do check out the information here https://www.cardiffmetsu.co.uk/organisation/8350/