17 June 2019

'Keep an open mind'

Continuing our series of blogs by UEA graduates, Sophie Bunce writes about stepping into an unexpected career, how success at work is 'simply down to storytelling' and offers some advice to the UEA class of 2020.

When I considered my first year in the ‘real world’ I thought it would be easy. I got a first class degree, didn’t I? I ran a student newspaper, hosted a BBC award winning radio show and still (occasionally) had time for Loft on a Thursday. Though the truth is, the student bubble is true. It is hard in its own unique and tangible ways - I have and always will argue that university is the ‘real world’. But after a year in work, I know it is not the same one, for better and for worse.

In September after my graduation I started on the Vodafone Business graduate scheme and proceeded to have a personality crisis. Being a humanities graduate at a tech company isn’t the most obvious fit. Working a 9-5 every day was and still is hard. I put a lot of time into my degree, but it’s very different to the world of work.

A year in, I’m working as an Internal Communications Consultant and scoping out my next move for my year-long placement. It took me a while to settle and understand my worth as part of a massive company. But the truth is, if Vodafone had wanted another tech grad, they would have hired one. What made me interesting to them was what made me different - that I read literary magazines over tech blogs and knew how to halve the word count of a document while keeping all the facts. 

The way I approached my role was the same way I looked at the job market when first applying. I found what made me stand out and I kept talking about it. It led me to interesting people and opportunities. I found that success at work was simply down to storytelling - luckily, I happened to have a degree in it.

Though it all looks like it turned out ok now - getting my job was certainly not plain sailing. Ahead of accepting my graduate scheme, I was rejected from more jobs than I can recall and had my heart well and truly broken by a few. It gave me no solace at the time, but with hindsight rejection made me a much better applicant - even if it did a number on my ego.

I miss UEA, Norwich and the comforting structure of education but I keep in touch on Twitter and I suggest you do too. Opportunities come up in odd and unexpected places. My advice is to keep an open mind - even if not quite as open as a humanities grad working in tech.


Sophie studied English literature and Creative Writing, graduating in 2019. 

More from the UEA Community Blog: 'The UEA and Norwich communities gave me a sense of belonging'