Harriet Shaw, Sales and Marketing Executive, Mackie’s

Harriet Shaw, MA (Hons) English Language & Linguistics (2015)

Sales and Marketing, Mackie’s Crisps, Taypack

Harriet on LinkedIn

My current job

Sales & Marketing Executive at Mackie’s at Taypack – looking after all Marketing for our product range of Mackie’s crisps & popcorn. This includes our digital marketing, organising trade & consumer shows, sending out press releases and producing any marketing material or graphics, amongst other things.

 My career history

After graduating from the University of Edinburgh I set to look for a job in Marketing. I was pointed in the direction of ScotGrad who provide placements for graduates in Scotland with small & medium sized companies in a number of sectors. I secured a one year placement with Mackie’s at Taypack as the Assistant Brand Manager, working in a 2-person Marketing team. Once the year was up they kept me on as the Sales & Marketing Executive which is now my current role. I currently oversee the entire Marketing department and assist the Sales team when needed.

Using my degree skills and/or knowledge in my work

As my degree wasn’t in Marketing the skills I gained from my degree that I’m using currently are more general skills taken from University such as report writing, creating presentations, analysing data and working to a deadline.

However, the awareness of differences in languages and cultures that I gained through studying Linguistics has come in handy when dealing with our export markets. The differing meanings and implications of word choice and order in the English Language also come into play when writing content or considering packaging information.

My useful experience 

One experience from university that I found extremely useful when interviewing for jobs was my role as Social Secretary for the University of Edinburgh Triathlon Club (EUTri). This position gave me experience in a number of things including social media, event organising and general social skills – all of which I could bring to interviews as examples. Being part of the EUTri committee also demonstrated team work and taking on extra responsibility whilst also completing my studies – and it was great fun!

I also believe my genuine interest and passion for the Scottish Food & Drink industry has helped me in my career, despite having no experience in Marketing I managed to secure my position at Mackie’s by showing an enthusiasm towards the industry and a willingness to learn.

My Career Decisions

In the last few months at University I made use of the Careers Service. This helped me realise the sort of jobs that were open to me with my PPLS degree and gave me a direction in my career search, which up until then seemed extremely overwhelming! This led me into the direction of roles in Marketing as I had some general skills from my degree that were suited to this area of work.

It wasn’t until I found ScotGrad and saw the Marketing roles that were on offer within Scottish Food & Drink companies that I realised where my area of interest lay.

One of the best decisions I made when career hunting was to take a small tablet with me when going interrailing after graduation – this allowed me to keep an eye on and apply for ScotGrad placements that came up whilst I was away. If it wasn’t for this I wouldn’t have been able to apply for the position in Mackie’s.

My advice to current students 

If your interest lies in Marketing roles, my advice would be to work in an industry that interests you or that you’re passionate about – I find it so much easier to get excited about marketing something that I believe in and can feel proud to represent.

For me, I’ve also found it really beneficial starting off my career in a small, family-run business – I have found it a great way to get involved in a number of areas in the business, quickly gaining knowledge and responsibility over a short space of time.

If you’re particularly interested in Scottish Food & Drink then keep an eye out for roles on ScotGrad; there are a number of great small and medium sized companies in the Food & Drink industry who are regularly looking for graduate support and it’s a great way of getting your foot in the door. It’s also a really friendly tight knit industry and I have always found those in similar roles to myself in other companies always willing to help with any queries I have.

My general advice when making career decisions 

Make use of the help available to you from your University and those around you, there are a lot of people who would be very happy to help you on your way but you just have to ask the question!


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Collections Information Officer – A National Charity

Collections Information Officer – A National Charity

My degree: Linguistics, 2013

My current job (Feb 2017)

I work as a Collections Information Officer at a charity holding museum and heritage collections. This involves managing and providing access to information about these collections, being the admin of the Collections Database software and training staff to use it. I also chair the meetings where any new acquisitions or loans are discussed and agreed. It’s hugely varied – one day I can be cleaning up terminology and keeping track of moved objects, another day building a new database module, and another out at a property listing objects and training volunteers. All the while I’m also available by phone or email if anyone needs help with the database or a number for a new acquisition. It’s part of a specialism in the museum sector known as Collections Management.

My career history

 After graduating I didn’t know what I wanted to do but decided I wanted to stay in Edinburgh. The intention was that front-of-house/hospitality roles would provide enough to live on while I applied for graduate-level work. However in practice, the long and unpredictable shifts on zero-hour contracts meant I did not have the time or energy for the in-depth application processes, so I took a chance on quitting this work to focus all my effort on getting a job that would be a better stepping stone. I spoke with the Careers Service at this point and they advised signing up with temp agencies. I was accepted by Crossmatch Recruitment, who thought my CV would be a good fit for a “1 month, maybe longer” assignment with the charity. This was delayed but I was offered other assignments in the meantime. I eventually called again to ask if the initial position was still likely to go ahead and was told I could start that week! It was all data entry at first but I soon became the expert on the database, so was given admin rights. Thanks to a string of extensions and fixed term contracts I have been with them ever since, now in a permanent full-time graduate-level role.

Using my degree skills and/or knowledge

Although Linguistics is not the usual way into this sector, I feel it has been very helpful, even if I often have to explain what it was and how it helps! My role covers elements of more traditional Linguistics careers such as lexicography (controlling terminology, maintaining the thesaurus of object names and categories), and  publishing (writing style guides and copy-editing object descriptions). Modules in Scots have proved invaluable when working with Burns manuscripts! More generally, analytical skills and attention to detail help to give me the edge over arts graduates who would be better qualified on paper. The need to be methodical in allocating numbers to objects uses a lot of the skills from coursework. Syntax helps with putting together queries for advanced object searching and automating data cleaning. Semantics could be useful too, as more and more museums are uploading data to the Semantic Web.

 My useful experience

A big part of the agency picking me up was the way I had arranged my CV to put administrative experience at the top, giving equal weight to both work and society roles. This meant I didn’t have to put the less-relevant hospitality work at the top even though it was more recent. In particular my Secretary and Librarian roles in Edinburgh University Wind Band stood out to the agent and meant I was offered assignments that I probably wouldn’t have got purely based on my work experience.

My career decisions

I did attend careers fairs but found these difficult without an idea for a starting point, and found a lot of the application processes off-putting as they so often want to see that you’re interested in them in particular. Lots of people (not careers advisers! Ed) tell you “just apply for everything” but it’s just not feasible to write dozens of bespoke applications for things you aren’t sure you want to do, so I made a deliberate decision not to waste time on roles that didn’t interest me. Applying to office temp agencies turned out to be the best decision I made as it gave me a foothold, and the agency found a perfect fit for me that I’d never have thought of myself!

Advice to students interested in my role

Volunteer! If I’d known about Collections Management work from the start, I would have sought out voluntary roles. I’m now in a position where I recruit and manage volunteers, and though I don’t have the power to give them paid work, lots of employees here did start out as volunteers. But do understand there might not necessarily be a paid role – the best volunteers let their enthusiasm and dedication shine through to the point where they become indispensable naturally.

If you’re the right kind of person for Collections Management you’ll know instinctively – if you like everything to be organised and labelled, have drawers full of stationery, own your own filing cabinet

Advice on making your career decisions

It’s helpful to think about the sectors you’re interested in rather than fixating on the job title or responsibilities – because I knew I was interested in the charity/museum sector, I was able to work my way up from an initially very repetitive data entry assignment into a permanent graduate-level role. Luck and good timing got me the initial position (as it was never advertised) so if you get an opportunity like that, make the most if it.

I’d also advise against taking a low-paid job that’s not relevant to your career just to pay the bills, as the time and morale you lose outweighs the money you’ll make.

Talk to the Careers Service – I felt stupid going in with no idea what to do but they were always really helpful!

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Clinical Systems Analyst, TPP.


Laura Sharples

Clinical Systems Analyst at TPP.

My degree – Scandinavian Studies and Linguistics, 2014

My current job

Clinical Systems Analyst at TPP. This is an extremely varied role, my main responsibilities are in project management and designing and testing our leading healthcare software.

My career history 

The week after my final exam, I started work as a team member for a youth hostel in the Lake District. I did this for around 5 months each time in the summers of 2014 and 2015. During term-time 2014/15, I worked part time in Cotswold Outdoor as a retail assistant, and taught French and Norwegian evening classes to adults at Leeds Beckett University.

In September 2015, I began a master’s in Linguistics and its Applications for a Multilingual Society at Université Catholique de Louvain in Belgium. The course and the city were not as I had expected, so I decided to come home and look for a permanent position. I applied for TPP in late February last year, and started in March.

Using my degree skills in my career

As a linguistics and languages student, I learned to recognise patterns in unfamiliar texts. This experience has been really useful for the fast-paced work environment at TPP, and for getting familiar with the software itself.

I also think that knowing how to express myself in different languages has made me more articulate, so I am able to get my point across clearly and succinctly.

My relevant experience

TPP does not require any prior experience for the analyst role, so I cannot point at something specific that has helped me get to this position.

The wide variety of experiences I have had since starting university have made me into a more confident person, and made me surer of the direction I want my life to take. I think this came out during the interview stage for this role, and meant that I was an attractive candidate.

My career decisions

I did not really have a plan after university. I wanted to work in a youth hostel because it seemed like it would be fun, and it definitely was because I decided to do it two years in a row!

I was surprised to see a vacancy for a Norwegian language teacher in Leeds, so I applied despite not having all of the required qualifications or experience. I am glad I took the chance because the role was an interesting challenge, and different to anything I had done before.

I was actually persuaded to apply for the role at TPP by my dad. I had seen the advert in Leeds train station, and assumed I would not be successful because I had no experience of either healthcare or IT. After a few weeks of pestering, I finally caved and sent in my CV and cover letter. I decided to take the job because of the friendly atmosphere during the interview, the promise of a challenging position and the great perks offered.

Advice for working in my area

I advise students not to be intimidated by roles in IT, even if they think their degree is not relevant. Employers are interested in intelligence, transferable skills, and the ability to share your opinion.

Advice on making career decisions 

Although it can be great to have a clear plan for your future career, I would advise to stay flexible and consider every opportunity. Even if it doesn’t work out, you will learn from it.

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Careers Adviser, Skills Development Scotland

ryan Ryan Hamilton

Careers Adviser

Skills Development Scotland 

My degree subject: MA(hons) Linguistics, 2013


My current job (Feb 17)

I currently work as a Trainee Careers Adviser with Skills Development Scotland (SDS), based in East Lothian and Midlothian. SDS is the national Careers Information, Advice and Guidance (CIAG) service and provides a career guidance service for clients of all ages, but with a particular focus on in-school work and 16-19 year olds who are unemployed.

I am on a 2-year contract where I am working towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Careers Guidance and Development on a part-time distance-learning basis through Edinburgh Napier University. I do this whilst working full-time with SDS and have 1 day per week allocated to work on my coursework.

My day-to-day role involves a variety of tasks including delivering 1-1 employability advice to clients of all ages, delivering group work sessions to groups of school students and starting to build up my professional experience of delivering career guidance interviews. I develop the counselling skills and techniques needed for professional competency through my course and have the opportunity to practice these whilst at work. I also have a small number of unemployed young people that I case manage and help to get into work, training or education.

 My career history 

Prior to my current position, I worked as an Engineering Technician for a small Water and Environmental Engineering consultancy in Edinburgh called Caley Water. This role involved administrative assistance to a small team of 8 engineers and assisting with wastewater and surface water modelling projects across Scotland.

Before this, I worked for a small charity called Teens+ that provides a transitional education programme for 16-25 year olds with complex additional support needs.

My first graduate job was in 2013 working with the University of Edinburgh’s Widening Participation team where I worked with students with little or no background of Higher Education in their family or who attended schools where few people go on to university. This was a 1-year contract after which I worked for 4 months with the Undergraduate Student Recruitment team, travelling across the UK to deliver presentations and attend events and higher education conventions and delivering admissions information and advice to prospective students. I was unemployed for 3 months between this role and starting at Teens+. During this time, I continued to volunteer more at a local homeless project where I continue to volunteer today.

During my time as a student, I had two part time jobs; one working as an Event Security Steward and another as a Student Ambassador, delivering campus tours on behalf of the Student Recruitment and Admissions department at the University.

My degree-skills and my career

In all my roles so far, I haven’t used as much of my subject-specific knowledge, but instead have used some of the other transferable skills I developed during my degree. For example, the communication skills I developed through delivering presentations during my degree are invaluable in my current job as well as during my Widening Participation internship.

My useful experience

I strongly believe that paid work during my degree prepared me for the prospect of full-time work after finishing my degree.  I have a wide range of work experience that I’ve built up through paid and voluntary work. I’ve volunteered at a local homeless shelter since the 1st year of my degree as well as having been a volunteer Team Leader for EUSA over Freshers’ Week for 3 years. Through all my roles I have developed a high level of communication skills and the ability to work with a wide range of people.

Making my career decisions 

The power of volunteering, networking and taking advantage of opportunities which came my way!

My first job was influenced by my work as a Student Ambassador, having helped the Widening Participation team with some of their events as a Student Ambassador. After speaking with the head of Widening Participation on my way to helping with an event, she strongly encouraged me to apply for the role. Likewise, my extension with Undergraduate Student Recruitment was by chance on the back of my Internship. I stumbled upon my role at Teens+ online and decided it was something different which I wanted to try. However, I realised that this was not for me and began looking for another job to keep me tiding over until I could figure out my next move. My friend worked for Caley Water at the time and recommended me to the Managing Directors, who were looking for a new member of staff at this point. As for my current role, I decided I wanted to get back into working with young people in school and stumbled upon the role with SDS online, which looked exciting given that it also included the opportunity for further study.

Getting into my area of work 

 In order to become a qualified Careers Adviser, you need to hold a PgDip in Careers Guidance and Development, also referred to as a QCGD (Qualification in Career Guidance and Development). There are 2 universities that offer this course in Scotland: Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) and the University of the West of Scotland (UWS). It’s also advisable to have experience of working with young people or delivering group work or one-to-one services.

My general advice on making career decisions 

I would say that your first job, or indeed your second or third job, doesn’t have to be your lifetime career. We live in a world where your ‘career’ has no boundaries and people continually change into new areas of work. It may take some time to get to exactly where you want to be and the reality is that many Graduates have to work in several jobs before they find their ‘ideal’ career.

Once you graduate, you have the rest of your life ahead of you and lots of time to build up your experience and to think about what it is you really want to do and which direction you want to take. Even if your first or second job isn’t one that you particularly want to stick with, you can still keep applying for other jobs as you work until you find the right position for you!



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Web Content Editorial Assistant for University of Edinburgh


Lauren Tormey

Web content editorial assistant,

University  of Edinburgh


My degree: MA (Hons) Linguistics, 2015

My current job

I am a Web Content Editorial Assistant for the University of Edinburgh Website Programme. The Programme manages the Content Management System (CMS) University sites starting ed.ac.uk/ use.

My role is primarily divided between support and project work. Support involves working with University web editors on anything from helping them to use our CMS to trying to diagnose bugs in the system.

Project work is more of the editorial side of things. Departments sometimes ask us to build websites or pages for them, so my job is to edit the content they provide and then build the sites/pages that will house that content.

I also edit and manage the publication of BITS, which is the Information Services Group magazine.

My career history

I started my job at the Website Programme a few months before I graduated. The previous summer, I had worked with the team while interning as the web editor for the University’s Festivals Office.

Using my degree skills and/or knowledge in my work

Writing for the web has a nice tie-in with linguistics in that it places an importance on how people actually use language. For example, we advocate writing content that uses our readers’ terminology, rather than corporate jargon.

Funnily enough, the Zipf curve comes up quite a bit in my job. I learned about Zipf’s law in First Language Acquisition, concerning a study done by an American linguist. The study found that a small set of words in a given language are used frequently, while the vast majority are used rarely.

In my job, we use the Zipf curve to talk about trends in websites where a small number of things are disproportionately more popular than a large number of things. For example, 8 pages on a 100-page site can account for 50% of the total page views.

My useful experience 

My internship with the Festivals Office helped me get the role I’m in now as my employers had worked with me the previous summer before I joined. However, I wouldn’t have gotten the internship if it weren’t for my work managing the Film Society website and writing film reviews for The Student Newspaper.

Making my career decisions

During my undergrad, I knew early on I wanted to work post-graduation, but I didn’t know what work I wanted to do. I attended careers fairs, but I didn’t see myself working at any of those companies. While studying, my first thought was to look for summer jobs in events/festivals to gain experience because I enjoyed the work I did in the Film Society. After my second year, I worked at the Film Festival and Military Tattoo.

The next summer, I originally applied for an employ.ed internship with the Festivals Office, but they ended up cancelling it and running a web editing internship instead. It wasn’t what I was originally after, but I felt qualified, so I applied and ended up getting it.

I really enjoyed my experience running a website working with both the Festivals and Website teams. Heading into my fourth year, I was now interested in both events and website jobs.

I checked MyCareerHub regularly and came across the Editorial Assistant post in early January. Even though the role started before I finished my degree, the Website Programme was able to accommodate this by initially employing me on a part-time basis.

As you can see, there’s a bit of luck (or being open to opportunities! (ed)) involved in finding the right job. I probably wouldn’t have gone into websites if Festivals didn’t cancel their original internship, and the Website Programme just happened to be hiring as my studies were ending (we haven’t hired for a similar entry-level job since!).

 My advice to students interested in my area of work

If you’re interested in web publishing, take advantage of getting involved in societies and activities where you can help manage or write content for websites and/or social media channels. This is a great way to gain practical experience in the field, and I’m sure most societies would be grateful to have someone contribute to their web presence. Websites need regular maintenance but often get neglected—think of all the times you’ve visited webpages with outdated information.

Before delving into the practical experience, though, I’d take the time to do some research on Writing for the Web. We read differently online than we do in print—we tend to be more task-oriented online, scanning information over reading whole blocks of text. There are established ways of how to effectively write web content to accommodate this.

If you’re interested, my department runs a Writing for the Web training course which is open to students. We’re looking to release an online version of the course in the near future.

My general advice on career decisions 

Start working and/or getting involved with extracurricular activities as soon as you can. I especially recommend getting involved in running societies. You can’t get a job without experience, and societies are a great way to not only gain that experience, but also take on interesting and challenging responsibilities that you may not get to do in your average term-time or summer job.

If you’re a final year student, I’d also say it’s never too early to start looking for jobs. I obviously would have preferred to start working after exams finished, but the right job for me came along a few months before then. If I wasn’t looking, I would have missed it.

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Global Trade Consultant with EY



Robert Key

Global trade Consultant with professional services firm EY

LinkedIn profile

My degree: MA Philosophy and Economics, 2015

My current job

I am currently on the graduate scheme at EY (Ernst & Young) working in London as a Global Trade consultant. Our team provides advice to businesses looking to trade goods internationally. We sit in the tax department but the advice we provide can be on anything to do with trade including customs duties, excise, export controls and the operational side of trade in general. The last 6 months have seen as do a lot of work on the impact of Brexit on UK business.

 My career history (to Jan 2017)

I did the International Baccalaureate at sixth form and studied philosophy, economics and French at higher level. I did the EY summer internship in the summer of my third year. It gave me a really good taste of the working world and I had an enjoyable six weeks. I got offered a job on the graduate scheme and started work in September after leaving Edinburgh. The graduate scheme I joined has me doing accountancy and tax qualifications and I am now about half way through.

Using my degree in my career

I think that the skills you develop in philosophy are about as transferable as they get when it comes to most jobs. I grudgingly admit that the specific philosophical knowledge hasn’t been overly useful in my day to day work (we do have several compulsory ethics modules in my qualifications, unfortunately I still haven’t been able to outline Kantian ethics in my tax exams).

However, when it comes to forming an opinion, developing an argument, coherently explaining an issue to your peers, presenting and critiquing the well-established norms, there really isn’t much better than four years of philosophical debate as practice. These are all things that are so essential in the working world and reading philosophy has helped immensely here. I think the most important general skill that I have taken away from university study as a whole has been the ability to listen to other people’s opinions and to come to well-considered solutions. It’s such a big part of my job and philosophical discussion is the best way to get used to this.

My useful experience 

Apart from the skills developed throughout my degree, the whole university experience added so much value to my entering the working world. When it’s happening you don’t realise how much you change, and mature, during four years of university.

I ran two football teams at the University and that gave me a good understanding of the pains and joys of managing people. Similarly, I was vice president (running intra-mural sport) of the Sports Union in my third year which was great for developing management, team-work and organisational skills.

In the end, all experience is good experience. At university there are so many doors open to you to get involved in things and it’s a great way to start building up a CV, and for you to realise what you really enjoy and what you’re good at.

My career decisions 

I always felt that the summer of my penultimate year was the one to start thinking seriously about gaining some experience in order to better decide what job and career I wanted to be in after university. The internet was my primary source of information but after that the University has such good resources for finding out about what the potential next steps could be. I made use of the careers fairs and explored the extensive range of companies / sectors that are represented there. I changed tack from aimlessly wandering around the fairs searching for free pens to actively identifying the companies that interested me beforehand and then going to find out as much as I could about the application processes and the company ethos.

Then in terms of what I was applying for at EY, Global Trade sounded like the most interesting mix with my economics background. Again, the internet provided me with a lot of information about what I could expect in a graduate role at one of the big 4.

Advice on getting into this career area

 Global Trade is on the rise as a political issue. The number of roles will likely be increasing and there are going to be a variety of employers looking for people interested in trade, including various consultancy firms and within the public sector. I would say keep up to date with all the trade scenarios being discussed at the moment with Brexit, and then it’s all about applying and continuing to apply. It’s so important to have put the time in for preparation when applying.

Advice on making career decisions

Have a real think about what matters the most to you in your day to day life as you are going to spend the majority of your time at your job. A job opportunity might look amazing on paper but it might not be right for you. Do you want something that challenges you every day but consumes your nights and weekends? Or are you happier having a straightforward job with a routine that allows for you to make plans in your evenings? Do your research and ask yourself some honest questions about what you will be happy doing with your time after university.

And most importantly of all, enjoy your years at university!



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