Aspiring Professionals Programme (APP) Coordinator, Social Mobility Foundation (SMF)

Megan Beattie

Aspiring Professionals Programme Co-ordinator 

Social Mobility Foundation

LinkedIn Profile


My Degree subject:  BSc Psychology, graduated 2015.

My current job

I currently work for the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) as an Aspiring Professionals Programme (APP) Coordinator. We aim to help high achieving students from low-income backgrounds get into university studies and support them from S5 – graduation. This involves working with Local Authorities, employers, teachers and students in order for the students to get their 4 areas of support – a professional mentor, internships (for the most engaged students), university application support and soft skills sessions. I deliver and organise these events and all of the programme in Scotland with one other colleague, Elaine.

My career history (Jan 2017)

During summer after my graduation, I worked as a LEAPS Summer School Tutor, was a waitress at Koyama Japanese restaurant and finished my internship with the Saltire Foundation, and started my job with the SMF in October 2015. I am now also enrolled in a COSCA Counselling Skills course at the University of Strathclyde alongside my job.

Using my degree skills and knowledge 

My degree has taught me how to use qualitative and quantitative evidence in order to form hypotheses, examine these and the outcome which should always be questioned. The study of Psychology allowed me to realise that all evidence is valuable and this is very helpful in my job when thinking about how we can develop the APP programme further.

The numerous voluntary & work experience (LEAPS, Health in Mind, EUSA, the Saltire Foundation) I had throughout my degree ensured I was further up the career ladder when I graduated, and without this I would not be in the position I am now. Any experiences outside of your degree open your eyes to the wider working world and this is paramount during interviews and also shaping you as a person which is incredibly important!


My useful experience

I have mentioned most of my experiences during job interviews – each of them acted as building block for the next step in my career. Having a good mix of voluntary, paid work and interests makes you well rounded and is very appealing to a number of employers across the board.

My career decisions 

I made the decision to take on a few different jobs at once right after I graduated! It may have been hard but it really tested what I was capable of, and allowed me to be immersed in multiple experiences at once. This really accelerated my growth and my knowledge of what was required to be a self-starter which is a big part of my job now. I also found that this made me more productive in my down-time as I was still in a productive mode of thinking and could reflect on what I enjoyed about each job, and that helped guide my thinking in where I wanted to make my next steps.

Advice to anyone interested in my area of work

I would say work experience and voluntary experience in the third sector is really paramount to work here – having that experience of working with the less able (in any way at all) is really important because it shows that you have the skills and knowledge which you have already learned and applied. Make sure you are also passionate about the cause you are working for because that is your motivating factor every day!

Advice on making career decisions

Make sure you are clued up about the sector/role you want to enter, have the experiences to back you up and feel excited about where you’re going and what you’re doing! It might seem daunting – and I did feel a bit lost when I first graduated – but remember, if you don’t think you know right away that’s okay! Take time to think about your options, keep an open mind and check the careers website MyCareerHub (that’s where I found my job!)


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IT Risk Assurance Consultant, EY

Rachel Bussom

IT Risk Assurance Consultant, EY

Find Rachel on LinkedIn


My Degree subject: MA Cognitive Science (Humanities), 2015

My current job

IT Risk Assurance Consultant – this entails completing external audits of IT systems in the financial sector to help our financial audit colleagues, as well as doing consultant work regarding IT Risk and Cybersecurity.

My career history:

After graduating in 2015 I joined EY’s consultancy graduate programme in IT Risk and Assurance. Since then, I’ve been working for EY in their financial services area on IT audits and cybersecurity projects. I’m in my second year of the graduate scheme at the moment, looking to leave the graduate scheme and become a senior consultant at the end of the year.

How I use my degree skills and/or knowledge in my career

The easy answer is I use the knowledge from my informatics modules, which have greatly helped understand some of the more technical aspects of my work, especially when testing infrastructure and inspecting scripts. However, I find the communication and explanation skills gained during philosophy and linguistics to be even more pervasively used in my work. I’m in a client-facing role, so being able to clearly explain and communicate issues and requests to our clients is incredibly important. In Cognitive Science, we frequently have to put highly technical topics, such as artificial intelligence and neural networks, into more simplistic terms in order to write essays about them in philosophical fashion. This has made technical report writing for my managers much easier, and has proved valuable in my work.

 My relevant experience:

Everything! I firmly believe that every experience gives you something you can discuss or use as an example for future behaviour. In particular, a natural curiosity about the world and eagerness to learn new things are the best things to take into the workforce. Employers don’t want a legion of robots at their disposal, they want to hear fresh ideas and have people they can rely on with new and interesting backgrounds and diverse experiences. Work and volunteer experience may help with the transition to a working culture, but the knowledge gained during your degree, the skills used to write essays and solve problems, and your interests outside of academics and work are equally valuable. Not to mention, good interests make discussing your weekends with colleagues all the more interesting!

My career decisions:

My story is probably slightly different from many of yours, being an international student. I wanted to stay in the country to work after graduation, since I had moved my life to Edinburgh (and let’s face it, who would want to leave Edinburgh?). I was limited to jobs that paid the minimum sponsorship salary and were on the Tier 2 sponsorship list, which created its own hardships when job hunting. Because of this, I went to a number of career events with businesses, joined a number of mailing lists, and kept my CV up-to-date throughout my fourth year. My biggest decision was really just to apply to as many jobs that seemed interesting as I could, paying closest attention to the ones I really liked, but keeping others in as practice. This strategy doesn’t work for everyone, but it did for me and I noticed I got more successful as time went on. As an immigrant, I didn’t really have the luxury of being able to wait to consider options, having to start applying early in my fourth year in order to stay.

My advice to current students interested in my area of work

Don’t be turned off by the technical name! You can do IT Risk without a technical background, and the majority of my colleagues are from humanities subjects. With regards to consulting as a whole, employers are generally looking for people who are willing to put the work in to learn the field, rather than those that are already experts. Show your enthusiasm and curiosity more than any technical skill.

My advice on making career decisions?

Use each experience to your advantage. I turned my extensive theatrical resume into a consulting job by finding the shared experiences between the two. Every experience gives you something to take into the next.

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Wealth management, Coutts

Jamie Regan, Coutts Wealth Management Team


 My degree subject and year of graduation – Philosophy, 2015

My current job

I am in the Sports & Entertainment client group at Coutts. We provide financial advice to the most successful individuals and families involved in sport, music, film/television, art, media and connected industries. Our advice incorporates banking, lending and wealth management strategies.

My career history to date (Dec 16)

My job at Coutts is my only position since graduation.

  • Relevant work experience: summer internship at Coutts; working in a St James’ Place Partner Practice; ‘Spring week’ at Citi Private Bank
  • Other work experience: hospitality jobs prior to and throughout university
  • A-Levels in Philosophy, Economics and Chemistry

How I use my degree skills and knowledge in my work.

  • Firstly, my role requires strong analytical skills which I developed enormously during my degree.
  • Secondly, when I discuss complex affairs with clients, I need to present those ideas articulately and in a simple, understandable manner which is also crucial in philosophical work.
  • Finally, the inclination to approach matters critically emerged from my degree.

Experience that helped me to get where I am now

 The most beneficial include:

  • Work experience (as detailed above)
  • Societies and hobbies – I was a member of the Edinburgh University Trading & Investment Club which helped me in a number of ways. It:
    • offered a tangible demonstration of my interest in the financial services industry; developed my knowledge about investments;
    • stretched my abilities;
    • brought to my attention a number of opportunities in the workplace that I would have otherwise been unaware of
  • Interests – I work in a people business. Success in private banking and wealth management hinges on one’s ability to build strong relationships with clients and prospects. Without the interests I have in sport, music, media and other forms of entertainment, I would struggle to build the requisite rapport.
  • Degree (detailed above)

My career decisions and how I made them

I was offered a full time position at Coutts having completed a ten week internship in the summer between my third and final year at Edinburgh. The decision was an easy one by that stage because I enjoyed the experience so much.

To reach the decision of applying for Coutts in the first place, I:

  • conducted a great deal of research about careers online, through careers fairs and writing to professionals;
  • used the university Careers Service who were very helpful;
  • gained various forms of work experience to ensure that the reality of particular roles matched my ideas.


My advice to students who want to get into this area of work

  • Speak to professionals in the industry. If you are enthusiastic about it as a career they will be happy to talk to you.
  • Gain any experience you can, paid or unpaid
  • Know the industry by keeping up to date with current affairs

My general advice to students making career decisions

If you have even an inkling of what you might be interested in, pursue that wholeheartedly otherwise you’ll never know whether it’s for you or not.

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David Laco, school teacher, tutor and activities facilitator

David Laco, school teacher, tutor and activities facilitator david-loco

My degree subject and year of graduation – MA (hons) Psychology and Business Studies, 2015,

My current job

I work for a high school in Slovakia, where I grew up before leaving for my university studies, and to which I returned as a teacher, tutor and facilitator of non-formal activities. Together with my colleagues, I am involved in teaching and supporting character alongside academic growth of my students. We do this through a variety of means, including:

  • the adaptation of lesson curriculi (e.g. in Global Studies) to facilitate more personal reflection and group discussion of the topics,
  • a variety of non-formal events and activities,
  • a youth mentoring program between teachers and students.

Alongside my work, I have started a distance MA in Character Education at Birmingham University, which I attend alongside other professionals in the field of education (many of whom much more experienced than I am). I have also just submitted a revision of my undergraduate dissertation thanks to the support from Wendy Johnson (from PPLS), which continued beyond graduation. Looking into the future, I am hoping to keep one foot in academia whilst swimming deep in practice.

My career history

I have had my job ever since graduation (1year and 7months), however, the road to it was pathed by internships and extracurricular activities throughout high school and University.

One voluntary involvement was for the school specifically (I helped organise a week-away for the students of the school), whilst my other voluntary as well as paid experiences were quite colourful and included the following;

  • doing research for an education charity,
  • working as a social carer for people with disabilities,
  • participating and managing Freshsight (student society at Edinburgh Uni that provides consultancy for non-profits)
  • being involved with the peer-mentoring program.

How I use my degree skills and/or knowledge in my career.

I do a lot of conceptual work (e.g. coming up with a lesson plan), so I daily depend on the ability to sit down, read up materials, analyse and synthesise knowledge and channel it into something concrete (very much like in the essay-writing process). However, even more so, I also do a lot of very practical work (e.g. organising a weekend-long teambuilding for a class) where I have to manage my time well, communicate and cooperate with various stakeholders and deliver results (like in group research projects). Lastly, reviewing and marking the written work of my students requires me to read critically and remind myself that all that is gold does not glitter and vice versa (which is exactly what we had to do in literature reviews).

Experience that helped me get my position.

I think I am where I am because of the degree, voluntary and work experiences and my long term interest in education. However, I think that what matters is not only WHAT one does but HOW they do it (and WITH WHOM), because various experiences can shape you in different ways depending on the latter. Therefore, if based on my experience I can emphasise something, I would like to emphasise the importance of being communicative and grateful to other people, determined to work hard and always searching for meaning in what you do (and if there is none, doing it in a way that would make it meaningful, or doing something else instead)

My career decisions 

I spent a lot of time talking to various people who knew me really well as well as those who did not know me at all but gave a lot if ideas nevertheless.

My advice to students interested in this area of work

Get/keep some contact with kids as well as people who work in education, even if it meant voluntarily mentoring one child. Whilst working with the same child/children over time will sooner or later test whether education is but a temporal dream rather than a more long-term vocation, being in contact with people who do work in education can open up doors you would otherwise not see.

My general advice to students making career decisions today

Surround yourself with people who can and are willing to ask you questions that are not easily answered, but need to be answered nevertheless, and who will wait for you to grope with answers until you get hold of something.


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Trainee accountant and administrator

Gwendolyn Fyfe

Trainee accountant and administrator

Degree subject and year of graduation: Philosophy, 2011

My current job

Administrative all-rounder and trainee accountant. I watch the books, handle pre-sales and renewals, even do occasional tech support… but I’m also the switchboard.

My career history

I worked part-time in childcare all through university, with a view to becoming a Religious Education teacher. In the summer before my final year I got a great RE teaching placement which taught me that I would be a fantastic teacher who would hate every minute of it.

I worked in the Ipsos MORI call centre during my final year and for a while after graduation, until I got my current job at The Sugar Refinery. When I joined, it was a simple admin post, but I have taken every opportunity I can to try new things, and am now involved with a lot of different functions at the company.

I discovered that I really enjoyed all the financial work I was doing, and as it happened, the company was looking at hiring a part-time accountant. They are now sponsoring me on my Open University Accounting courses instead.

Using my degree skills and/or knowledge in my career

Other than a very healthy respect for deadlines…

Logic turned out to be the most useful skill for me. I have always hated math, but I liked the required logic courses, and surprisingly, accountancy is much more about logic than math. Balance sheets are just big logic puzzles. Great fun.

I also think being the president of a society for two years was very good for me. Being helpful and outgoing even when you don’t feel like it, making sure everyone’s having a good time and everything that needs to happen is going off without a hitch, getting people to help each other out… perfect preparation for business. It’s really valuable for me to be able to pick up the phone or walk into a conference and be that person.

My useful experience

I’m very glad I got a placement in the career I thought I wanted to enter while I was still in uni. If it had turned out to be a good fit for me, it would have been great on my CV, and I had a few really good references from it. As it turned out, I hated it, and I think learning that was even more useful – without the placement I could easily be doing a teaching qualification instead of an accountancy course right now, which would definitely have been a mistake.

Incidentally, I got onto the placement by planning ahead. I figured out that I wanted to do it in second year, got relevant part-time work (nanny and summer camp counsellor) and did relevant volunteer work (running a Girl Guide unit). Then I sent in my application the day they started accepting them, 7 months before the deadline. This was mentioned as a big point in my favour during the interview. Don’t wait for deadlines!

My career decisions 

I haven’t had a long career path between uni and now – I’m still in my first real job. But I’ve been surprised at how quickly it has developed, and I feel confident that I’m on track for a good career I’ll actually love. I think the two things that have really made that happen for me are being obsessive about career research, and enthusiastically taking on as much as I can at work.

In terms of research, I’m online constantly. I read a lot of career blogs, I monitor news in my field, I always have some idea of what kind of salary I should expect, what my next step is, what my next few years might look like, and importantly, back-up plans in case anything goes pear-shaped! Indispensable sites for me are Ask a Manager, Payscale, Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Coursera.

At work, if I’m ever out of things to do, I ask if there’s anything else I can help with. If someone asks me to help with something, the only reason I will say ‘no’ is if I genuinely don’t have time. I’ve learned a lot by taking on projects I didn’t yet have the skills for. Now that I’ve shown I can do that and be happy about it, I’ve become a go-to person for a lot of different things. Once you’re doing that, you have a lot of choices about what you want to pursue further.

My advice to students wanting to get into my area of work

Getting some real-world skills and experience is vital. I can talk at length about rational hedonism, the logical possibility of time travel, and applied ethics. That’s all great and fun, but it’s not nearly as useful as my ability to put together reports on a CRM system or confidently talk numbers with people in suits.

Try out programming, go through an advanced course on MS Office, start educating yourself in depth about actual paying fields you’re interested in. Not just on the internet. Buy some books. Even if you hate what you try or don’t follow it up, the knowledge might be surprisingly helpful at some point. (I’m a Philosophy grad who was asked to be tech support, after all.)

In terms of Accounting specifically, learn Sage, get super-comfortable with Microsoft Excel, work through Accounts Demystified or get started on some courses.

My general advice for students making career decisions 

From what I can tell, there’s a tendency for recent grads to either be either really desperate or really entitled. It’s either “Oh god, please, a job, any job, I somehow need to get a job in this recession with my Philosophy degree” or “I am so darn competent and intelligent, I must be paid £40k, have completely flexible working hours and a Pilates room at my first job”. Neither one is great, or justified, and more importantly, employers can smell either one a mile off. There’s a happy medium to be found. If you’re anything like me, you will probably get into your first job and think that you really don’t need a degree to do it. But you’ll be able to build on that. Most employers actually are interested in seeing you progress and contribute in ways you enjoy.

Also, while you’re doing these things, pay attention to the basics! Do not go to an interview in a t-shirt and jeans, don’t default to calling every female professional you deal with Mrs., make sure your entire CV isn’t underlined, send a covering letter if the advert asks for one, and if the hiring manager asks you to email her assistant, email the assistant, not the hiring manager. You might think these things are all obvious, but they are all actual examples from our most recent round of hiring, and the few people who didn’t make those mistakes were the ones who got hired.


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Assistant Psychologist, NHS neurorehabilitation service, Oxford

Helen Russell,

BSc Biological Sciences (Psychology), 2012;

MSc Human Cognitive Neuropsychology, 2013

My current career 

After graduation I stayed on to study for an MSc in Human Cognitive Neuropsychology. I then got a job as an Assistant Psychologist for the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust in Glasgow working within a specialised challenging behaviour unit. I worked with people with brain injuries to assess their cognitive abilities as well as developing programs and interventions to help these individuals reduce their challenging behaviours. I now work as an Assistant Psychologist in an NHS neurorehabilitation service in Oxford, working in a large team to provide rehabilitation for patients with a range of neurological conditions. My work includes neuropsychological assessment as well as supporting patients with cognitive and emotional difficulties. I work within a team of Clinical Psychologists and hope to go on to train as a Clinical Psychologist in the future.

Why I studied psychology at University of Edinburgh 

​I primarily chose to study as Edinburgh because I fell in love with the city! I also was attracted to the opportunity to study Psychology alongside Biology in my first 2 years as I have always enjoyed studying science. I developed an interest in Neuropsychology throughout my studies which lead to my choice of Masters.

What I enjoyed most about psychology

​I enjoyed the wide range of psychology I was able to study. I also appreciated the scientific approach to the subject and the number of research projects that made up the course. I found lots of the lecturers to be very dynamic and enthusiastic about teaching.

Skills I developed whilst attending the University of Edinburgh

I was able to develop research skills through my studies and was then able to develop skills in working with a clinical population in the NHS through my masters. I also felt that I was challenged to organise my workload and meet deadlines, which has been very applicable to my work.

How my experience at Edinburgh helped in my career

Studying Neuropsychology specifically allowed me to have the knowledge required to gain a job as an Assistant Psychologist, which can be very competitive. I was also able to volunteer as an Honorary Assistant Psychologist during my studies, this was arranged through meeting a graduate at an alumni event (networking!). This experience definitely helped me get into paid work when I graduated.

My advice to students making career decisions today

Don’t get too fixated on your end goal and try to enjoy the ride!

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Manager, UK-wide women’s helpline

Naomi Salisbury,

MA(Hons) Linguistics, 2001

My current career

Since graduating I have mainly worked in the voluntary sector. I currently and previously have worked in a range of mental health projects including advocacy, training, information services, mentoring services and community development services.

Why I chose linguistics at the University of Edinburgh 

I chose Edinburgh as a place to live before the subject in many ways. I lived in rural Scotland and always loved coming to Edinburgh and knew it was where I wanted to live. At school I studied three different foreign languages and loved making the links between them. I didn’t know that Linguistics was a subject until I started looking into applying to university but when I discovered it, it seemed to be the perfect fit for my interests and skills

Why I enjoyed Linguistics

It was a new and fascinating subject that I felt was the perfect match for me – this was a very exciting experience to be learning about something that I had not previously conceived of. I still remember the way practical examples about communication were demonstrated in lectures and using them in my current career in training courses. It really broadened my understanding of language and communication.

Skills I developed whilst attending the University of Edinburgh
Although what I do now is not specifically related to my degree I feel I learnt a range of skills. Key to my current role is a deep understanding of communication in all its forms and how this can have an impact on relationships. In addition I developed skills in critical analysis, research and presenting information to support a variety of views.
I love Edinburgh as a place and I feel the location of the university in the city is ideal to feel embedded in the city as well as being a student. This meant I was also able to develop my interpersonal and communication skills in a range of jobs mainly in tourism. I also volunteered in the Advice Place and on Nightline which started me on the path to my current career.

Why study Linguistics?

Linguistics is a fascinating subject which gives you knowledge and insight far beyond language – my degree incorporated psychology, sociology, philosophy, statistics, acoustics, history, anthropology and really broadened my understanding of the subject and the world around me.

How my experience at Edinburgh helped me in my career

Studying at Edinburgh gave me a range of experiences both inside and outside the university and this gave me the grounding for the role I have today. It helped me to become more open minded, further developed my interest in people and how we communicate and helped me increase in confidence in my skills and knowledge.

My advice to students making career decisions today

Don’t be restricted by jobs you’ve heard of – there are so many fascinating roles out there that I had no idea existed when I was a student. Get work experience, volunteer and do things outside university to complement your experience. Being able to offer respect and use common sense are very valuable skills, and even if a degree isn’t obviously vocational be open to where (your degree) might take you.

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