An introduction from Clare Blain, Velocitii's Director of People
When I graduated over 15 years ago, it was tough. Even though the job market was relatively buoyant, many of my peers with excellent degrees and credentials were struggling to penetrate the graduate ‘milk round’. On top of that, it isn’t always easy knowing what you want to do with your life.
Things haven’t become any easier for graduates over the years, and this year COVID-19 has made things worse.
At Velocitii, we support people from all walks of life and at every stage of their career, but we are particularly passionate about helping young people explore careers in digital. This summer we were joined by our first school student intern, Sophie, as part of an initiative to explore ways of encouraging more young people from a wide variety of backgrounds to consider working in the Digital, Data and Technology (DDaT) sector.
In this blog post we’re going to hear from Indy, a recent university graduate who joined us earlier this year as a User Researcher for Velocitii Innovation, and whose story is so typical of the struggle to break into the workforce that many graduates are facing at the moment. Indy hadn’t previously considered a digital career, but we recognised her talent and she was open-minded about seizing the opportunity to try something new. Since then, she’s discovered that the skills and strengths that she already has have allowed her to adapt and excel in the world of business innovation and digital.
Indy’s story is also a really positive one, so we asked her to share her experience and advice, in the hope of inspiring others who might be in a similar situation.
Over to you, Indy!
Indy's Story: My Journey From University to User Research
After leaving school at the age of 17, I initially decided against going to university. I knew I wasn’t ready yet and found the idea of transitioning straight from one high pressure, academic bubble into a slightly larger, but equally demanding, bubble quite overwhelming. I needed time to breathe before figuring out my next move, and I ended up taking two years to work, travel and gather myself.
I have always strongly leant towards the Arts, specifically theatre and film. I knew I wanted to pursue a creative career, but I didn’t know exactly which direction to head in. This irresolution played a significant role in my struggle to find relevant work during my years off and inevitably led to my decision to go to university.
I hoped that going to university would give me time to figure out what my strengths were within a creative environment, and thanks to those two years off, I feel I was far more able to fully appreciate and take advantage of my time there.
After university, the struggle to find suitable, interesting work opportunities remained. When the chance to join Velocitii as a user researcher arose, I jumped on the chance to challenge myself and try something outside of my comfort zone.
Building on my existing skills
While writing my dissertation during my final year at uni, I learnt a great deal about researching specific topics I knew very little about. This skill has definitely come in handy while working as a user researcher.
Every day I dive into researching something new and come up having uncovered a plethora of information I never would have come across otherwise, and it feels brilliant to be challenging my brain in this way again.
I started an independent Theatre and Film company with a peer during my second year at university. With absolutely no experience of project management, we had to figure out how to tackle budget spreadsheets, production schedules, funding applications, venue hire, equipment/crew management, and plenty of other tricky tasks that theatre kids have no idea how to handle! My time at Velocitii so far has allowed me to apply those skills within an entirely new context, while adding to them and expanding upon them.
Growing and developing in new ways
I’m really enjoying developing my skills whilst beginning to gain an understanding of how a company works internally.
Working as a user researcher has opened my eyes to the numerous ways that tech can be used creatively and innovatively within business to pioneer fresh concepts and open up new avenues of communication in the modern world. Working at Velocitii is giving me key insights into how to build a new start-up from scratch, and it has allowed me to work through every stage of that process logistically.
The Velocitii team has been absolutely fantastic in helping me develop those skills, and have already taught me a great deal about how to apply what I’ve learnt to each new challenge. I’m beginning to fill in the gaps in my knowledge as we work on each exciting new project.
In fact, working with the Velocitii team has been about as far removed from the mundane rigidity of many workplaces as you could possibly get! I love that everything Velocitii Innovation is doing is designed to help people daily and in every aspect of life - it feels incredibly rewarding to be a part of.
My plans for the future
Over the next few years, I want to see the start-ups we are currently working on through to launch, and hopefully watch them flourish. Also, to be able to run the first phases of start-ups for Velocitii Innovation off my own steam would be wonderful.
Eventually, I plan to use the skills I develop during my time working at Velocitii, combined with what I learnt at university, to turn my little theatre company into my career. To be able to make money from it would be the absolute dream.
My advice to other graduates
To other university graduates or school leavers who may be feeling stuck, my advice is this:
- COVID-19 has made searching for work an incredibly anxiety-inducing time for graduates. Opportunities are limited and even more competitive than usual, so get creative and use your contacts and skills to generate work. I told everyone I knew that I would do odd-jobs for them if they paid me - I made showreels for people, managed bookings for a holiday house, took pictures for a designer friend, along with a few other random tasks!
- Make the most of any and every opportunity that comes your way. You'll almost always learn something new and who knows where it might lead - I’m speaking from experience!
- Equally don't be afraid to turn something down if it really isn't what you want to do/ or if it doesn't excite you. Everybody will tell you what they think you should be doing with your time, but ultimately it's your life so trust yourself.
With all this in mind, it’s also important to make sure you take time to do what you love - or even better, take time to do absolutely nothing at all.
The whole world is stressed and the tension in the air is palpable. It starts to rub off on you after a while, so never punish yourself if you're struggling. It's okay if that thing you wanted to do or make happen doesn't work out. We’re living through a global pandemic and we all need to cut ourselves some slack!