Name: Glen Cookson
Occupation: Senior Lecturer in Accounting
What did you study at University? BA Business and Finance
What extra-curricular activities did you get involved in at University that aided you achieving your career goals?
Regrettably none! This is something I had to do after I'd left university and I was working full time. (read on …)
How do you think the activities you attended at University/Students' Union have supported you? (e.g. in gaining skills, confidence, experience etc.)?
What was your first job after leaving University?
Shortly after completing my degree I accepted a place on Wm Morrisons graduate trainee scheme. Although I didn't want to pursue a career in retail, the salary was okay and it allowed me to supervise and manage at times many areas of a business.
How long did it take you, from leaving University, to achieve your career goals?
I achieved my first goal five years after leaving university and that was passing all my professional accounting exams (ten in all!). My second career goal was achieved in September 2013 (nine years after finishing my degree) and that was gaining a role in Higher Education as a lecturer in Accounting.
What was the career path you took from leaving full time education to achieving your career goals?
The first 18 months of full time work after gaining my degree were spent in the retail sector. I was then offered a trainee accountants position (a similar role to what I had on my placement year and with the same company). I accepted this position and then spent the next 8 years working in the outsourcing industry progressing from trainee to Finance Manager overseeing many contracts and regularly travelling across the UK. During my time training as an accountant I realised that my skill set was more suited to that of teacher/coach rather than being directly involved in producing accounts. Once an opportunity came up at Sheffield Hallam I applied and obtained a full time position.
What is your typical work day like?
Each day is certainly different due to the variety of people (staff and students) I interact with. A normal day would involve teaching, reviewing materials, emails, meeting students and interacting with colleagues to ensure we are offering a consistent and premium service to our students.
How well prepared were you when leaving University, to feel confident in finding and applying for jobs?
I certainly could have been better prepared. There were plenty of opportunities to speak to career advisors before applying for jobs. Although I managed to secure a full time position off my own back I would always encourage students to seek as much assistance as possible to increase your saleability to employers - why wouldn’t you want to do that?
On reflection, is there anything you would have done differently to prepare for the world of work?
Absolutely! Picking up on my points above, the employment market is becoming more competitive everyday but that's not to say the opportunities are not there - they are. On reflection I would have used the employment and careers service during my last year of university and joined at least one university society in the first year - putting myself forward for a role such as treasurer. At the time I had convinced myself I didn't have capacity to do all this (I had a part time job throughout university) but I had lots of time! - It comes down to being organised and taking responsibility for your own development.
What advice would you give to students who aspire to careers in a similar field to yourself?
To summarise… be tenacious, respect your fellow students, teaching staff and support staff. Become organised, take a placement and learn to learn - be able to take on criticism, reflect on it and then improve. This merely gets you on a level playing field. To create the career you want the rest is up to you to realise what you are good at and what you want to do and show some passion and desire to prospective employers.
To quote my boss when I began my trainee accountant's position, "education doesn't end with a degree - it never stops"… To get the career you want you need to accept and embrace this fact. Good luck!