‘How I survived university and got a job’ by Teach First teacher Will Jellis

Uni is the perfect time to explore and try new things that will help you figure it out what it is that you love.

Like many of you, Will Jellis, now 23, went to uni not knowing much about what he wanted to do. He ended up studying for a History BA at King’s College London, and his experiences there made him realise he wanted to teach.

Will is now a secondary school history teacher at Prendergast Vale School, in south London, as part of the prestigious Teach First programme.

teacher uni

Image credit: Will Jellis

Here are five tips from Will about using your uni experience to find your perfect career:

1. Do extra-curricular activities

Aside from coursework, participating in other activities, or even getting a part-time job, can help develop your passions – or help you discover new ones. Don’t be afraid to try new things.

“I got heavily involved in my university’s outreach initiatives. Off the back of this I set up the History Outreach Programme, a student led initiative that aimed to provide opportunities for school pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain access to study history at university.”

2. Know that experiences you have at uni could be used on your CV 

Plan on joining a club, or volunteering with a charity? You might end up loving it so much that it influences your career later on.

“Setting up the Outreach Programme had a huge impact on what I went on to do after university. It provided me with a wealth of experience that undoubtedly helped me to secure employment after university and gave me skills and experience that I was able to bring to my job.”

3. Try a wide range of things to narrow down the options

The more you try, the more you’ll know what you really like and what you don’t, – which can be just as important. Apply for internships and work experience in all different fields – now is the time to experiment!

“I knew I wanted to be involved in the world of education after my second year of study. By this point I had done a number of part time jobs, a vacation scheme at a law firm and set up the Outreach Programme, so I felt like I had gained a relatively broad experience of some of the opportunities that were available to me after university. But it wasn’t until I had experienced these that I knew for sure.”

4. Keep an open mind – your degree offers more career options than you think!

Don’t pigeonhole yourself into thinking that if you study art history you have to work at a museum or gallery, or that if you study law you have to be a lawyer. If you decide you want to do something not directly related to your degree, there are always transferrable skills to be found.

“Studying history provides you with a range of skills that are useful in any work environment. Working at Team Up after uni, an ambitious and rapidly expanding education charity, meant that the ability to communicate clearly and concisely in a team environment was essential. I picked up these skills whilst engaging in debate in my history seminars at university.”

5. Don’t settle

Explore all your options before rushing into any career decisions. Life isn’t a race and you’ll be much happier if you take the time to find something you love.

“I think there is a real pressure that builds in your final year of university, this seems to come a to a head after the Christmas break where people only seem to ask you three questions: How are you? How was your Christmas? And the dreaded one… What are you doing next year? The number of times I asked and got asked those questions!

“My advice here would be, don’t succumb to the pressure and apply for every job or grad scheme on the planet just because X, Y and Z have already got something lined up. Take the time to think about what it is you want to do.”

Now what?