Case study

Education administrator — Jessica Keen

Jessica graduated from The University of Sheffield with a BA in English literature. She explains how she secured the role of a senior administrator in bursaries and work experience at the university where she studied

How did you get your job?

I started working for the The University of Sheffield as a graduate intern on a project that involved working with four different services at the university. After this I moved into HR project work, but I missed being student-facing and so moved into a role in the Academic Skills Centre. Eight months later a senior administrator role came up in the careers service. To apply for the role I had to complete the university's online application and provide a supporting statement. I was invited to an interview where I had to complete a short task before going through to the panel interview.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

One of the biggest ways I find my degree to be relevant and help with my role, is the fact that I have been a university student, specifically at the institution I now work at. A lot of the time I use my own experience as a starting point for working on projects, and speaking to students.

I learned how to organise my own time and use my initiative on tasks. I developed my written and spoken communication skills which I use on a daily basis through interacting with students and employers, as well as other colleagues.

My degree taught me how to analyse texts and pick out the key pieces of information, which I use when reading applications, or finding relevant information or links to answer student queries. 

What are your main work activities?

I administer our central workshop programme, which involves planning with our employability advisers what workshops are running and when, and who is delivering them, booking rooms and advertising these to students. I coordinate our Santander Universities SME Internship Programme, and also work on a funding scheme for widening participation to students.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

Over the last year I've had the opportunity to be involved in other projects within the service. I've been part of a dedicated working group for our graduate offer, have managed our group of student ambassadors, and I represent my team on the service-wide marketing group. I've also been involved in answering student queries through a drop-in service and helping to signpost them to resources that they would find useful.

My career ambition is to become an employability adviser. I've thoroughly enjoyed helping students through the drop-in service, and by administering our workshop programme I've seen firsthand how helpful they are for students and would enjoy the opportunity of delivering these myself.

What do you enjoy about being in education administration?

I enjoy how varied my role is and that I am able to interact with a range of people. I especially enjoy working on the Santander Universities SME Internship Programme, as I am involved in the whole process; from attracting employers right through to seeing the student complete their internship and the impact this has on both the student and the organisation.

What are the most challenging parts?

The main challenge I find is trying to juggle all of my projects together, and dedicate equal amounts of time to each, especially during peak periods. I find it's easiest to manage by blocking out time in my calendar that colleagues have access to so they can see my workload, and each day write down two or three tasks that are a priority for that day. I then know that anything else can wait for another day so am able to help with more pressing matters should they arise.

Any words of advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Gain some experience working in the higher education sector so you have an understanding on how the different areas of an institution work together. This isn't essential but is useful. Show your enthusiasm for the role, and for wanting to help others. You can be trained to complete different tasks within a role, but the personal interaction and enthusiasm for this is not so easy to teach. Be open to different opportunities and experience within roles and try out new things as you might find something new you love.

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