Kate Stevens

English Language and Literature

Kate attributes her success with Cancer Research UK’s graduate scheme to the skills she learnt on her course and getting involved in co-curricular activities while at university; team building, effective communication, creativity and time management were all valuable skills she learnt through participating in societies alongside her course.

What is your profession and who do you work for?

I am on the Fundraising, Marketing and Communications Graduate Scheme at Cancer Research UK. The scheme runs for two years and I will have four different six month placements within the scope of fundraising, marketing and communications. I am currently working in Policy and Public Affairs.

Describe your role.

At the moment I am working within the Policy Development team in the Policy and Public Affairs directorate. I support everyday tasks within the team, as well as having a number of set, long-term projects due for completion during my six months within the department. These involve assisting in the writing of a report critically assessing the cancer strategies in the four UK nations, producing a strategy for public engagement on research and project managing an investigation into political think-tanks and their health, science and research policies on the run up to the elections.

How did you get to be in your current role after leaving the University of Leeds?

After leaving university I was still uncertain about the career path I wanted to take. I decided to go travelling, and spent a year in Australia on the working holiday visa and a further six months in Central and South America. I raised my travelling funds through a number of short and long term temp jobs both at home and abroad. These gave me experience of working in different organisations in a wide variety of roles; from the weird to the wonderful. One of these jobs was for a charitable marketing and promotions company and this encouraged me to seek work in the charitable sector when I eventually returned to the UK.

I was working as a Teaching Assistant at a secondary school for about a year whilst trying to find a way into the charity sector. Not living in London made it difficult for me to undertake internships and it was almost impossible to find a paid position within a charity with little previous experience. It was very exciting to find out that Cancer Research UK ran a graduate programme in the areas that I am passionate about.

What did you do whilst studying that helped pave the way into your chosen career?

Whilst studying at Leeds I tried to involve myself in as many co-curricular activities as possible. I played sport – football for the university team and intramural netball, learnt samba dancing through the Brazilian society, taught conversational English classes to refugees through the Students Action for Refugees (STAR) society, was involved in drama productions, wrote a number of pieces for the Leeds Student newspaper and was a member of the English society. I also worked part time in the students union.

What skills and attributes did you gain from your course?

I loved studying English at Leeds and believe that it taught me numerous skills that are essential for the workplace, particularly in my role at Cancer Research UK. The sheer amount of reading and essay writing that needed to be done as well as my other commitments made it necessary for me to prioritise my workload and practise my time-management skills. The essay writing and presentations that we were required to give on a fairly regular basis meant that my communication skills were honed over the three years. It was also essential to be creative and innovative when writing essays so as to make your work stand out from the hundreds of other students who were answering the same question on the same piece of literature. I really learnt how to think outside the box and come at things with a fresh perspective.

What skills and attributes did you gain from your co-curricular activities?

Through my involvement with the sports teams I learnt the importance of team-building in order to succeed. My communication skills were further developed through my work for STAR and my literary and theatre reviews for the student paper.

In general I learnt that it is important to have the confidence to undertake new, exciting challenges and experiences. Working and socialising with lots of different types of people whilst attempting something completely alien to you really helps build your confidence for the workplace and the challenges that you will face there.

What advice would you have for students studying today?

I think that it is really important for students to make the most of the co- curricular activities on offer, not only because it is a great opportunity to meet new people and try something new, but also because of the wide range of skills and experience that they offer. Employers are now looking for more than a good degree and you have to find something that will make you stand out against your competitors. It is important not to neglect your studies as a good degree will provide you with the academic requirements to apply for a job, but it is your involvement in other things that will provide you with the extra experience and skills necessary to succeed in your application.