Your Future Plan, Your Way: Viv Jones on being a mature student and carving out a new career path

We’re so excited to share the experiences of our students, as every single on of your future plans is different, and the path to get there has its unique ups, downs and roundabouts! Thank you Viv Jones, for sharing her story with us all.

My name is Viv Jones and I’m a part-time, mature student studying Criminology. I’m in my fourth year of part time study, currently working towards completing my Level 5.

The decision to return to education

In 2016, I was finishing a secondment in events for a national charity, which I loved and then found myself having to return to a role I hated. I’ve always been incredibly lucky to have a supportive husband who would sooner we had less money and more happiness. When I, half joking, suggested I wanted to resign and return to education, he encouraged me to go for it. 

I had previously studied a year of psychology at Worcester, back in my early 20’s, and my interest in psychology and criminology remained. After researching local courses, I spotted the BSc in Criminology at UoG and decided to apply. I have always continued some form of learning throughout my life and from recognising and acknowledging my own patterns of learning behaviour and needs, I knew I had to choose something I was truly interested in and that would hold my attention or I simply wouldn’t complete the work.

At the start of my degree I had no plans on using my degree, career-wise. Having worked in the charity sector for over 10 years I was happy to continue that, alongside my degree, having secured a part-time role, back in events, locally. Things just slotted into place for once. 

Plotting a new career path

I’ll be honest, being a mature student studying part-time is a strange place to be. Depending on your life and work experience, most of the support seems to not apply to you. I was happy with my confidence, my CV and what my end goal was: being able to say I had a degree. My tutor was really supportive and I wasn’t afraid to ask for help from the lecturers so the Your Future Plan team didn’t cross my mind. It wasn’t until I applied for a role with the National Crime Agency (NCA) that I realised I could really benefit from the Team’s support. It soon became very clear that a (not so) old dog can learn new tricks.

I had applied for a role as a Trainee Investigation/Intelligence Officer back in July. The opportunity had been shared on the course’s Facebook group and I thought, why not? It was one of those moments where you do have to think, if I don’t try I will never know. It wasn’t in my ‘plan’ and, clichéd, I know, but sometimes opportunities come along and you should take them rather than be left thinking ‘what if?’. 

When one door closes…

I wasn’t successful in getting an interview on first application, but they informed me they would like to keep my application on file for 12 months. I forgot about it and carried on with my life, studying and working.

On the day I was furloughed, an email dropped in to my inbox inviting me to an interview with the NCA. Again, I’ll be honest, I panicked. I hadn’t expected it or felt prepared for it given the bizarre state of the world with Coronavirus. I quickly realised that my interview skills needed to be absolutely on point if I was to stand any chance of getting through the interview and that my experience had only been in the charity sector. I contacted one of my lecturers to ask for some advice and he signposted me Natalie in the YFP team. I can honestly say how grateful I am that he did. 

We arranged a call and I talked through the criteria I’d been sent for the interview with Natalie. I didn’t realise until that conversation just how much support was available and how relevant it was to me.

Getting personalised career support

Natalie talked me through various approaches to preparing for the interview, which were incredibly helpful. I recognised the need to stay focused on answering the question and being as concise as possible. This was something I knew I needed practice on. Taking on board the techniques Natalie gave me and I can honestly say it’s the most prepared I’ve ever felt for any interview. She also gave me so much confidence in recognising my transferable skills. 

The interview was over the telephone, an experience I didn’t enjoy. However, I had my notes to hand and it went well so was invited to the assessment centre in London. Again, a call with Natalie and one of my lecturer’s really help me in the preparation. 

I was successful in reaching the required level to be accepted in to the NCA candidate pool, from which I am waiting to be place in the role. Nationally they had received 8,000 applications and interviewed 1,500 for around 200 jobs. I know that without the YFP team’s help and advice I wouldn’t have made the grade – a huge thanks for being part of my success.

My advice to any student, regardless of their experience, would be to take full advantage of the support on offer. Rather flippantly, I considered myself an old hand at succeeding in interviews but I’ve realised there is always something new to learn and apply to your life experiences.

The staff are there to help you – use their skills and knowledge to your best advantage.

And if you have a goal, don’t be put off by set-backs. If I hadn’t applied in the first place I wouldn’t be looking at beginning a career which truly excites me. 

Thanks to Viv for sharing her experiences. If you would like some careers support, whatever your level of study and however far you’ve got with considering your career choices, please do arrange a 1-1 with our Careers Consultants via the Your Future Plan portal.

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