Zoe Clair

Sociology BA (Hons)

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  • Year of study: Third year (in 2022/23)
  • Length of course: Three years

Your university/career journey

Why did you decide to study at the University of Northampton?

It is the closest to where I live, so I visited on an open day. I was blown away by the beautiful campus – it feels like a self-contained village, with a shop, hotel, launderette, coffee shops, multi-faith and health centres, and a security station all on-site.

I had a few subjects in mind, so went to speak to the lecturers for each course to get a feel for the workload, modules and faculty of each. I really liked the content and feel of Sociology, so I returned for a discovery day to find out more. After meeting another lecturer and experiencing the type of content I would be studying (and asking lots of questions), my mind was made up and I submitted my application.

What are your career goals/aspirations?

I aspire to have managerial responsibility, working in a diverse team environment, with the ability to be successful and help people in need of advice or action. I don’t have a company, or even a fixed sector in mind – I’d like to take different roles over my career to enable me to keep learning and building my skillset and experiences.

How do you think your studies will help your career or personal development when you graduate?

The opportunities for personal growth, offered by both the University and the Sociology department, are one of the best things about studying here. I’ve taken advantage of student roles offered, such as acting as a course representative and joining my lecturers on open days. I’ve been able to deliver presentations to children on higher education experience days and have joined in with the student experience forums at the Students’ Union. These opportunities have developed my communication, negotiation and presentation skills. I’ve also made good use of the Changemaker Team, as well as the employability skills and techniques taught, giving me ample opportunities to improve my CV.

Which, if any, skills and knowledge/understanding gained on your degree do you feel will be most useful in your future career?

Studying for this degree has taught me how to read and write academically, as well as learning complex mathematical structures used for statistical analysis. I’ve learned about all aspects of societies through the different modules including education, crime, love and intimacy, identity formation, environment and sustainability, the future, and gender inequalities. This has taught me to critically analyse my experiences with others, taking into account the effects of socialisation through cultures, interaction with media, families and education, and how these experiences can shape individual and group identities. This critical thinking ability, along with the skills gained through the many different assessment formats, has enabled me to research effectively, write coherently and present my findings through leaflets, presentations, literature reviews and case studies.

Your Placement

Have you completed a placement as part of your course?

I completed my placement with a charity that I was already volunteering with. I’m a Youth Group Leader, involved in the planning, execution and review of weekly events and adventures, for young people to meet internationally recognised badge requirements. For this role I had to undertake mandatory safeguarding and first aid training, as well as complete a DBS check. I attended weekly meetings to encourage the young people to have fun while learning new skills.

Please describe how your placement benefitted you.

It allowed me to adjust my approach in a positive way, based on my own research.

What employability skills did you develop during your placement?

My placement enabled me to enhance my communication and presentation skills, including how to keep things both fun and educational for a diverse group of children with different backgrounds and learning abilities. It has also improved my management skills, by assisting the group leader with social media content, attainment and retention of adult volunteers, and assessing the young people’s badgework to ensure they meet both national and international standards.

How do you think the placement will help you with gaining employment after graduating?

I think that the skills and experiences I’ve had through volunteering are a considerable asset on my CV – it shows that I’m willing and able to lead group activities, and manage people and events, as well as my willingness to upskill and meet set standards.

Do you have any tips on applying for, or getting the most benefit, from your placement?

Use your placement as a work experience opportunity – go for a sector or role that you’re interested in pursuing in the future and make a good impression while you’re there. It’s a valuable networking opportunity and gives you a chance to get your foot in the door of a company or type of job that you may be interested in in the future.

What advice would you give a student about to begin a placement?

Treat it like a real job, be open minded about the experiences offered there and take notes every day. It’s a good idea to keep a diary of your experiences and reflections and how they correlate with your research.

Extra-curricular activities

Do you do any extra-curricular activities at UON whilst studying?

Yes, I’ve volunteered as a Sociology course representative for the last three years – this has enabled me to have a greater understanding of how the University works and the needs of the student body. I’ve attended many student/staff meetings dedicated to advocating for sociology students. I’ve also been employed by the University to attend open and discovery days with the staff, presenting the student experience to prospective students and their families.

In my final year I became a subject representative for the Psychology and Sociology courses, which means that I listen to all of the student reps on these courses and take their feedback to a higher level within the Students’ Union, attending meetings, Dean’s lunches and faculty forums to ensure the student voice is heard.

In my first year I founded the Sociology Society and acted as its President for two years. This was a great experience and I’m pleased to have passed it on to students in lower years to ensure its continuation.

How do you think these extra-curricular activities will enhance your career prospects?

All of the extra-curricular activities I’ve taken part in have enhanced my ability to discuss issues and negotiate innovative and dynamic changes for the improvement of the student experience. I’m able to clearly see what works for most, and how we can make that inclusive for others, fuelling positive social and academic changes and improvements.

Are you currently involved in any community or volunteering projects?

As mentioned above, I’m a regular volunteer with my local youth group. It’s a uniformed and respected position and I’m forever learning new skills, undertaking further training and providing the young people with positive experiences and opportunities to learn about looking after themselves, their communities and the planet.

Your advice

In one sentence, what advice would you give to undergraduates interested in this career path, or anything you wish you had known earlier?

Whatever career path you decide to embark on, be open minded about the different benefits in the roles you go for (bearing in mind that you will likely have many different roles in your lifetime) – choose a path that meets your current and future needs – to do this, you must first assess your own values and life expectations.

In ten words, or less how would you summarise your UON experience?

Absolutely the best choice I have could have made.