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Finding the perfect degree to turn a passion into a career

Emily Helsby, BSc (Hons) Politics and International Relations graduate, reflects on finding a degree that helped start a career in the third sector.

A young woman, Emily Helsby, smiling while sat at a table in a cafe.
Emily volunteered for Amnesty International UK before choosing to study BSc (Hons) Politics and International Relations at Bath.

A ‘lightbulb moment’

When I was 16, I was involved with a human rights organisation, Amnesty International UK, through my youth group. Shortly afterwards, I started in the Youth Advisory Group, focusing on getting young people to feedback into campaign materials to contribute to the development of Amnesty’s International Youth Strategy. That’s how I developed a passion for human rights; I cared more about Amnesty than any of my A level subjects!

When it came to choosing an undergraduate degree, I had no idea what I wanted to do. My A level subjects were Chemistry, English, Geography, and Maths, which were very unrelated, and I didn’t want to do any of them further at university level.

One day, I was in the library with my friend, and I asked what he was studying at university. He replied ‘Politics and International Relations’. That was like a lightbulb moment for me; I wanted to do that too! I hadn’t considered it before as it was not widely spoken about in my A level subjects. I wanted to learn more about political systems, governments, and how to make change.

A placement based on my interests

During my first year of BSc (Hons) Politics and International Relations at Bath, I became very passionate about race equality. This helped me decide on a direction for my placement, which was at the Race Equality Foundation.

When looking for my placement, I knew that I wanted to learn more about policy. I focused on this during this time, and I enjoyed putting what I’d been learning about in university into practice.

Starting my career

I used LinkedIn when I was looking for my first job after university. I searched for companies that I would have liked to work for, a charity in my case, and connected with as many people with a job role that I thought I may have an interest in.

For example, I was interested in being an ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant’, or something similar, so I connected with a bunch of people in the sector with similar roles and interests. This meant that when they were recruiting, they could see that I was looking for a new job on their feeds.

That helped me to find my role as a Corporate Partnerships Officer with The Children’s Society. I’m focused on trying to add value to The Children’s Society by thinking about how businesses can help us and how we can help them. Lots of organisations want help to build trust with the public and we can supply a purposeful proposition to them, which creates a stronger partnership than just donating financially.

I’ve found that a lot of my skills from my degree suited this job role. For example, we need to do a lot of research into the companies we work with. Doing this due diligence – the digging and scanning through things, and finding the key information – has been helped by the skills I gained during my degree. I also developed skills in writing and being able to confidently talk about what we do.

Find something you’re passionate about

Working for Amnesty outside of my school lessons, helped me find what I wanted to do and choose a degree that was perfect for me. Human rights was something that I was deeply interested in, but it wasn’t something I knew could be more than a hobby.

If I had given up on this passion, I don’t think I would have found a degree that I enjoyed, or had a clear idea of which sector I wanted to go into when searching for graduate jobs.

Advice for someone considering studying Politics and International Relations

The more you put in, the more you will get out.

Do not be afraid to engage with your lecturers – be curious!

What is social science and why study at Bath?

Some of our staff, students and graduates, including Emily, talk about what social science means to them in our promotional film.

Are you interested in studying BSc (Hons) Politics and International Relations?

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