Stepping into a graduate career with true Sussex spirit

Business School alumna Suzie Eastman (BA Economics 2020)

Business School alumna Suzie Eastman (BA Economics 2020) talks about how her formative role on the Student Connector Programme and taking part in the Spirit of Sussex Award helped launch her new career with HSBC as a Data Analyst.  

During my final year of university, I applied for the Spirit of Sussex Award Connector role. In all honesty, I didn’t know exactly what a ‘Connector’ or ‘The Spirit of Sussex Award’ was, as this was the first Connector project to kick off the programme and the Award did not yet exist. However, it appeared the perfect opportunity for me to expand my skills and help develop a new initiative at the University. I was pleased to join one of the eight Spirit of Sussex Award Connectors.

Being a Connector

My role as a Connector gave me an insight into what a post-university job could entail. My responsibilities included event planning, writing website content, working in a team, attending regular meetings, and recording a radio segment. As someone who has never known what career I would like to pursue, this was the perfect opportunity for me to discover which areas of work I enjoyed most. For example, I found I thrived when working in a team during event planning rather than writing website content.

One achievement that I am proud of and particularly enjoyed developing is the Spirit of Sussex Award branding. We faced multiple hurdles to ensure the branding was engaging for students. Through teamwork and clear communication we ended up with a strong brand for the Spirit of Sussex Award, leaving the team super pleased.

Stepping out of my comfort zone

After completing my degree, my role as a Connector ended in summer 2020. My struggle to secure a graduate job combined with the fast development of the pandemic left me uncertain about the near future. I discussed the possibility of extending my time within the Student Engagement and Enhancement team. Although I was unsuccessful when applying for the Connector Intern role, I was offered the position of Access and Participation Assistant within the team. Here, I was offered the chance to manage a new team of Connectors with one of my colleagues. I was nervous about this as it wasn’t something I had ever done before; however I knew it would be a great opportunity to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone.

As I was in a leadership position, this was a skill I was able to develop by guiding the Connectors and helping them overcome challenges within their teams, which was a great achievement for me. I also helped recruit new Connector teams, supported the Spirit of Sussex Award management and evaluate projects. For example, I worked with the Spirit of Sussex Award Connectors to plan for a virtual graduation and ensure the ceremony for students’ receiving their Awards would be special. With another Connector, I also worked on evaluating initial feedback on the Spirit of Sussex Award platform to generate a report, including our suggestions for improvements for the Award.

At the end of February 2021, I was invited to an assessment centre for a graduate role I had applied for. Although it was an extremely tough process, I was lucky enough to be offered the job and will be joining HSBC bank as a Data Analyst this summer. Without the experience I gained through my roles as a Student Connector and Access and Participation Assistant, I know that I would not have secured this graduate role. I have refined specific skills in these roles, such as confidence and communication.

Valuable insights into working life

I learnt a vast amount through working in the Student Engagement and Enhancement team. The Connector jobs are extremely valuable for students as they allow you to establish and expand transferable skills, meet new people, and develop an idea of what tasks and responsibilities a job after university could involve. My own experience demonstrates that you don’t know where these roles can take you, as I am entering a completely unrelated field!

The Connector programme provided a solid foundation to allow me to secure this role. My time in the Student Engagement and Enhancement team has been incredibly enriching and I can’t thank them enough for helping to set me up for my new role. I’m excited for my next chapter and for what the future holds.

Find out how you can develop your skills and prepare for post-university life by participating in The Connector Programme and the Spirit of Sussex Award.

Posted in Business School life, Economics

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