Orkney Community Transport Organisation
Sean describes how his analytical skills from his French and Philosophy degree help him in his placement on his native Orkney.
What is your background?
I'm originally from Orkney and grew up here. I went to the University of St Andrews where I studied French and Philosophy (with an Integrated Year Abroad). The year abroad gave me the opportunity to work as a language assistant, teaching English in a french secondary school. I found out I had got a job on the TalentScotland (now ScotGrad) scheme the day of my graduation! The only business based experience I had was Young Enterprise and doing Higher Business Management.
Why did you apply to the Graduate Placement Programme?
I applied because it basically provided me with everything that I wanted. It's a job with responsibility, in a relatively small organisation, so you have direct contact with the people in charge of running it. It's a great stepping stone to be able to say I've gone and done X, Y and Z in a real work environment, and it's a great overview of the whole of a company to help decide what area I want to work in in the future.
What project are you involved in?
First of all, I'm developing new services for the bus company to offer. So far, I've put together a tender bid to the local council, which we won and now have a contract in place for 2 years for a cruise liner shuttle bus service. I've also had to deal with the council, the police and several representatives in the tourism industry to put together a plan for a tourist based bus service for next summer, which is coming together. Secondly, I'm developing a business plan and a marketing plan for the company. It needed me to really understand the business, which is why I've become so involved in running it - to see what works or what could be improved so that the business plan is a true reflection of where the company's at, how we're making money and what we can do in the future to improve or expand.
What have you learned on placement so far?
One of the main things I've learnt so far is just how transferable the skills I learnt at University actually are. Between the analytic approach that was central to my philosohical studies, and the confidence and communication skills which come from a language degree, I can really see things I've learnt being put to use. That's not to mention the more business orientated experience and exposure to business concepts and techniques, which means for more to me than sitting learning about it and writing essays on it.
What have you taken away from the training course you attended as part of the Programme?
The training course was a lot of fun, and it was really interesting to see what other people are doing, and the variety of routes they've taken to arriving on the scheme. Most of all, it gave me a few tools and things to think about to make sure what I was doing with the project was really on the right track, as well as information on the more technical aspects of business that it's difficult to pick up 'on-the-job'. I also thought the personal skills that were looked at will be really useful in advancing my career.
What advice would you give to other graduates?
If someone was going into a placement like mine in a small company, I would say just keep asking questions - especially 'why'. Hopefully, your manager will be able to tell you why decisions were taken and the factors they considered, and whether or not they think it has worked. And if they can't answer it, it's really useful for the organisation, as well as you personally, to try to find out why things work or don't work. That's how I've got exposure to so much of the organisation, from the booking system to the budgeting and strategic planning, just by asking how and why things are done.
What are you future career plans?
I'm not really sure yet, but I'm narrowing it down the more work I do on my placement. I've really enjoyed the financial analysis and trying to put together costings for different potential projects and seeing what affect they will have on future cash flow and profits. So I think I'm looking to move into some sort of finance positions, possibly through trying to find a training placement to become a Chartered Accountant and then moving those skills back into a hands-on business role.