Graduates & Students

My time behind the scenes at ScotGrad

Bethany Ansell completed a graduate placement with the ScotGrad team in 2017. Here she talks about her experiences of moving up to the Highlands, starting a new job after uni, and the life lessons she takes away with her.

Published: 12/12/2017

Sometimes there comes a point when you've heard so many names that you remember none of them.

That was me on my first day of my ScotGrad Placement.

In June I was offered the position of Communications Assistant for ScotGrad Highlands and Islands (H&I). My role was to raise awareness of ScotGrad both online and in person and to support the delivery of the student and graduate programmes. A couple of weeks after I received this offer, I graduated. There was barely enough time to take off my graduation gown before I was chucking all my possessions into the boot of my old Ford Focus and taking the four hour drive up the A9 to Inverness.

And now here I was on a whistle-stop tour of the office given by my boss, Karla, desperately trying to remember names, processes, systems, passwords and the tea and coffee arrangements.

That first week was a blur. This wasn't just a new job, this was a completely new experience. I had spent the last four years in the St Andrews library. Now I was a graduate, with a graduate job. I also had a fairly limited experience of the Highlands up to this point, save for a rather bleak summer holiday to Wick in 2011. Now I was living in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, miles away from friends and family.

Indeed, I moved to the Highlands expecting to be twiddling my thumbs in my spare time.  But the Highlands has so much to offer in terms of adventure sports, walking, arts and culture and, ahem, whisky and gin distilleries that I was never strapped of ways to update my Instagram followers on my #highlandadventure. I decided to throw myself into new activities so much so that, somewhat out of character, I joined the local kayak club. Safe to say I have no undiscovered talent where water sports are concerned.

And it was now part of my job description to encourage other young people to go north. This was definitely one of the more difficult yet most rewarding aspects of working for ScotGrad H&I.

So many young people have a mental block when it comes to living and working in the Highlands and Islands. They prefer the bright lights and the big city not aging populations and rural communities. When I promoted ScotGrad on social media, at careers fairs and at workshops I was often faced with this misconception that the Highlands and Islands is just 'a bit too far north'. Yet when I chatted to those on our programme in the Highlands and Islands I found that, like me, they had discovered the wealth of opportunities that there was in their new communities and in their new workplaces. Some of our graduates and student have spent their spare time wild swimming, hill-walking and getting involved in the local music scene.  And so many of our graduates and students have implemented vital marketing and business improvement strategies, brought in new systems and helped refine scientific processes.  

I believe that I too have made a difference on my placement. I've organised and emceed ScotGrad events and led a workshop on improving social media. I have created a huge database on potential marketing opportunities (affectionately entitled 'The Monster'). There have also been so many occasions where I have been encouraged to try something new or test out an idea. My team have listened to my slightly off the wall social media suggestions and tolerated the multiple boomerangs of my manic dance moves that I have uploaded to ScotGrad's Instagram feed. They have even witnessed my struggle to acclimatise to Highland temperatures, wrapping myself in a blanket scarf and pouring myself endless cups of teas in order to keep warm.

I was also encouraged to take on new learning opportunities and so I attended every workshop I could, unwittingly becoming part of a community of workshop 'groupees' who tour all the marketing workshops in the Inverness and Surrounds area.

The biggest learning opportunity I faced was in November. I had been chosen by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to represent them at the Young Scotland Programme, a four day event which develops the communication skills of people in the early stages of their career in Scotland by encouraging public speaking and debate. I was highly commended for my argument on English nationality and have got some exciting opportunities ahead off the back of the programme.

It has also been a real encouragement to see how much the ScotGrad team cares about giving young people a kick start to their career. In a graduate job market full of unpaid internships and 'fetch-the-coffee' jobs, the ScotGrad team work tirelessly to make sure each placement is project-based, linked to business growth and pays a living-wage salary. Moreover they ensure that each student and graduate is supported throughout and is given training to help them flourish further in their placement. 

Now it's the end of my time at ScotGrad and I am faced with the unenviable task of clearing out my cluttered locker and saying goodbye to colleagues and friends. But ScotGrad and the Highlands have given me very happy memories and have opened my eyes to this one important life-lesson: Saying yes to the unknown could be your best decision yet.

ScotGrad, I will miss you.

Graduate placement ScotGrad