Olivia Houlston

Olivia Houlston profile

National Management Trainee on the National Graduate Development Programme

Graduated in 2017 

Former BA (Hons) English and Drama student, Olivia Houlston, answered a few questions for us about her time at Birmingham City University and what she has been doing since she graduated.

Hi Olivia.  What course did you choose to study and why?
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I studied English and Drama because I really enjoyed how the drama modules explained complex theory and ideas through presentations and performance assignments. It meant I could learn through being creative.

When you started university, did you know what you wanted to do as a career?

I had no idea what I wanted to do in terms of careers. When I got to university I had my heart set on continuing with study afterwards, perhaps with the intention of getting into lecturing. I didn’t mind which area I would go into for work, but I definitely wanted to go onto postgraduate study.

Was there a particular module that sparked an interest in a topic you’d never considered before?

I had never studied politics before but the ‘Contemporary Theatre and Theory’ and ‘Stage and Society’ modules introduced me to the impact of politics on people’s lives. This definitely helped me in my decision to work in Local Government.

As you worked as a Student Ambassador for the University, did this encourage you to pursue a career in a similar field?

Without a doubt! Getting the chance to work as a Student Ambassador and Student Mentor for the School of English, and also as a Project Leader for the Undergraduate Conference, encouraged me to get a job in management. These roles gave me experience in working with people and helping people, using completely different skills to my previous jobs in retail. Without these opportunities I wouldn’t have found the job I currently do.

What is your current role?

I’m a National Management Trainee on the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) based at Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council. It’s a Local Government graduate scheme where graduates rotate around different services areas to get as much experience as possible in two years. I am really lucky to have secured this job as it is competitive. It’s a full-time job and you work towards a Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership and Management. No two days are the same and I’ve attended events in Birmingham, Warwick, London and Liverpool which has helped me to network with a lot of people!

What main skill from your university days will you take with you through your life?

Having an English degree helps me every day at work. I have worked on projects that involve editing, designing, proofreading, writing content, giving presentations, talking to people, working to tight deadlines and having multiple tasks to complete at once. If I hadn’t studied a course which had the types of assignments and skills the BA English course did, I would probably struggle to complete my work! The interpersonal skills and written skills I developed at university are invaluable today.

How has your life changed since you have graduated?

I moved into a flat in June. This was because I had secured my graduate job and knew I’d be staying in and around Birmingham for the next two years. In-between graduation and starting a graduate job, I worked part-time in retail, bought a kitten and settled into my flat. Although this was a financial strain and took a long time to furnish, it meant I was settled in time for the job starting in October. I have continued my hobbies from university such as playing football and reading at least one book every week, and have recently started weekly yoga classes.

It can be difficult adjusting to managing your own money, paying bills, getting up early every day for work, being away from home and being a proper adult; but I am proud of studying a course which set me up perfectly for full-time work.