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What do you actually do? - a podcast from Careers and Placements

What do you actually do is a podcast released every other week during term time.

Have you ever wondered what a particular job actually involves? Our podcast series What do you actually do? aims to answer that question.

What do you do all day? What skills do you need? How did you get the job? What advice do you have for students?

Get the answers to these questions along with career inspiration, top tips and insider knowledge every other week when Kate Morris asks our guest, ‘What do you actually do?’

Each podcast is accompanied by useful links to help you do more research and a blog post with a full transcript of the episode.

Life as a CEO: running Cafédirect

Think you want to be a CEO? Interested in marketing, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) or the world of ethical business? This episode is for you. John Steel is the CEO of Cafédirect and has worked his way up through a number of FMCG businesses after beginning his career in a marketing grad scheme.

Even if you're not interested in this area of work, it's worth listening for John's insights into finding value in your working life.

Find a transcript and useful links on our blog.

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Browse our previous episodes

Season 11 - Summer 2021/22

Financial services

Ben graduated from York with a degree in Philosophy and after a few years found himself working in the financial services sector for Deloitte. It wasn't something he planned. In the episode Ben explains how his first impressions of the sector were wrong, how you don't need a 'big summer internship' to get into finance and how he's found a job that's a perfect fit for his strengths and skills. His job title is Associate Director - Global Mobility (Tax).

Ben's bio: I'm a Philosophy graduate who has quite accidentally ended up working in Financial Services. It's an industry I didn't expect to enjoy working in - I couldn't be happier to have been wrong about that. In my role, I help people making international moves (and their employers) understand the tax implications of doing so.

Find useful links and a full transcript on our blog.

Working in international development

This episode is for anyone interested in international development or the humanitarian sector. Rob Simmons works in Somalia for Committed to Good and was speaking to Kate from a shipping container at the airport in Mogadishu. Rob tells us what you need to get into this kind of work, the best bits and the worst bits. He also shares his advice on how students can approach people working in the sector.

There's a full transcript and useful links on our blog.

Student Internship Bureau special

Did you know that each summer loads of York students do an internship through the Student Internship Bureau (SIB)? SIB advertises paid, project-based internships in and around York that are exclusively for York students.

In this episode Kate talks to Ashley, an Interactive Media student who recently completed an internship as a graphic designer at Experience Heritage. She talks about what it's like being an intern and the skills she learned. If you're an international student you'll be especially interested to hear Ashley's advice.

Interested in doing your own internship this summer? Vacancies are live right now! Find out more and browse the internships on our SIB webpage.

Ashley's bio: Ashley is an international student from Singapore with a deep passion for digital art and design, currently taking York's Interactive Media degree. She enjoys getting involved in the creative scene, be it through internships, York Creatives' events or being part of the HARD Magazine Committee.

There's a full transcript and useful links on our blog.

Season 10 - Spring 2021/22

What do you actually do if you're graduating in a global pandemic?!: 2022 edition

The worst of the pandemic might (hopefully) be behind us but the world of work has permanently changed because of Covid-19.

Remote working is here to stay for many people and some sectors hit hard by the pandemic are still to properly recover. For our students, you may have had fewer chances to build up work experience. What does all this mean for your graduate job search?

In this episode we hear Kate and Enrico Reuter, lecturer in public and social policy, reflect on this and answer questions from York students. They also listen back to highlights from past podcast episodes. Full transcript and useful links on our blog.

We released Part 1 of this podcast back in summer 2020.

Environmental Consultant

Kadi is an environmental consultant who coordinates and project manages the environmental inputs for big infrastructure projects. She's also a York Environmental Science graduate. In this episode Kadi and Kate talk about what she does each day, the parts of the job she likes the most, and what York students interested in environmental consulting can do right now to prepare for their future careers. Find a full transcript and useful links on our blog.

University widening participation officer

Interested in a non-academic job in higher education? In this episode Kate talks to Victoria Brooks about her job as Widening Participation and Outreach Project Officer at the University of Liverpool. This is a really interesting area of higher education work. Read the blog for a transcript and some useful links.

Engineer - European Space Agency

Neil studied Physics with Philosophy at York and has been working at the European Space Agency since 2002. His full job title is Parabolic Flight and Drop Tower Coordinator and Payload Systems Engineer. Listen to the episode to find out more about exactly what he does, how he managed to get the job and his advice for students wanting a similar career. The transcript and useful links are on our blog.

Prison Officer (Unlocked Graduate scheme)

In this episode Kate talks to Dan, a York graduate working as a prison officer on the Unlocked grad scheme. Find related links and a transcript of this episode on our blog.

Dan is a 2019 graduate from the University of York and currently a band three prison officer in a category B local remand men’s prison.

He was placed and supported by Unlocked Graduates, a graduate leadership development programme that 'recruits outstanding graduates and career changers to become exceptional prison officers.' It offers a fully funded and tailored MSc to graduates on the programme.

Dan works with some of the most vulnerable people in society with the aim of reducing recidivism rates and creating long lasting change in our criminal justice system.

Season 9 - Autumn 2021/22

Civil Service Fast Stream

The Civil Service Fast Stream is one of the most popular grad schemes in the country and the Times Top 100 number 1 graduate employer. In this episode, Kate talks to Will Simpson, a current Fast Streamer, about what he actually does all day, the best and worst bits, and his advice for students applying to the scheme.

Will graduated from York in 2020 with a BA in Politics and is currently on the Civil Service Fast Stream in the HR scheme. He’s based in the Department for Work and Pensions.

Aldi Graduate Area Manager Programme

The Aldi grad scheme has a reputation for being challenging, giving its grads a lot of responsibility and having great benefits. After 15 weeks on the scheme you'll be put in charge of a store and after a year you'll be an Area Manager. In this episode Heather Wilkinson tells us about how she got on the scheme and what it's actually like.

Heather spent five years as an Area Manager with Aldi after going through the Aldi Graduate Area Manager Programme. In that time she managed five stores and was responsible for around 150 employees. She graduated with a degree in History and recently started a new role as Operations Manager at Amazon.

Film composer

In this episode Benji Merrison explains how he created a career for himself as a composer for film and television after graduating from York. He takes us through what his job is like day-to-day and how he got there. 

Benji Merrison is an award winning composer providing bespoke music for Film and Television. He has devoted his life to music. He was recognised at a very young age as a prodigious talent, both as a performer and composer, and went on to obtain a BA (Hons) in Music and an MSc in Music Technology from the University of York. He also studied Jazz Piano with Howard Riley at Goldsmiths University.

After his studies he settled in London to embark on his career as a full-time composer in 2001.

Management consultant

Management consultancy is always a popular job area with our students, but do you actually know what the job is like? Today Kate chats to Jo Auger about what she does all day, the skills she uses, and the best and worst bits.

Jo has been a Management Consultant since graduating in 2006. She started her career on Capgemini's graduate scheme, moved to EY in 2015 and has been at Gate One since 2020. In the past 15 years she has worked for a number of clients across multiple sectors and now balances a full time career in consulting with raising her two young sons.

Season 8 - Summer 2020/21

Working in heritage: In the archive in lockdown

In this episode Kate talks to Paul Backhouse, Head of the Historic England Archive. They cover tech skills in the heritage sector, imposter syndrome, the pandemic and a lot more.

Paul is an archaeologist at heart, whose accidental career has spanned roles in graphics, publications, survey, archive, IT and telecoms. His projects include the complete 3D laser-scan survey of Stonehenge, the creation of an exhibition in Da Ming, China on the Archaeology of the Silk Road. The project he is most proud of, is his contribution to the excavation and identification of 400 First World War soldiers killed in the Battle of Fromelles in the Somme, France.

Changing careers: switching heritage for accounting, with Alice Yevko

When you’re looking for your first job after graduation it can sometimes feel like you’re picking a career for life, but that’s far from true. In this episode we chat to York grad Alice who started working in the heritage sector before switching to accounting.

Alice is a year 1 trainee chartered accountant at Godfrey Wilson Limited, a small, charity-specialist practice. Her day-to-day brings her into contact with a wide variety of clients in the charity sector and accountancy assignments. She is also undertaking the ACA, the qualification for ICAEW chartered accountants. Alice is a History graduate. Prior to this, she learned about the medieval world through the MA in Medieval Studies at the University of York, and worked as a partnerships and impact administrator at the Centre for the Study of Christianity & Culture.

How to make a portfolio career work

Our guest today is Dan Rutstein, whose career history is proof that you definitely don’t have to pick one job and stick to it. Dan graduated from York and his career (so far) has included journalism, diplomacy, consultancy and podcasting. Kate and Dan talk about taking opportunities, transferable skills, the importance of networking and how to make a ‘portfolio career’ work.

Dan's first career was as a journalist, a news reporter at the York Evening Press before working in sport at the Bradford Telegraph & Argus and then Bermuda's Royal Gazette. He then joined the British Government, working in London for the transport and business departments before serving abroad as a diplomat in Germany and Los Angeles. He was President of immersive technology company Laduma before being laid off during the pandemic. He now works as a consultant with Orange County Soccer Club, helping them with their international expansion. He hosts three podcasts - United States of Dramerica, Screaming into the Hollywood Abyss and America the Beautiful Game.

Training to be a lawyer, with Alex Stewart-Moreno

Alex graduated from York a couple of years ago. He studied Law and is now a trainee at Norton Rose Fulbright. He tells us about the reality of being a trainee, the best and worse bits, and what it’s like doing your training from home during a pandemic. He has some good tips for future trainees.

Alex is a trainee solicitor in the Project Finance Team of Norton Rose Fulbright's Banking Department. He works on transactions for the financing and construction of projects in the energy, infrastructure, and natural resources sectors in a range of jurisdictions.

Want to find out more? Find useful links and a full transcript on our blog.

Six key questions you need to know the answers to if you’re graduating in 2021

To celebrate graduation week here in York we have a special episode covering the key things you need to know about graduating in 2021 in the middle of a global pandemic.

We cover how to start a new job from home, what to do if Covid stopped you from getting work experience, how to future-proof your career, and more!

Season 7 - Spring 2020/21

Talking census: a career in genealogy, with Christina Copland

Christina works for the family history company Ancestry, where she researches client families in the U.S, Canada, U.K, Ireland and the Caribbean. She gained a PhD in History from the University of Southern California in 2018, and before that an MA in Modern History from the University of York. Her research focused on the relationship between capitalism, education and fundamentalist Christianity in 20th century Los Angeles.

Exploring clinical science, with John Filby

John is a clinical scientist at Congenica, a digital health company specialising in genomic medicine. Before that he worked in the genomics service in the NHS and completed the NHS Scientist Training Programme. He graduated from York in 2012. In this episode, John and Kate talk about the opportunities in clinical sciences, his tips for current students, and how the pandemic has changed his working day.

Running an advertising firm, with Luke D'Arcy

Luke is President at Momentum Worldwide, the most awarded global experiential agency in the world. With offices in over 30 countries the agency works for clients such as Samsung, Verizon, American Express, Microsoft, Coca Cola and Nike. He is a Harvard Business School alumni and has previously worked across numerous global marketing networks as well as client side for Richard Branson leading the launch of the Formula One team at Virgin. Outside of work he juggles 5 kids and tries desperately to find time to keep fit.

This episode is essential listening not just for students interested in breaking into the advertising industry, but for anyone wanting to work in a position of leadership. Luke tells Kate about his career journey, what he does every day, and what he looks for when recruiting new graduates.

English grad to junior doctor: Graduate medicine and beyond, with Ian Henderson

Ian is an Academic Clinical Fellow and junior doctor in Obstetrics & Gynaecology. After graduating in English during the 2008 credit crunch, he pursued Graduate Entry Medicine and an MSc in Global Health Science. He divides his time between clinical work and research into complications of pregnancy.

Changing fast: working in agile project management, with Alison Critchley

After graduating from York in 2011, Alison started her working life in account management before taking a short career break to figure out what she actually wanted to do. She now works for the Co-op's start up Health business in Manchester as a Technology Delivery Manager but has done a variety of roles in 5 years with Co-op. She is also a Big Sister for the Girls Out Loud mentoring programme.

Alison and Kate talk about changing careers shortly after graduation and the skills you need to work in agile project management.

Season 6 - Autumn 2020/21

A career in corporate social responsibility, with Daniel Arda

Daniel is Sustainability Assistant Manager at Grant Thornton UK LLP. During six years in professional services, he has inspired colleagues to get involved with initiatives aligned around education, employability and enterprise as well as the environment, mental health and microfinance. Prior to that he spent seven years in the charity sector, primarily in internal communications. Daniel graduated with a BA in English (European) and MA in American Literature and Culture (European) at the University of Leeds. He is currently an Executive MBA candidate at Cranfield School of Management.

Life as a social worker, with Bethany Pease

Bethany graduated from York three years ago with a degree in Social Work. She now works in the fostering team in a local authority, and previously worked in child protection. In this episode Bethany and Kate talk about what the job is like, the key skills you need and tips for getting into the sector.

From TV to tech, with Vivien Chung

Vivien graduated from York with a degree in English and Education, and spent three years working in the TV industry at institutions like the BBC before deciding she wanted a career change. Four years later, she now works in the business technology industry, managing complex systems implementations for companies in the retail, manufacturing and service sectors to enable them to refine and better their business processes.

Making a splash, with Tom Pagett

Tom has worked at the Environment Agency for the last 10 years, in a range of roles from planning to environmental regulation, flood risk, and biodiversity. He is currently managing the largest river restoration project in the North, creating new habitat and re-naturalising the River Derwent, one of the most important lowland rivers in Europe.

Leading innovation in the legal sector, with Alexander Malt

Alex is the Innovation Manager at Norton Rose Fulbright’s Newcastle Hub, where he works at the forefront of technological innovation in the legal sector.  He graduated with a PhD in Philosophy, with overlapping interests in linguistics, cognitive science and economics. In this episode, Alex and Kate talk about what exactly he does each day, how he got the job and how his PhD helped him.

Season 5 - Summer 2019/20

Managing a University, with Charlie Jeffery

Charlie Jeffery is Vice Chancellor and President of the University of York. He is a political scientist whose main work in the last years has been constitutional politics in the UK. He joined York from the University of Edinburgh where he had been Senior Vice-Principal since 2014. Prior to that, he was Vice-Principal (Public Policy) having been Professor of Politics at Edinburgh since 2004.

Starting a Startup, with Phil Daneshyar

Phil Daneshyar is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Kanda (formerly TradeSmart), which is a payment system for tradespeople.  He appeared on Dragons' Den in 2017, with his idea 'Thirsti.' Phil studied PPE at the University of York.

Flirting with Algorithms, with Harpal Sahota

Harpal Sahota is a data scientist at MagicLab, who operate a number of dating apps, including Bumble & Lumen. He studied an MA in Computational Biology at the University of York, and went on to take a PhD in Computational Biology at University of London, before entering the job market, working for the likes of YouGov before settling at MagicLab, where he has worked since January 2020.

Making Medicine, with Tom Ronson

Tom works as a process development chemist at the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. He is part of the Chemical Development department, which is responsible for developing efficient and robust manufacturing processes for active pharmaceutical ingredients. He holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of York.

Graduating in a global pandemic, with Tom Banham

Recorded during the lockdown, Kate and Tom, Director of Employability and Careers at the University of York, talk about what it's going to be like for graduates going into the job market in the middle of a global pandemic. They look at how the job market was hit in previous recessions and what might be different this time.

Season 4 - Spring 2019/20

Placement year in a political think tank, with Andrew Gloag

Andrew is a final year Politics student at York. He has just returned from a placement year with London based think tank Demos. As a research assistant, Andrew was involved in conducting qualitative and quantitative research, including gathering, preparing and analysing data, organising and conducting focus groups and interviews and designing research materials.

On the beat, with Ross Gehnich

Ross has worked for Thames Valley Police since graduating in 2010, undertaking a variety of different and challenging roles. Currently, he works as a Neighbourhood Policing Sergeant, leading a team of 6 Police Officers and 12 Police Community Support Officers covering a diverse community. Additionally, he is accredited as a Public Order Officer and oversees a Volunteer Police Cadet Unit which supports 30 young people including many from vulnerable backgrounds.

A day in the life of a BBC journalist, with Lucy Vladev

Lucy is a TV reporter, producer and presenter for the BBC. In this episode, we talked about the skills that are required to go into journalism and how Lucy got to where she is today, from studying Bioarchaeology at York. Lucy provides students with advice on what to do at university in order to develop their career in media.

Pollution is in the air, with Aiden Heeley-Hill

Aiden is a PhD candidate in atmospheric chemistry at the University of York, currently researching indoor air pollutants and, more widely, characterising indoor environments. He holds a BSc and MSc in environmental science and is a keen science communicator, covering a range of interdisciplinary topics pertinent to his research area.

Writing for a living, with Lewis Lansford

After getting a BA in English Lit at the University of Colorado, Lewis initially worked at a proofreader at the University of Arizona Press in Tucson, then spent about six months teaching English in Barcelona. After that, he earned an MA in teaching English to speakers of other languages, then taught at a US university and then a manufacturing company in Japan. In 1995, Lewis took an editorial job with an international publisher in Hong Kong, and in 1997 became a freelance editor, project manager and writer in the UK. He now writes full time. Lewis has worked on books, videos, tests, audio materials, worksheets, apps and online materials for learners of all ages across the world.

Season 3 - Autumn 2019/20

Get into book publishing, with Helen Barton

Helen is a Commissioning Editor at Cambridge University Press, responsible for hundreds of upcoming books at any one time. In this episode, Helen and Kate talk about how to get work experience, the key skill you need and what the job is actually like.

Managing the economic growth of York, with Alex Dochery

Alex currently manages the Economic Growth team at City of York Council, which focuses on making sure that the city continues to be a fantastic place to live and to do business. Alex also works for the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Enterprise Partnership supporting work on their Local Industrial Strategy.

Marketing in the museum, with Tasha McNaught

Tasha has worked in marketing for five years, having started while studying at the University of York. For the past two years she has lead the development of digital and relationship marketing at the National Railway Museum, working on national and regional campaigns including the tour of Tim Peake's Spacecraft. Working with mental health conditions and lived experience of poverty.

Making people's lives healthier, with Sam Thomas

Sam Thomas leads funding programmes for the Health Foundation, an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and healthcare for people across the UK. He previously led policy influencing work for a coalition of national charities focused on social issues including homelessness, substance misuse and mental ill health. He is a graduate of the University of York.

Calling the Midwife, with Jessica Allason

Jess Allason has been a midwife for six years and recently trained as a private hypnobirth teacher. She is passionate about informing and empowering women in their choices around childbirth, because a woman will never forget how she felt on the day of her birth and may impact her for the rest of her life! Jess has worked in all settings of midwifery, including a busy delivery suite, postnatal ward and in a community setting, offering continuity of carer and home birth services.

Season 2 - Summer 2018/19

Summer Internship: It's not easy being green, with Oscar Bentley

Oscar is a third year BSc Film and Television Production student. Over the summer, he did a sustainability programme internship in the Department of Estates and Campus Services at the University of York.

Historical consulting for video games, with Nicholas Gliserman

Dr Nicholas Gliserman is the Chief Academic Officer at Game Learning, where he oversees development of educational video games that get kids excited about history. He holds a PhD in history as well as an MS in Geographical Information Science and Technology, both from the University of Southern California.

Summer Internship: Make it yours! with Julia Hebron

Julia is a third-year BA English Language and Linguistics student. In the summer she did a SIB internship with Make It York where she conducted market research into the creative and digital businesses in the city. Her responsibilities included research, analysing the findings, writing reports, maintaining social media and compiling newsletters for Science City York, a branch of the organisation. 

Getting on a top grad scheme, with Lewis McDowell

Lewis graduated from the University of York in 2018 with a Management degree. His journey into marketing and L’Oreal begun upon winning the Male Undergraduate of the Year award, on the back of which he secured a year-long placement year at L’Oreal. After returning for his final year, Lewis secured his L’Oreal Graduate scheme, composed of three six month long rotations.

How to train your teacher, with Sarah Dagnell

Sarah is a Primary STEM Subject Expert, running training courses, predominantly in Science but also in Technology, Computing, and Maths, for primary school teachers. She also mentors on school improvement initiatives and helps to develop resources such as online training programmes accessed worldwide.

Season 1 - Spring 2018/19

From lecture theatres to film sets, with Hannah Greig

Dr Hannah Greig is a Senior Lecturer in the History Department and member of the Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies. Her research interests lie in the social, political and material history of Britain in the long eighteenth century (c.1688-1830). She is also an experienced consultant for film, television and theatre productions.

Bringing social media into The Economist, with Adam Smith

Adam Smith is a writer, journalist, podcaster and social media editor. In his day job he's the audience engagement editor for The Economist, a global news magazine, where he focuses on stimulating online conversation around articles. He also reports on LGBT+ issues as a journalist and makes the podcast Karl's Kaschemme, about queer desire. 

Within and without the laboratory, with Stefan Sipika

Stefan holds a BSc (Hons) in Biology from the University of York. He currently works for Aptamer Group as their Process and Production Manager, leading the laboratory team in delivering results to customers. Prior to joining Aptamer Group, he worked for a leading multinational CRO, specialising in GMP Protein Chemistry for 7 years. He has worked on a variety of products, covering pre-clinical to market release testing for multiple high profile clients around the world.

Getting involved with theatre, with John Tomlinson

John is a producer at York Theatre Royal and company director at Stand and Be Counted.

I ❤ Compliance, with Kate Pyle

Kate is the Compliance and Corporate Services Manager at St Leonard's Hospice.

Lecturing is the tip of the iceberg, with J.T. Welsch

JT Welsch is a Lecturer in English and Creative Industries at the University of York's Department of English and Related Literature.

Pursuing your passions in the charity sector, with Cat Schroeter

Cat graduated from Newcastle University with a Psychology and Linguistics degree in 2015. While at university, she was on the committee for the Raising and Giving Society, where she gained a passion for fundraising and supporting causes in her local community. In the lead up to graduating from university, Cat was unsure about the career path she wanted to take, but she knew that fundraising was something she really enjoyed and cared about. Cat was quite lucky in that Action for Children had a vacancy in their Fundraising Team at the time she was graduating. She started with Action for Children in June 2015, in the position of Community Fundraiser for Yorkshire, and in September this year she has progressed to the role of Senior Community Fundraiser, covering North East & Yorkshire.

All roads lead to film-making, with Richard Knight

For many years Richard Knight worked in the film industry as a freelance location manager, sourcing and organising the locations for films such as the BAFTA award-winning "This is England" and "FourLions", television dramas including "This is England 86, 88 and 90" "Prisoners Wives" and "Utopia", commercials for the likes of Vogue, Gucci, New Balance, Selfridges and Santander, and music videos for the Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg and Louis Tomlinson. In recent years he has worked at Screen Yorkshire providing practical and logistical support to Screen Yorkshire-backed projects, and devising and running a range of training and crew development initiatives.

Being a project manager, with Laura Hallett

Laura has worked as a professional manager in Higher Education for 10 years, focusing on strategic project management across a range of institutions. She currently leads the Strategic Projects and Change function at York St John University with responsibility for the delivery of major projects aligned to the University strategy.

Related pages

  • Explore your ideas - start here if you're struggling to work out what you want to do after you graduate.
  • Job sector pages - overview of how to get into some of the most popular career areas.
  • York Profiles and Mentors - find out what York graduates are doing, ask them questions and send mentoring requests.
  • Talk to usoverview of our appointments if you need to talk to someone face-to-face.