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Rachel Steiner

BSc Physical Geography, 2008

Rachel graduated in 2008
Rachel Steiner

What was your first job after graduating?

Research Assistant at Ordnance Survey

What is your current job?

Engineering Maths and Physics Project Development Manager at Primary Engineer.

What has been your favourite job since you graduated?

I worked for 3 months for Lab in a Lorry at the Institute of Physics. This was a giant lorry that went round secondary schools, and I was in charge of it all. The workload was immense. In my first 2 weeks training in Scotland I ended up doing 3 weeks worth of work. However, I learnt so much about working with volunteers and teachers, co-ordinating everyone and overcoming obstacles (such as the power going out.). It was only a 3 month contract, which meant a very steep learning curve and the worry of finding another job was constantly over me. It made me work really hard, and I was able to see what I was capable of. I loved the variety that every day brought. I worked with 3 volunteers every single day so it was a great way to meet new people and was very sociable. My favourite thing about it was being able to tell people I worked on a lorry.

What have been the turning points in your career?

When I left Ordnance Survey I had a choice- continue with a GIS/remote sensing career (what I had studied at university) or go in a different direction. I decided to do something completely different, and got a job where I was volunteering- a science centre for children. The pay was less than half what I had been on at Ordnance Survey, but it was so much fun. Every day I was doing something different, and I barely sat down. This was a real turning point in my career, as since then all of my jobs have been about physics education, even though I am not a physicist at all. It has made me realise that although university teaches you subject knowledge, you also need to think about what skills you have when looking for a job. For example my skills are in communication with children, empathy, teamwork and organisation. My previous job didn't use those skills at all.

Do you have any regrets about decisions you have made about your career?

Not at all. With every job I have learnt something about myself, which helps me realise what kind of jobs I like and don't like. Never stay in a job you hate, take the risk, be ambitious and get a different one.

What are you most proud of?

I have never been unemployed despite leaving university in a recession. I took a big risk leaving a permanent position to take on a 3 month contract for Lab in a Lorry. I didn't know that I would be able to get a job after it. Turned out I didn't need to worry, I met some people while on the job and they offered me another contract to start immediately afterwards.

What advice would you give to Southampton graduates?

Two bits of advice:

1. Be ENTHUSIASTIC. Everyone loves an employee who looks like they enjoy coming to work and are giving it their all. It can all be an act if you like, but I've found that my enthusiasm is what previous employers have remembered about me, and it has got me a few jobs too.

2. Network. I never realised how important this was until I got a job just from one person I met telling another person about me. I had a cup of tea with them and that was it- I was employed. Make friends with everyone you meet, and let it be known what your ideal position would be. You never know who will be able to help you.

Why did you decide to do your course?

Southampton had the perfect mix of fun and work. It was possible to do all the university work, have a part time job and socialise most nights without having to compromise on anything. It's a great place to be – a little oasis in the middle of a big city.

If you could start your time at University again, what would you do differently?

I wouldn't worry so much about getting a first class degree. I really wanted to do well at university but I don't think getting a first has made any difference to my career at all. I'd also make more use of the clubs and societies, it all costs so much more out in the 'real world'.

What advice would you give to prospective students looking at the University of Southampton?

Choose a course that you know you are going to enjoy. It's 3 whole years of your life. If you don't like a subject, then you won't want a career in it, so don't pick it.

What are your future career plans?

Ideally, have babies and be a kept woman. Am I allowed to say that?

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