Guest Blog: What’s Ambitious Futures all about?

Guest blog from Katie McCallum, who was the Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee at SOAS for 2015/16.

Please note that the views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not those of SOAS Careers Service. If you consider this content to be in breach of the SOAS values, please alert


For the past 15 months I’ve been a Graduate Trainee at SOAS with Ambitious Futures (AF), a programme for University leadership and management. “What is this?” I hear you ask. My best attempt at explaining AF is that it’s a programme of work that involves a whole host of different elements: three work placements (where you get your work experience), a Leadership and Management qualification (where you get your knowledge), and learning sets (where you get your buddies and pastoral/professional support). You may think that’s a lot to squeeze into 15 months, and you’d be right, but that’s been one of my favourite things about AF; it’s full on and it’s varied.

Each of these elements has proved valuable in preparing me for the next step in my career, and they all work together to give a really well-rounded set of skills and experiences.

For me there are three main reasons that Ambitious Futures is a worthwhile scheme to be part of, which should definitely encourage you to apply!

  1. Learning sets are huge fun and professionally valuable: Throughout the scheme, every six weeks or so, we met as a small learning set of seven trainees and a facilitator. This time was dedicated to working through any issues or concerns we had in the workplace; we talked about relationships with managers and colleagues, difficult tasks we had been set, work/life balance, and a whole host of other topics. Not only did we learn from each other’s experiences but we also had the benefit of a facilitator who had been in the industry a lot longer than us, and was able to bring a different perspective. Learning sets is where the majority of our friendships were forged, ones which will last beyond the scope of AF.

  2. A second placement at a different University: My second placement at the University of Oxford necessitated a commute between London and Oxford, which was a learning experience in itself. There aren’t many other graduate schemes out there that allow you to spend time working in an entirely different institution; my time at Oxford was a chance for me to get out and see how other Universities function. I had the opportunity to build relationships with new people and adapt to a totally different environment.

  3. Building networks of trainees and colleagues: Throughout the scheme there were countless opportunities to build networks with the other trainees as well as colleagues at a number of different Universities. Whilst ‘networking’ may be a bit of an overused buzzword, it essentially means that I’m leaving this job really well-connected with a number of potential future employers, as well as a group of peers that I can continue to go to for advice, whether professional or personal.

To wrap up, beyond having 15 months of University work experience behind me, Ambitious Futures has given me a professional qualification, experience at two different institutions, and a group of great friends and contacts. If you want the opportunity to develop new skills, make new friends and get to know what working in a University is like, then AF is for you!
For more information and to apply, visit the Ambitious Futures website. But be quick as applications close on Wednesday 21st December.

Katie McCallum, SOAS Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee (2015/16)


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