As part of our Student Insight blog series, Hayley Bennett, BA Politics (graduated 2014) takes an honest look at her role in Kick It Out – football’s equality and inclusion campaign.
Hayley (second from right) meeting with FA Chairman Greg Clarke to discuss diversity in football for future generations
When I started my Politics degree at SOAS in 2011 I thought I was going to learn how to change the world and make it a better place. After a couple of weeks it had already hit me – this isn’t going to be as easy as I thought! I had gained a lot of skills in critical thinking and become more aware of the complex political problems in the world but I felt less confident that getting involved in international politics was the right path for me.
I enjoyed pretty much every lecture and tutorial on my course but something was missing. One thing that was definitely missing by the end of first year was money in my bank account so I began looking for part time jobs. I remember frantically checking the SOAS careers page every day but didn’t feel like I had enough experience for some of the exciting opportunities on offer. Looking back, I wish I had at least had a go at applying to internships relevant to my study but I didn’t have the confidence to compete with hundreds of people at SOAS who were in the same position as me. I had to make myself stand out and find something that would differentiate from every other student with a strong academic background.
I remember applying to over 150 part-time jobs and internships in my second year but I would have saved myself a lot of time and disappointment if I had asked for some advice!
Hayley with two of Kick It Out’s young ambassadors at Brisbane Road
Eventually I came across a voluntary position being advertised on Kick It Out‘s website by chance. Like most people at SOAS, I had always been motivated to stand up for injustice but my real passion was football. The fact that Kick It Out are well known for speaking out about all forms of discrimination really motivated me because of the racism I have experienced throughout my life. I put all that passion into my cover letter and surprised myself by securing an interview.
I was offered a position as Voluntary Administration Assistant over the summer holidays and spent four months doing a wide range of tasks supporting different members of the team.
Hayley undertaking an Education session with Reading FA player Tyler Blackett
Volunteering for four months was a massive risk as I didn’t have any money coming in but it really paid off because I was offered a part-time position at the end of summer which allowed me to work whilst finishing my degree. Even if I hadn’t been offered anything paid by Kick It Out I still would have benefited from the volunteering as it had given me a foot in the door in an industry I didn’t really know existed.
Volunteering is a great opportunity to make yourself stand out as a student, but it also allows you to try out different careers and industries before your degree finishes and you have to look for full time work. For me, working part time during my final year allowed me to learn time-management skills and I received several firsts at the end of my degree. You shouldn’t let part-time work or other commitments put you off when you are studying. In the work place there are always competing deadlines and this is something everyone will need to learn.
Since I left SOAS I have been promoted to a full time position at Kick It Out, leading the creation of the organisation’s first ever Education Programme which is growing from strength to strength. It has been an amazing journey with a lot of hard work but I am proud to have been recognised as a Rising Star in Sport by WeAreTheCity and named as ‘One to watch’ on Football’s Black List – an initiative celebrating influential black individuals in British football.
Hayely picking up the Football Blacklist One To Watch award in April 2017
I am working towards a mission of creating and empowering diverse leaders for the sports industry and hope that other SOAS graduates consider a career in sport. My favourite thing about SOAS was its diversity and I would love to see the same appreciation for difference in football. My proudest achievement so far is creating a platform for young people to make a difference in the football industry as volunteers and ambassadors for Kick It Out. If this is something you feel would interest you please get in touch and support me on my mission!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.