The value of volunteering was the resounding message from our fourth, ‘What I wish I had known’ session. Raymond Sweetman, until recently a Senior Language Learning Adviser at Kings College London, spoke about how volunteering enabled him to develop a wide range of skills in addition to those gained through his MA in Japanese and Taiwanese Studies. His advice to current students seeking to enhance their CV is to try to obtain good quality voluntary opportunities with real substance. As a former committee member and helpline worker for London Student Nightline amongst other work, Raymond felt that this experience was viewed extremely positively by employers.
Continuing personal development and learning, professional memberships and building networks also featured in Raymond’s tips for current students. Whilst contributing to a professional interest group may seem daunting to start with, don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Putting forward ideas that stimulate a discussion can get you known within the group in a positive way. Look out for other opportunities to broaden your professional knowledge through additional courses and attending lectures and talks. Following his MA completed part time in 2012, Raymond continued to work and study, gaining a teaching proficiency certificate and certificate in librarianship and regularly returns to SOAS to take advantage of lectures on aspects of East Asia.
As a Senior Language Learning Adviser, Raymond supervised a team of 6 staff and 20 volunteers focused on helping students develop their language skills. Support included workshops on pedagogical aspects of language learning, 1:1 tuition to enhance conversational skills and developing substantial book and the multi media resources. Whilst he is now moving on from this role, Raymond still wants to remain in education and find opportunities where he can utilise his experience and academic background in new ways. He is also using his knowledge and interest in East Asia to develop another career,that of a professional dancer. He is about to spend time in Japan undertaking dance training in a variety of genres.
‘Don’t give up’ and ‘don’t lose sight of your goals’ were strong themes in his talk and he encouraged students to think about combining their interests and future career direction. Nearly 10 years ago, Raymond’s curiosity about East Asia led him to start learning new languages, studying different cultures and ultimately moving into a new career.
Claire Rees, Senior Careers Consultant