"Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone"

Student Sam Gillan staring at the camera
Sam Gillan
Economic Development Consultant
Geography BSc
2019
Sam Gillan graduated with a rounded perspective on many current affairs which helped him land his graduate role.

Why did you decide to study geography, and why did you choose Sheffield?

Geography covers many areas of interest for me, as a degree it provides a good opportunity to gain a range of skills, and the level of flexibility in module choice appealed to me. Geography graduates are well-regarded in a range of industries, and I think the subject trains you to build a rounded (and often critical) perspective on many current affairs and events that play out in society right now and into the future. I was drawn to Sheffield as it felt like a very friendly city that provided an interesting mix of sports, music scenes and easy access to the Peak District!

What has your career path been since graduation?

Since graduating in July 2019 I have been working in a graduate role in a small Economic Development Consultancy in Sheffield. We provide research and economic evaluation services to clients in the public and private sector, most frequently looking at the impact of government funding on economic development in various UK regions. My role requires me to complete primary and secondary research with recent work covering several aspects of the energy sector's transition from fossil fuels towards renewables in light of climate change policies and regulations.

I gained the role through the RISE scheme, which I would recommend for anyone looking to gain graduate-level experience in small companies across the Sheffield city region.

How did studying geography help you get to where you are now?

The skills developed in my Geography degree are directly transferable to my role. It is a very similar style of working, in that I have to compile information from various sources into reports, requiring an efficient and coherent writing style and primary and secondary research skills. I often have to interview various people, which builds on many of the soft skills developed in my studies and employment in different roles I had during term-time and holiday periods (notably student ambassador work). I am also required to complete statistical analysis and I have come to see how valuable quantitative analysis skills can be as a graduate, and fortunately Geography provides a good grounding for this.

What made your time in Sheffield special?

Studying at Sheffield was fantastic, I had lots of great experiences within my studies and outside of them. I really like the city and have been fortunate to secure a work here so my time in Sheffield is not over yet! Being involved in societies from first year provided great opportunities to learn different skills and meet friends from a range of backgrounds. Being able to travel with my dissertation was probably the highlight of university for me and I would encourage anyone to try and take those international opportunities if possible!

What advice would you give to new students in the department?

Get involved with societies, academics and the city more widely. Also, make the most of the freedoms and flexibility that you have now! Challenge yourself to try things out of your comfort zone to see where your strengths, interests and weaknesses lie, University is the ideal time for this and provides a unique opportunity to learn and develop in more ways than just your studies.

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