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Firstly, I hope that everyone graduating from the University of East Anglia this year will accept my warm congratulations on their achievement. As the University celebrates its fiftieth year, you are joining a distinguished list of alumni. UEA graduates have had success in every field of endeavour, and this can be mainly attributed to the skills and experience which were gained during their degree.
Of course, for some, the academic skills and knowledge gained from their studies will have been vitally important. For others, however, their time at UEA will have taught them much more than mere facts and figures. There is a reason, after all, that people refer to having been through the “University of Life”. We often learn more from the journey towards a qualification or achievement than in actually achieving our goal.
For example, if you have managed to survive your undergraduate or postgraduate years, it is highly likely that you will have developed valuable people skills. Not only will you have had to relate to your tutors and your peers, but you will also have needed to work in teams, to negotiate the timing and format of your studies, and to develop the ability to communicate your ideas. More than anything else, the ability to communicate confidently and work well with others will stand you in good stead in your future work. A degree from UEA will help to get you into an interview, but only the skills and confidence which you have developed in completing the course will secure you a spot on the career ladder!
Your time at university will also, I hope, have taught you the importance of relying on yourself when it comes to organisation and motivation. It can sometimes come as a shock to those moving into the world of work that no-one will keep records for them, organise their job search, or take the initiative in suggesting a promotion. In order to join the ranks of successful UEA alumni, it is vital that you take the skills you will have learnt in organising your revision and studies, and transfer them to whatever career you enter. I can tell you from experience that one of the most valued attributes possessed by any employee is enthusiasm. If you are able to motivate yourself and plan to continually develop your skills, you are much more likely to be successful.
As well as such transferable attributes, it is to be hoped that you are also leaving university with good foundational skills. Regrettably, these are more and more scarce in the workplace, and any employee who has a good grasp on how to write well, perform basic mental arithmetic, and use basic computing packages is already a step ahead of the competition. It may seem that these are simple skills which you have been working on for years – well, good! That just demonstrates the value of a solid degree. Of course, such foundational skills go hand in hand with the more advanced and specialist knowledge that you will have developed within your field of expertise. Even if you are not looking for a career in that specific area, don’t underestimate how your specialism can become a unique selling point. For example, those looking to move into the world of law who have a degree in politics may have a ready made area of legal studies just waiting for them. Those who have just graduated with a business studies degree can just as easily turn their knowledge to the world of charitable administration.
In the end, what is really important is that you go out to face the world of work with determination, enthusiasm and tenacity. It’s not easy out there at the moment, but by graduating from UEA you have already proved that you have what it takes to succeed in employment. Just as with a degree, there will be times when you are not sure you understand what is required of you, and times that you need to keep going with the faith that things will eventually work out. If you apply yourself with persistence, perseverance and courage, I know that you will meet with success in the end. Good luck!