Alumni Services

Hard work and a Saturday job

Mairi Wilson (English Literature 2015) insists current students can learn from a work ethic that led to her dream job as a copywriter for an advertising agency. And she explains how a part-time job in a shoe shop helped, too.

Mairi Wilson

"Sometimes it feels like ‘graduate’ and ‘employed’ are antonyms. Between newspapers, politicians, and far too many Buzzfeed articles, the world would have us believe the chances of gaining employment are the same as winning the lottery – perhaps less, as we can’t afford to buy a ticket without a job.

"It’s not true. What is true is that there are no guarantees and few hand-outs. But a good degree and even better work ethic will always stand in your favour. And I believe it’s good to hear that from someone who has taken the same path as you but is just a little further on in their journey.


"In my fourth year, I attended an event run by BAFTA Scotland and the University's Careers Service. It was a panel event designed to give an insight into the labyrinth of film and television careers. All the panelists had taken an unorthodox route to their career. I think this insight made coming out of university less scary for me – I may have had to work hard, but I knew that in the end I’d get to where I wanted to be.

"That's why I've decided to speak to current students at the Alumni Insights events. At a recent one, I noticed a similar revelation: few of the alumni speakers had gone straight from university to their ‘dream job’. So events like this spread the word about the variety of careers open to graduates. It’s important to me that we diversify the people we recruit into advertising. We’re trying to reflect and appeal to a multi-cultural and diverse world – so we need to reflect that in our teams.


"One piece of advice that I give to current students is to get a part-time job. They will learn far more from this than you would expect. It’s more than just a Saturday job: it’s about building confidence and resilience. And, in my case, the discount on shoes wasn’t to be sniffed at either.

"Otherwise, I kept an eye out for opportunities I could squeeze in around my job. I helped out with a brilliant play called 'Goblin’s Story', where I ended up doing the makeup for the goblins. Surprisingly, it’s a skill I’ve used a couple of times now in my advertising job.

"I also entered the University's Lewis Edwards Memorial Prize for undergraduate writers, and was lucky enough to win it. That success gave me a little confidence boost to pursue my career as a writer.


"I would say the magical aspect of being at the University of Edinburgh is that you’re actually a student of the city. You’re scattered all over, with classes tucked into weird flats on Buccleuch Place, wonderful new-builds, and a good few architectural gems. Because there’s no ‘campus’ as such, Edinburgh itself becomes your university. And where is there a more inspiring, beautiful, and creative city than Edinburgh?

" And a degree from Edinburgh is proof you can work hard. It’s evidence of long hours, longer stints in the library, and at times, a long abstinence from a social life. But it pays off. I was raised to work hard, but Edinburgh made me take this and run with it. As such, I have a soft spot for Edinburgh students and will happily give them all the help they need.

"My final word to students at the events is always that few people will ever ask what grade you got, but everybody will ask what you learned. Know what your skills are."

Your insights

The Alumni Insights events are only possible thanks to the generous support of our alumni who take part. If you are interested in participating in one of our events, please contact CJ Cochran, Alumni Manager:

Email CJ Cochran

Related links

Careers Service