Becky Lancaster

Becky graduated from Manchester with a BA (Hons) in Religions and Theology in 2016. Here, she talks about her time at Manchester and her role as an Online Trading Specialist at Wm Morrisons Supermarkets PLC.

On what I do and how I got there

I'm on the Corporate Graduate Scheme at Morrisons. This means that over the next two years I will complete four six-month placements at Morrisons' head office, gaining experience in many areas of the business including marketing, HR and property.

Screenshot of Morrisons website

Currently, my role is with the team, working to optimise product availability for our customers and increase online trade. My current responsibilities include tracking product availability, sending out daily reports, and managing the process of launching online exclusive products onto the website.

I am based at Morrisons' head office in Bradford, and am typically in the office from 8am to 5pm. There is no 'typical' working day here; retail is fast-paced and there is always something new happening.

I began applying for jobs in the October of final year and was offered a place on the graduate scheme in May, so it was a relief to have secured a job before graduation. The most challenging part of doing this was trying to find a balance between completing uni work and job applications.

I really enjoyed the assessment day; after all those months of virtual stages in the application process, it was actually nice to meet people and be given tasks to work through individually and as a group.

The most difficult part of the application process for me is the 'video interview'. Questions flash up on the screen and you have a little time to prepare your answer; there is no one sat at the other side of the screen, so you're talking to no one but your webcam/your own face on the screen, which is oddly intimidating.

On choosing Manchester

My two biggest factors in deciding where to study were league table rankings and location.  Everyone knows that The University of Manchester has a great reputation around the world, so that was an easy decision.

For me, Manchester was the perfect location; I wanted somewhere that was far enough away from home in Yorkshire to be independent, but not so far that I couldn't just nip home for a weekend.

The city itself is full of opportunity as a young person - academically, career-wise and socially. This is why I chose it over a campus-based uni I had always pictured myself attending.

I remember confirming this decision on UCAS and immediately worrying that I had made a huge mistake; I can honestly say now that it was 100% the right decision from me - I had the best four years in Manchester and at the University, and I owe a lot to both.

On choosing Religions and Theology

When you're going to be studying one subject area for a minimum of three years, it has to be something you are really interested in.

For me, this was religion - I got to explore a huge range of histories, cultures, philosophies and communities, and all this in a city as diverse and wonderful as Manchester. It was and is such a brilliant opportunity and I would do it all again if I could. 

The best thing about studying religion is that you can branch out into other subject areas - I had the opportunity to complete modules in art history, ancient history and sociology.

These other subject areas complemented and enhanced my understanding of religion, as well as broadening ideas outside the discipline.

On gaining transferable skills

You gain so many transferable skills during your degree, but so far the two big ones for me have been the ability to work well under pressure and meet deadlines, and the ability to work with a range of people to achieve positive results.

Throughout your degree, you will have numerous deadlines for presentations, group work, essays and exams. In final year, this steps up and you will be trying to meet university deadlines while applying for jobs at the same time. It can be pressured and there can be a lot of deadlines, but that is life at work too. You learn to adapt, to be organised and to be easier on yourself - all useful life skills.

During your degree, you will meet people with different backgrounds, experiences and opinions to your own; being able to work collaboratively with everyone is such a skill to have - something that you will use in the workplace every day.

On my advice for other students

Draw upon all of your experiences to answer interview questions - that time when someone didn't pull their weight in a group project actually becomes a helpful answer to questions like 'Name a time when you have worked through a challenging situation to gain positive results'.

On the future

I want to be the best that I can be at whatever career route I decide to take. I think at uni, particularly in the final year, it is easy to get caught up in the "this is what I want to do with my life" frenzy.

For the last four years I have been set on going into marketing and advertising, but after six months of working in such a big business, I have learnt that careers don't have to be and aren't linear.

I'm still very interested in moving into a more creative role, but I'm trying a new approach of saying yes to opportunities that I would previously have considered outside of my comfort zone.