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Close up of Emma Wilks

Emma Wilks wanted the opportunity to apply what she has learned on her degree to the real world and learn more about how the government policies that affect our lives are made. She secured a placement as an Associate Economist at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), via the Government Economic Service, and found the experience deeply rewarding.

Having a strong passion for travel, Emma knew that learning about economics in just the classroom wasn't going to be enough. Instead, she wanted to find out first-hand how countries all over the world – each with their own political system and culture – work together in the interest of the global economy.

Supporting Emma every step of the way

The Department of Economics' dedicated placement coordinator was on hand to help Emma find the ideal placement opportunity. She gave Emma specific guidance on her CV and placement applications:

"I provide advice to students to help them in the competitive process of applying for placements, including advice on applications, tests, interviews and assessment centres. I also stay in contact and visit students during their one-year placements and welcome them back to Reading in their final year. I really enjoy seeing students develop during the placement application process and also throughout their placement,” said the Department of Economics Placement Coordinator.  

Emma was successful in securing her placement with the FCO, but the Placement Coordinator's support didn't end there. A dedicated placement officer, who isn't your employer, colleague or family member, can give you honest and impartial advice when you need it. It was especially useful for Emma, as this was her first "proper job" in a professional office environment.

The placement

Working at the FCO was a fulfilling experience for Emma. She had the opportunity to travel to Mexico to deliver a conference, develop a project to increase prosperity in emerging economies, and even write briefs for the British prime minister. 

"Our placement students are a hugely valuable part of the team. Personally, I've been impressed by their enthusiasm, ability to learn quickly and bring a fresh perspective. The roles are challenging, so we expect students to take on responsibility at an early stage – and we provide access to a wide range of development and learning opportunities to support that," said Jemima Hodkinson, Desk Officer at the FCO. 

A number of significant events took place in 2016 that had an impact on both her work and the FCO: the UK voting to leave the European Union, Theresa May becoming Prime Minister, and Donald Trump winning the US presidential election. Being able to witness such events from the perspective of a government body has been incredibly valuable. 

“You learn skills and personal qualities that you just cannot learn at University, while also being able to add to your CV and have lots of stories to tell so that you stand out from the crowd when applying for graduate roles. I have learnt how to conduct myself professionally, present ideas to seniors, be hugely flexible and adaptable, meet and engage with people all over the world, and learn about potential career opportunities,” said Emma. 

Was it all worth it?

The placement experience helped Emma with a much clearer vision of what she would like to do after graduation. Having high-quality, relevant experiences to add to your CV, so that you stand out from the crowd, is important, and Emma was aware of this. Not only that, but she still wasn't sure what she wanted to do after university, and so a placement was naturally a good starting point.

“It is hard balancing the time needed to make a good application with your studies and then taking tests and attending interviews. Although it is completely worth the effort, the feeling of achievement when you get an offer makes all that work worth it. I would recommend to everyone to do a placement, after all you face the same process for graduates jobs and practice makes perfect! Even better is if you impress on your placement, some offer roles for after graduation,” said Emma.

Emma also did a summer internship with the Lloyds Banking Group’s Commercial division. This particular internship offered the chance to secure a graduate role before returning to Reading to finish her studies.

After graduating, she began her career in Commercial Banking on Lloyds Bank’s Emerging Leaders Programme. Emma has gained experience as a Relationship Manager within Real Estate and as a foreign exchange and commodity sales analyst before becoming a financial markets economist.

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