31 January 2013 - 10:48 am

Looking back on my first year with USE

Yesterday was my one year anniversary of working at USE. (Do I get a cake?) It’s a new calendar year as well, we survived the Mayan apocalypse, so it seems like a good time to do a bit of reflection on my journey through enterprise education. I’m going to start with my experiences of starting my job here at USE, in the hope that it might help some of you heading into the world of graduate work!

This time last year, I was stupidly nervous. I had been told before Christmas that I had the job, but I was yet to start, and suffering from ‘imposter syndrome’. I was convinced that the moment I turned up at USE for my first day someone would tell me they had made a mistake, they had phoned the wrong person, that my CV had been mixed up with someone else’s, someone much older, with much more experience, someone who knew enterprise education inside out, someone who hadn’t spent the last few years poking around in muddy holes. Or maybe I, and they, would find out that I merely give a good interview, and that in reality I wasn’t capable of performing at all well in this role.

Officially part of the USE family now!

So I approached my first day with dread, sweat, and at least three nervous toilet visits before I left home. I arrived at USE to find an office full of friendly faces, a seemingly unlimited supply of tea and coffee, my very own desk, and a list of tasks as long as my arm to throw myself into. And here I am a year later, coming up for air, having barely looked back.

If I could time travel back to 8 am on January 30th 2012, these are the things I would say to myself (and these are the bits of advice I would give to anyone starting a new job!):

  1. There is no such thing as a perfect job. Sorry! Many of us have a romantic idea of working life (mainly fuelled by tv series about impossibly glamorous twenty-something women in New York…) that reality just can’t live up to. You won’t enjoy every single day. Sometimes projects will go a bit off-track, meetings won’t go as planned, you might feel a bit tired. That doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy MOST days though, and that you won’t love your job, making those bad days/meetings worthwhile.
  2. It’s ok to make a mistake. Actually this is advice that Elena Rodriguez-Falcon gave to me when I started working here, so I thought I would pass it on. She would say – ‘it’s ok to make a mistake once, just don’t make the same one twice’. In other words, accept responsibility, learn from your mistakes, and move on!
  3. Some of the toughest challenges are the most rewarding. The two things I am most proud of in the past year have been running MIH for a whole semester, and writing our Enterprise Education Strategy. Both were tough – just ask Anna about MIH (she’s run it three times now!), and the enterprise strategy went through about 123,654* versions
  4. Get up, dress up, show up. Sometimes you will really not want to get up in the morning. Sometimes you really won’t want to attend that meeting in the wilds of North Yorkshire involving a three hour train ride. Sometimes you really won’t see the point in going to that networking event. But, think positively, wear your best suit/tie/lippy/dress/shoes/smile (i.e. look like you want to be there!) and you never know how things will surprise you!
  5. Be an individual. Everyone in your workplace will have different ways of working- you will have your own style and as long as it is effective and you achieve the goals you need to achieve, that’s fine! If you have a point to make – make it. It might be different to what everyone else is saying, but stick to your beliefs. At the same time, listen to others and be willing to have your opinions changed by reason.

Tune in soon for part two of my epic journey, entitled ‘How To Stop Worrying and Love Enterprise Education’…


*may be a slight exaggeration.


  1. Maria says:

    It’s been a nice ride partner! Let’s take it to a new whole level!

  2. Liz says:

    Firstly, what an awesome blog- loved it. Endless supply of tea- who makes the best? Glad you decided to work with us,

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  • About the author

    Ali Riley

    I am one of the three Enterprise Learning Development Officers here at USE, and I work directly with the Faculties of Science and Social Sciences. My background is actually in archaeology - random I know - but I have always had a bit of a side-interest in how people learn, and now this has led me to this very rewarding role! I'm still to be found in muddy holes at weekends though... I'll be blogging about Enterprise Education, including news, events, success stories, and my experiences of working with academics to offer a great learning experience to students.