Degree Subject & Classification - History 2:2
Current Job/Company - Entrepreneur: marketing and innovation strategy
Back of the Bus
“It’s good, I suppose.” muttered my personal tutor. “This 2:2 means you’ll actually have to apply yourself. You can’t just coast through life, as you coasted through Oxford.”
‘Coasting’ landed me 58.4%, 0.1% off a safe, sensible 2:1. Ouch. Results night, I took the bus from Cowley and didn’t get off, making several circuits of town hunched on the backseat.
I’d earned the ire of tutors, parents, and to my mind, the world at large. Friends bought me a pint to commiserate. When I got the gumption to request a re-mark, I was laughed out of the faculty.
Like most, I’d no clue what to do after my Modern History degree. Now I couldn’t even hide in a Management Consulting grad scheme - who would take my Dreaded Desmond? I considered a redbrick MA to ‘clean my nose’, but couldn’t face more library boredom. So, to work!
Through a college friend I found a job editing a little arts magazine. The Careers website came in handy; I could tutor foreign students at a summer school. Editing and teaching kept me afloat as I avoided my parents those awkward post-graduation months.
I applied for a writing job on the Careers website and was invited to interview in London. I arrived early and overheard the previous candidate. Luckily the interviewer asked me the exact same questions, so I had a head start. A few days later I got a call from a man with a thick Spanish accent, who offered me a job starting straight away - if I came to India.
The job? Helping analysts at a finance company turn quantitative research into qualitative tips for investors. No-one showed the slightest interest in my degree subject or classification.
It was quite an adventure. There were two other lads from Oxford. The company put us in a hotel and had a driver run us to work. When a cow sat on the highway, holding up traffic, we missed the morning briefing. The canteen food was excellent. Although the other Oxonians had better grades, I got on better with the team and the CEO liked my writing style. I was promoted.
Two years after graduating, I applied to one of the Big Grad' employers, nervous I’d be scuppered by the 2:2. After five interviews and a process lasting several months, the dreaded question arrived. Would I mind getting a tutor’s reference, about my grades? My eternally patient personal tutor obliged. The CEO in India also sent a warm reference. I was duly offered a job at the tech giant.
At this point I felt I’d ‘cleaned’ my youthful indiscretion, the 2:2, with a juicy brand on my CV.
Trouble was, I hated the job.
I was surrounded by Oxbridge graduates with 2:1s and 1sts doing deathly dull work. Life was an interminable spreadsheet. Compared to my other post-Oxford work experience, this was far and away the most boring job I’d had. As soon as I could, I scarpered.
Choose Your Pond
It turns out I prefer smaller companies.
After leaving the Big Player I worked for a startup and found myself running their conference series. I worked hard and earned their trust. One summer, the company asked me to relocate to Manhattan, somewhere I’d always dreamed of living.
A few years later, I moved to Tel Aviv. Changing country puts the degree in a whole new light. Israel is a hands on, results-orientated culture. Business is about what you can do, right here, right now.
Of course they’ve heard of Oxford, but it doesn’t translate into the local culture. I never say I studied History, since the only thing to do with a History degree here is teach. Scrutinised carefully by new colleagues in a new culture, I pushed doubly hard to prove my worth, and by necessity became extremely results focused. That stood me in good stead for my current freelance career.
Now I recruit others, and honestly, jobs are not about you. You are hired to get stuff to get done, and at the start of your career, you represent potential.
Road Less Travelled
My personal tutor was right. The 2:2 killed my option to coast.
It forced me to roll up my sleeves and try new things. I put myself in strange situations: In India and Israel, I was the native English speaker in the room; in America, never underestimate the lure of a British accent; back in Blighty, all my exotic foreign stories go down a treat.