If you had told Myles Harrison when he went to Lancaster University as an English language student that three years later he would be working in one of the world's largest financial institutions, he would have laughed, but he is amazed at the relevance of what he learned there to this very different environment.
In his role working on the management of the retail UK bond portfolio of acquisition and retentions, he is involved with the launch of monthly new products and campaign materials. This means scrutinising every aspect from design to implementation, including writing and editing, suiting the language to the purpose of the product and using a variety of media to grab the necessary profile for the message.
"Everything that we did at Lancaster on the English language course was completely relevant," says Myles, listing grammar, phonetics, language in advertising, social media, gender-relevant language, ethics and stylistics, as examples of knowledge he draws upon every day.
Lancaster was not his first choice – he had hoped to go to Liverpool University – and had never visited the campus until he arrived from Surrey. Looking back he says: "I'm a believer that it was meant to happen for a reason."
His immediate impressions were of a friendly campus, which he'd read was the safest for students in the country. As a keen sportsman, he was immediately impressed by the sports facilities and, in freshers week joined organisations that set up his social circle for the next three years.
Myles was active in the JCR in organising events such as extrav, and also took a lead in a college campaign to see Fylde win the intercollegiate Carter Shield, which it had failed to do for several years. Myles and his fellow organisers witnessed Fylde's victory in their final year. All this provided excellent networking experience.
In addition to his studies and his social and sporting activities, Myles also took part in the Lancaster Award – a scheme which aims to increase students' employability, by recognising their achievements beyond their academic study. It culminates in a panel interview.
"That really helped me in terms of interview techniques," says Myles. "It made me take a step back and to evaluate what I have done. I still use it for preparation of interviews to this day."
Myles' journey into Santander was not one he could have predicted. He wanted a job – possibly as a journalist – but had not the experience, yet without a job he had no means of gaining it. The plan on graduation was to go to Canada to work a ski season and he had booked his flight. To make money until his departure, and to gain experience, he decided to take an office job through a job agency, working for Santander Consumer Finance UK.
Once at Santander he was surprised at how much he liked what he saw – the work and the company's ethos. As a temporary worker, he was in the right place to see the job he is currently doing being advertised internally on the company internet as a permanent position. With Canada, skiing and adventure looming, he decided to apply for the job – even though he was convinced he would fail.
To his amazement, his relevant skills boosted by the interview skills he had honed for the Lancaster Award, gained him the job he would never had gained without taking a chance on a temporary post. He cancelled the Canada flight and took the job. As he says: "I thought I might never get that opportunity when I came back from Canada."
Myles believes that his own experience illustrates the need for students to be open to possibility, rather than trying to have their careers taped before they graduate.