After her BA English degree at the University of Exeter, Rebecca Verne began a career in publishing, but gave it all up for her dream job at Battersea Dogs and Cats Home
What have you been doing since leaving Exeter, and what are you doing now?
I left Exeter slightly earlier than most students at the end of my course in order to start an internship at a literary agency, Furniss Lawton, for the Summer. Following this finishing, I did unfortunately struggle for a few months to find a full-time job but gained employment at a legal publishing company in central London as a researcher for the UK Law Guide.
Following two years at Chambers and Partners, after becoming a senior researcher, an assistant editor on the US Law Guide and then finally a Deputy Editor, I started to feel like the work I was doing was not quite as fulfilling as I had expected and so started to look elsewhere for other opportunities within the animal welfare industry, as I had actually wanted to be a vet when I was a child.
I started volunteering at local puppy classes and after a year I was able to make the career move to Battersea Dogs & Cats Home as a Team Leader. I have been there for seven years and am now a Rehoming and Welfare Manager for the Intake and Assessing Department of the London Centre.
‘Being open to change and making decisions based on how it makes you feel and impacts your life will always be better than doing what others feel is right for you or chasing financial gain.’
Why did you choose this career? And what do you enjoy most about your work?
Initially I chose a career in editing and publishing as I had always had a keen interest in this at school, loved to read and write stories when I was a child, and always excellent at English and achieved high marks at GCSE and A Level. I did a creative writing dissertation and felt that this was the only career option open to me other than being a teacher which is often suggested when you do English.
However, I found after several years of employment in this industry that it was not satisfying work, and I was feeling as though my job was responsible for making me feel unhappy and unmotivated as a whole. I really wanted to do something that I was truly passionate about, and that had always been animals for me.
I had not done as well with biology at school and so had never thought this was a career I could get into. Luckily, I found that my transferable skills as a line manager in legal publishing, alongside a year of volunteering every week, gave me what I needed to gain the opportunity of a lifetime and I do now feel like I have my dream job and could not imagine doing anything else.
What did you enjoy most about your programme and what was the biggest highlight?
I really felt like the English BA programme gave me great flexibility in choosing different types of modules over the course that included American Literature, creative writing, and Gothic stories. My biggest highlight however was being able to do a module in classics during my second year as I had studied Latin at school and so really enjoyed bringing the two together.
‘Having a varied outlook and CV really does help… branching out and trying new things will really give employers a favourable view of you, and also may lead you to something you did not expect.’
What did you enjoy most about studying here?
I think I really enjoyed both the campus and town University feel as it felt like the best of both worlds. A lot of people had said to me beforehand that Exeter did not have much of a social life compared to other universities so I was pleasantly surprised to see that was not the case as I really enjoyed lots of different nights out including sports and other society socials, as well as a huge variety of events on campus. It is quite sports oriented more than I think other Universities are so even though I did not play sports competitively, I found horse riding a lovely opportunity to take up on the weekends.
What skills and experiences have been most useful for your career?
Identifying which skills you have that can be useful across multiple disciplines I think is the most beneficial way of ensuring you never feel like you are in a box, or you need to do something specific, or even the thing you’ve always thought you wanted to. Being open to change and making decisions based on how it makes you feel and positively impacts your life will always be better than doing what others feel is right for you or chasing financial gain. Taking the time to volunteer in the sector I wanted to be in really gave me the insight I needed to decide it was what I always wanted to do. Having a varied outlook and CV really does help with this as well, so ensuring not to just do things you are used or familiar with, but to branch out and try new things will really give employers a favourable view of you, but also may lead you to something you did not expect.
What advice would you give to a current student who wishes to pursue your career?
Really do your research into the type of role you may be looking for and be prepared to start at the bottom and work up if that’s what it takes and you’re dedicated to that path. Making sure that you have strong attributes in softer skills that could be transferred to this career if you have not trained in it will also be really helpful.
What are your plans for the future?
I am looking to continue my upward trajectory in management within the animal welfare industry likely at Battersea and hope to pursue a director level position.