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Karen Cloke is a WIT graduate from Enniscorthy, Co Wexford who previously attended Coláiste Bríde in Enniscorthy. She chose the Bachelor of Business (Honours) course at WIT and specialised in Marketing in her third year. She was awarded a School of Business Commendation Award for Marketing at the end of her final year.
What attracted you to study at Waterford Institute of Technology?
WIT was always on my radar as a number of my relatives had studied there and all of them were offered graduate jobs following their work placement. The prospect of strong employer connections was a big deciding factor. I remember attending the Open Day while I was in 6th year and the lecturers were all so warm and welcoming. The fact that the class sizes were typically smaller than those in universities was also a big plus. Having completed my course, this was certainly a beneficial factor during my studies. Being from Wexford, the college's location was very convenient for me as well.
Did you always know this was the course you wanted to do?
No - to be quite honest, it was a seemingly random option that I had put down on my CAO form! I had tourism and hospitality in another third level institute down as my first choice and I ended up switching it for the Bachelor of Business (Honours) course at WIT before sitting my Leaving Cert. I definitely raised a few eyebrows among my teachers when I mentioned that I had chosen to study business given that I had not studied it at all in secondary school.
After attending the Open Day at WIT, any doubts that I had about studying business at third level were gone. The course also offers plenty of variety in the modules and the lecturers reassured me that all students were starting at the same level, regardless of whether you had studied business subjects at second level.
What words of advice do you have for new students?
Get involved. If I was to re-do my college experience, the one thing I'd do would be to get more involved in everything - class, campus activities, clubs and societies. I think WIT fosters a very open, encouraging education environment so don't be afraid to ask questions either. Make the most of your college experience because you won't believe how quickly years fly by.
How did this add to your college experience?
Work placement was an invaluable experience for me. I spent a semester during my third year on work experience at Datapac. It was my first proper office job where I gained lots of new professional skills and worked as part of a team every day. Working on the sales team provided me with sales experience which was a big asset given that sales and marketing go hand in hand. Even if your placement isn't in the sector that you would ideally like to work in, many of the skills that you gain are transferrable to other jobs. I definitely draw on my placement experience regularly in my work and it was also very helpful during my final year.
How was it completing your degree?
Completing my final year during a pandemic was definitely an experience. There was a period after I completed my exams where I was unsure what to do, so I made an appointment at WIT's Careers Centre.
I had a call with Angela who was so reassuring and helpful. Luckily, I was able to start some voluntary work there soon after finishing my exams. As it was a voluntary position, I continued on the job hunt and landed a position with a local marketing and PR company pretty soon after as I had experience at the careers centre. A few months in now, I am loving my jobs and have had the chance to apply many of the things I learned from my course at WIT to real-world situations.
How did your experience at WIT help get you to where you are now?
I can say wholeheartedly that I wouldn't be where I am today if it weren't for the time I spent studying at WIT. Everything from smaller class sizes and helpful lecturers to the work placement opportunities and campus environment facilitated me in achieving my academic goals. My confidence grew as I learned new skills and developed existing ones.
My final year really ironed out my sense of discipline and hardened my work ethic - particularly during the course of writing my minor dissertation. My work experience at WIT Careers Centre was a huge help in getting my first job out of college so quickly. Plus, I've ended up working in the sector that I originally wanted a career in: tourism and hospitality. The path of my course from business to marketing provided me with knowledge on a range of aspects of business which definitely helped.
Anything you'd like to add
Thank you to all of the lecturers in the School of Business and the School of Humanities that taught me through the years. I hope to thank you in person soon, along with my classmates, when we can have a safe graduation ceremony for the class of 2020.